The Year in Education 2013

Riverside school in Riverhead
BARBARAELLEN FILE KOCH PHOTO | Phillips Avenue students wave goodbye to teachers Friday, the last day of the 2012-13 school year.

From security to Common Core, it was a year loaded with news coming out of local school districts.

Jan. 10 — Shoreham-Wading River hosted a public forum to discuss security improvement plans in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, where 27 people — including 20 children and the gunman — were killed. Soon after the tragedy, buzzer systems, security cameras and auto-lock doors were installed at all district elementary schools. Although doors at the middle school and high school lock automatically, they did not yet have buzzer systems or cameras. Those safety devices