Riverhead school board lays off 24; bond pitch set for next meeting

05/11/2011 12:02 AM |

VERA CHINESE PHOTO | The Riverhead school board voted to abolish 39 position and lay of 24 employees during its meeting Tuesday.

The Riverhead school board voted Tuesday night to abolish 39 positions due to spending cuts in its proposed 2011-12 school year budget, a move that resulted in 24 people losing their jobs.

The board was solemn in the high school auditorium as it voted 6-0 in favor of excessing the positions and terminating two dozen employees during its bi-monthly meeting. Board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse was absent.

No members of the public spoke out on the matter.

Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney has said some open positions will not be filled next year, as employees chose to retire after this school year. Abolishing those positions is needed to keep taxes down as Albany is cutting about $2.3 million in state aid to Riverhead in 2011-12, district officials have said.

The school board adopted a $109.6 million spending plan for the 2011-12 school year in April. It’s a budget district officials say carries the lowest year-to-year spending increase in recent years. The budget calls for a 1.26 increase from this school year, yet would raise the tax levy by just under 5 percent, or $4.6 million, due mostly to a $2.6 million reduction in state aid.

School officials have said spending under a contingency budget, which is what the district would likely adopt if the public rejected the proposed spending plan, would be roughly the same.

“The budget would be virtually the same as the one we are proposing,” Ms. Carney said Tuesday night.

The public will vote on the budget and the four school board candidates seeking three at-large seats on Tuesday, May 17.

Two members of the public took to the podium during Tuesday’s meeting to urge officials to seek reform in state mandates, including how much the district is required to pay toward employee health benefits and retirement funds.

“I recently met a woman, a 95-year-old who retired [from teaching] at 55,” said Pamela Hogref of Riverhead, adding that the woman had been collecting a pension for all those years. “I cannot pay that woman to do nothing. There has to be reform here.”

Ms. Carney said she too would like to see mandate relief in the future.

“We’re very aware of the difficult financial situation,” she said.

Meanwhile, the district’s Community Partnership for Revitalization committee is planning to make a formal recommendation to the school board for a multi-million dollar capital improvement plan during the board’s May 24 meeting. The public overwhelmingly rejected a $123 million plan for improvements in February 2010.

Ms. Carney encouraged members of the public to attend this month’s meeting.

The list of those who will lose their jobs next year is as follows:

Teaching Assistants

Alissa Behr, Amanda Bendick and Laura Sauter.


Assistant director for special education Paul Hewitt and director of science Suzanne Hulme.


Art teacher Shannon McCafferty; elementary teachers Donna Elmore, Cara Koenig and Kelly Lester; guidance counselor Christine Morris; health teacher Rebecca Winkel; math teacher Frank Amitrano and reading teacher Maureen Hollett.

Teacher Aides

Denise Giles, Kerri Miller, Jerecua Nelson, Susan Schulz, Kathleen Timpone and neighborhood aide Hassan Olowu.

Security Guards

Willie Austin, Corey Bazemore, Timothy Crump, Marilyn Ross and Antonia Turner.

[email protected]



39 Comment

  • Meet one of the new candidates for the School Board:


  • Dear Pam of Riveread.

    At what age should you no longer be able to collect your pension? Based comment in the above article, maybe you have some ideas for the retired teacher noted above to earn her pension. Do you have a job? Do your have a pension from your job? At what age should your pension benefits be terminate because you are no longer working? Oh! Pam maybe this woman taught children who became doctors, teachers and productive members of society. This 95 year old professional worked and was a productive member of society and paid into and earned a pension.

  • At what age should you no longer be able to collect your pension? Based comment in the above article, maybe you have some ideas for the retired teacher noted above to earn her pension. Do you have a job? Do your have a pension from your job? At what age should your pension benefits be terminate because you are no longer working? Oh! Pam maybe this woman taught children who became doctors, teachers and productive members of society. This 95 year old professional worked and was a productive member of society and paid into and earned a pension

  • I am not the speaker above but no, I do not have a pension for my job, nor do I have health insurance. Are you of the opinion that the public should support an able bodied person of 55 years old for the rest of their lives? Are you on the public teat also? 55 is too young to retire. The person in question is probably getting a minuscule pension compared to the 100+ pensions being “doled”, and I do mean “doled” out today. This is another form of welfare. Whoever that woman taught, unless they also became teachers the likelihood is that they funded their own pensions and health insurance and worked well beyond 55.

    Are you aware that many people earning public pensions nowadays did NOT pay into their pensions? Their are tiers that made zero contributions. Currently teachers pay about 10% of their health insurance. I think if one is earning over 100,000 a year they can pay for their own health insurance don’t you?

  • Let’s be clear here. The board is laying off 39 employees. The budget is still going UP from last year. Rises in fixed costs like fuel and maintainance have not gone up significantly.

    39 people are being laid off so there’s enough money to pay for raises and benefits for the remaining employees. Is this your wake up call yet taxpayers? You’re paying MORE for 39 fewer people working in the district.

    It takes 39 annual salaries to fund ONE years rise in pay and benefits for the rest.

    This is insanity and has to stop. These people will gladly bankrupt the rest of us for their own personal gain. This is not about “the children”. Destroy the teachers unions.

  • “I cannot pay that woman to do nothing.”??????? Are you serious? Without teachers who are WILLING to teach and willing to devote their lives to the education of YOUR children.. I can guarantee that YOU would not have the knowledge you have aquired through years of schooling, to have even a basic understanding of the english language.. absolutely ungrateful! It all starts in the home.. so true. I consider myself quite fortunate to have a mother who taught me gratitude and the simple art of humility.. also, the basic common principles that allow us to co-exist on this planet. Common sense goes a long way… as does respecting your elders.

  • How about those who cannot leave their homes to work? The only other option is work from home… and with someone on ssdi, you are only alotted 15-20 hrs/wk.. however, if the illness that one has prevents them from even coming close to the 15-20 hours/week to supplement their ssdi… with rent, and electricity, and oil, and water… gee what else… how else are people supposed to live?

  • Co-exhist – Humility – Gratitude? What does any of this have to do with the fact that we can’t afford to pay wages and benefits FAR higher than the people who are forced to pay the bills, and FAR higher than teachers in the rest of the country.

    Maybe we should just pay teachers $1,000,000 a year for all their “sacrifice”, and everyone else can live in poverty.

  • I’m allergic to trolls.


  • AMEN! I don’t see any gratitude from the teaching community towards the taxpayers who pay their salaries! I have a better idea NRG, maybe we should ALL become teachers so that we can ALL work 180 days a year and get summers off and be paid over 100,000. Unfortunately IT ISN”T POSSIBLE TO SUSTAIN THAT INSANITY.

  • Note also we will be asked to vote on the bond. They have cut an average of 2.5 million a year OUT of the budget so that they could give themselves raises. Now we’re being asked to make it up. Break the unions.

  • If you are too sick to be able to leave your home (and on SSDI – considered disabled) you would not be a teacher!!! Allergic… your argument has no bearing on the conversation… it is about teachers and their benefits.

  • Good grief, you make them sound like MOther Theresa. As if they are doing it out of the goodness of their hearts and not because they get summers off and retire at 55 with 100,000+ pensions.

  • Pay a 95 year old retired teacher for doing “nothing”???????????? Are you kidding me? First of all she’s lucky if her pension tops $3000.00 a year assuming she worked until age 60 ; back then teachers were really not paid very much- even by the economic standards of the day. 45 years ago the average salary was $4,743 and a teacher’s Salary topped out at $5,174. Minimum Wage was $1.00 and hour. Not a huge financial committment! As far as doing “nothing”…should teachers die younger or work longer? Today, most of us will be lucky if we can afford to retire at all!
    Most people who have a pension worked long and hard for that benefit. And many of us paid into our pension plans. Really Ms. Hogref? I hope you as long as that remarkable former educator!

  • It’s difficult to have gratitude when all we are told is how little we work and how well we are paid! There is not a day that goes by that I do not thank God for giving me the talent to have had a long, rewarding career as an educator. I love what I do. I am grateful to have paid for two master’s degrees and pre-doctoral classes to enhanse my skills. I am grateful to live in a community as diverse as Riverhead. I am grateful for the exemplary education my children were given by hard working, professional educators in RCSD. As sole supporter of my family I wll be truly blessed if I can retire and live to be a burden on the taxpayers at 95! Again I ask…how long is too long to receive the pension one works for? And how long shall I teach before I retire…I’m planning on 62 years of age, 4 more years…will that suffice? I’ll stay longer, but remember- my pension will be larger!

  • neverretire:

    Please explain the justification for Long Island teachers demanding the highest “educator” salaries in the country.

    Are they the best performing, or are we just getting ripped off due to the cozy relationship between teachers unions and the politicians they lavish campaign contributions on.

  • The so-called experts will tell you the salaries must be competetive to attract “high quality” professional educators…I did a little research (something I learned about in grad-school) and discovered that while we are among the most well paid we are not the highest paid; Connecticut, NJ and California pay the highest salaries. Remember when you compare teachers to other professions be certain to compare the levels of education required as well. Pay scales for educators vary by location- on LI pay will be substantially higher to accommodate the higher cost of living. Some school districts pay higher salaries for the first 5 – 10 years as a way to attract new teachers and retain them. Teacher salary also varies according to education level of the teacher. A teacher with a four year bachelor’s degree will make less than a teacher with a master’s degree. Theoretically we do have shorter work days and shorter work years, however like most teachers I average 10 hours a day in my classroom. During the summer break-I am teaching summer school to suppliment my salary or I’m involved in some form of professional development that usually leaves me with only a solid week or two of non-work related activity time. I’d also like to mention the money that I must spend for my classroom in order to ensure that ALL of my students have a level playing field. So far this school year, I have spent over $ 750 ( BTW I can only claim $250 of this expanse on my tax return). Don’t get me wrong- I am NOT complaining- but you need to look at our profession with a wider lens.

  • It would be a pleasant change if rather than brag about the degrees, educators would admit that they are lucky to have such wonderful salaries and benefits and vacation time, but nooooooooo. .. . .

  • Paceride,

    I think you misunderstand; I don’t think anyone was “bragging” about the degress. I think what the previous poster was asking you to consider was the level of education REQUIRED by the state of New York to be an educator. This isn’t optional. So what I think you should keep in mind is that teachers are the LOWEST PAID of the professions that require a postbaccalaureate degree. Compound that earning potential (the difference between a teacher and someone on Wall Street, say) over a 30 year career, teachers could make MUCH more if they took the same level of education and went into the private sector. Don’t forget, a master’s degree for teaching, an MBA and a law degree require the same amount of additional schooling. If there isn’t some financial benefit to being a teacher (ie, being salaried higher than the average or mean local salary, which factors in all levels of education and skill), why would anyone in their right mind (or anyone who can add, for that matter) become a teacher?

    These debates upset me for many reasons, not the least of which is that each time someone claims that a teacher is overpaid, it devalues education in the eyes/minds of kids. Hey, if my parents (or aunt, cousin, neighbor, whatever) is saying it’s not worth it, why should I think it’s worth it? Oooh, but some athlete just got paid gajillions. Our society has its priorities out of whack.

    For the record, there have been reforms to the retirement system that are called tiers. Someone who retired 40 years ago did so under a much different system than anyone retiring today, and people who retire in 40 years will do so under even stricter guidelines.

    Oh, and the New York State Teacher Retirement System (which is the retirement system for administrators as well) is almost totally self-funded.

  • Can you explain why if the Teacher Retirement System is almost totally self funded there is a very large item in the budget for this purpose, that is growing exponentially? While teaching may be one of the lowest professions that require advanced degrees (in our country), I believe that is as an average, and is not the case on LI. In fact teachers earn much more than many people who live on the east end especially.

    While I understand what you are saying, we cannot afford to give raises each and every year when we are being laid off and losing our homes and working multiple jobs. Most professions require a full years’ work, with anywhere from 2-4 week’s vacation. In fact, many high paying jobs require many more than 40 hours a week and travel to boot. Many jobs require additional education at the employees expense with no step increases simply for attaining the credits. It is not optional for them either. The Wall Streeters, who are often cited, do not have guaranteed jobs and many do not have 30 year careers. Many were laid off in the past 5 years and are looking for work. There are many people with advanced degrees who are not working or are underemployed. I know of a PhD who does not earn what nearly what a local teacher earns.

    I think there are many professions where people are accused of being overpaid, where the salaries are not as high as one thinks. I also believe that when a “kid” learns what the salaries and benefits are, they will probably consider going into education.

    Thank you for your reasoned response, I simply believe taxes are getting out of hand relative to earnings in Riverhead.

  • Thank you for your reasoned response, as well. As you have probably surmised, I am a teacher, and, as my username indicates, I am also a taxpayer.

    Regarding the increases in TRS, there are increases in costs of everything. But to say that the increases are exponential is incorrect – exponential means a multiple of the itself. This year it’s going up about 11%, if I recall correctly. Why is this increase being mandated by the state? I can only speculate, but I would imagine it has to do with the effects of the baby boomer generation on the economy, which is broader than just the NYSTRS, coupled with Gov. Cuomo’s decision to eliminate an existing tax on the wealthiest while shifting that tax burden to the middle class.

    The elimination of this tax (nicknamed the “millionaire’s tax”) is the source of the increase in our tax levy; it has reduced our state aid, and the district has to make up these funds and is forced to do so by raising taxes. Keeping this tax in place (one that, again, already exists and wasn’t a source of complaint) would pay for the existing state aid, aid that I believe is rightful due to the myriad unfunded mandates that school districts are forced to comply with and pay for, among them the state assessments.

    So if your primary purpose for stating your case on this message board is your concern about rising taxes, I encourage you to contact our representatives to ask them why they are balancing the budget on the backs of the middle class.

    As a point of correction, graduate degrees are not required among teachers nationwide. However, they are in New York. I do not have the information at hand to comment on the difference between the average household income of a teacher and that of the general population locally. However, I would be reluctant to compare those figures regardless. I might be willing to look at the average household income of a teacher to the average household income of college graduates, as I think that might be a more fair assessment. Yet I do not like the idea of debating a teacher’s worth. Babysitters are paid more per child per hour than teachers – and we do much more than “sit.”

    Believe me, teachers’ homes are being hit by the economy as well, including mine, so I am not blind or uncaring. But the fact remains that the teacher pay scale system exists to also protect the taxpayer. 1) Teachers earn the income increases over time in response to dedication to a community and the society. This prevents people from entering the profession to make money out of the gate, and then bail. So taxpayer investment in new hires is minimal annd people are only rewarded if they demontrate their commitment. 2) Just more than 10 years ago, the economy was going gangbusters, growing at about 10% a year, if I recal correctly. Yet the teacher salary schedule was structured the same way it is today. This slow/steady approach means that there aren’t spikes in taxes and salaries that respond to the economy, which is good for the taxpayer and makes budgeting easier across the board (from school district to household). So, just as teachers aren’t making the bounties in the good times, nor are teachers taking as big a hit in the bad times (although Riverhead teachers have given back). This lessening of fluctuation means that we DO take “a hit” compared to our neighbors in the good times, and I understand why – when people look only at the surface of the issue – we get flack in the bad times. But if you look at the system in the whole, we have already “paid” for the decline in the good times, and the system does benefit the tax base. And again, my household has also been hit by these economic times, so simply because one earner in a household is provided more security than the market as a whole, please don’t assume that teachers are immune.

    Oh, and Wall Street has bounced back. They were given a bailout. I’m not willing to debate the merits or rationale for the bailout, nor the potential consequences were it not provided. What I do know is that Wall Street got billions for messing up. Teachers get a modest pension (one that decreases in value each year, as it is fixed and does not respond to inflation) in return for decades of service to our communities and our children. I’m not shedding a tear for Wall Street.

    Regarding the school year, I can tell you, when I entered teaching after a decade in the private sector, I was amped to have summers off. What I didn’t realize was the tremendous energy that teaching requires daily. There are no slow or easy days. There are no long lunches, meandering stops at the deli. We can’t put our students through to voice mail if we’re in the middle of something else, nor would we want a parent to recieve an “out of office” reply to an email. And I also didn’t realize that I would be working every summer, anyway (in my case, both in education and in the service industry – namely waiting tables).

    And we are responding to the emotional, physical and education needs of children. We work seven days a week . As I tell the kids who, after spending a week on a writing project, want it graded and returned the day after it’s turned in, there is no magic grading closet. And that doesn’t account for the time that’s necessary to plan meaningful classroom experiences. In the private sector, multiple adults would spend days working on a 45-minute presentation to a client or boss or whomever. Teachers do this day after day, and the lessons and materials do not create themselves.

    If you are concerned about taxes, contact your representatives. Tell them that you want Riverhead’s state aid back. Tell them that you don’t want the tax burden of the rich decreasing while yours increase and you struggle to make ends meet. And tell your kids that teachers are worth every cent.

  • PS – The NYSTRS is 89% self-funded.

  • To continue the discussion, I’d like to make some points, numbered for readability:

    1. I use the word “exponential” because I see the retirement line on the budget almost doubling this year.

    2. Our district is considered “land rich”. I believe the district ought to be pursuing the inequity in state aid. Pleas to the BOE seem to fall in the “we went to Albany and tried in the past” vein. It needs to be tried again and again.

    3. Although I understand your point about comparing average household incomes and educations. . . . the fact is it is every household contributes taxes, and the cost is not based on whether or not the household has a college degree. Furthermore, the average household means everyone in the residence. Many teacher individually earn more than the average household in Riverhead. If the average household can pay for their own health insurance, the average teacher ought to be able to afford it better. Since the teachers’ incomes are not declining, the hit comes in higher prices and taxes. The public gets a double whammy. Should we pay your medical bills before we pay for our own.

    3a. We also need to stop paying exhorbitant “per diem” salaries to people who are already earning pensions.

    4. While Wall Street in general was bailed out, there are still many individuals who worked on Wall St who are still unemployed or starting over again in new professions.

    5. I realize there are no slow days in teaching, there are no slow days in many jobs, especially sales and for the self employed. While many teachers work summers, they get paid for doing so, either in teaching or with their second jobs.

    6. I agree that the tax burden on the rich, and I mean “rich” i.e. over say $300,000, needs to increase. I think the public is already expressing that.

    7. Lastly I’d like to say I would like to see more hounding of our representatives by the district. Iwould like to see outreach from the district in the form of explaining just who and how to hound them and what for. Many people are very busy working their multiple jobs and simply don’t have the time to do the research. THe outcry you are hearing is the public who has had enough. As educators, the district needs to educate the public of what they need from the state.

  • Regarding 7, that’s where politics get involved, sadly.

    But here’s link on who your state assembly member is:


    State senator:




    I encourage you to get in touch often. Squeeky wheels, and all…

    In case you ever misplace this link, the search to find these links took about 43 seconds.

  • There have been many good points made here and I like the passion that the teachers have for thier work.But,,,,,I must point conciderable blame for the currant economic status on the political leaders of Riverhead Town.In watched as one of the best money producing proposals made to RHT was thrown away and a long shot given to a SKI MOUNTAIN!!!!!!!!!If RHT had taken the check for a sports complex,The financial situation would have been VERY DIFFERENT.The EPCAL CENTER would have produced and pumped MILLIONS of dollars$$$$ int the RHT tax coffers pocket while producing many jobs.But,,,,,,I will continue to rally and push for a MOTORSPORTS COMPLEX after the town ordered $500,000 study is complete.I am a proud member of http://www.limotorsports.net/forum/

  • Everyone here is griping about teacher salaries and pensions, which I suppose are pretty liberal. Nobody is complaining about the Correction Officers getting six figure salaries, crazy overtime, and liberal benefits. All without the education!! There was some guy upstate making $200K with all the overtime to pad his pension. That is extreme, but you get the point. I’d rather see teachers get the money, considering my kids and their future are dependent on them.

  • Don’t worry, that’s coming. It’s budget time. First things first.

  • It is amazing how you continually make up and distort information to suit your needs. Do you work for Fox News?
    Check your facts about how much teachers pay into health insurance, 10% is inaccurate.
    All tiers have had to pay into their pensions.
    Very few teachers earn over $100K on the east end of Long Island. If they do, they’ve been teaching for close to 30 years. (By the way, are you the retirement police? How do you know when it is right to retire?? )
    Finally, how did your profession contribute to society?

  • My god, you are an ignoramus.

  • You wouldn’t last a full year.

  • Everyone is so upset about this 95 yr old lady.Calm down the public does not pay for her pension after she retires.In fact the public/taxpayers only contribute up until they retire.It surprises me that so many claim to be Teachers or in Education some how some way on this thread …yet not one has even tried to inform anyone that we don’t pay for you for your entire life.This makes me wonder..are these posters truly Teachers or are they not informed of their own retirement system….

  • Why is there a line item for retirement?

  • It is a right that bond pitch set for next meeting. The meeting was a solemn high school auditorium, as voted in favor of the position, the end of excessing6-0 bi-monthly meeting at its twenty employees.

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  • That line is for those that are working.Remember it is not just the Teachers we put in to…
    Cafeteria staff support staff etc..

  • Ehm… not back in the day, darling… look up the wages for that period and make the decision if you could survive on that..

  • If one is retired from teaching… and with the increase in prices for almost everything on the market today, how would one survive? Supplemental income is needed other than a pension… other than ssdi, so… you work from home. I don’t know about you.. but I wold prefer not to be that lazy, but continue to be a productive member of the workforce… so yep.. it does have bearing. Think of the larger picture here, in the realm of life expectancy and continuity of the working lives of people.

  • Again.. allow me to make myself clear.. first off, it’s “co-exist”, second.. a bit of empathy and gratitude is needed.. and thirdly.. I guess you are really not into the phrase “supporting your own.” If this is what this town has to look forward to, it’s really quite sad.


  • Thank you grammar nazi.

    As for “supporting your own”, these extremely high teacher compensation packages are the reason for our extremely high property taxes. Taxes that take money straight out of the pockets of our families.

    These teachers are far wealthier than the average family paying these taxes. We have seen a spending increase of 60% in real, inflation adjusted dollars, per student in the last decade.

    What have we gotten in return for being so generous to our “educators”? Not a damn thing but crying and screaming for MORE money.

    If teachers think they’re underpaid, or that merely slowing the escalating rise in their compensation is simply unfair, then they are free to find another job. We can’t afford you.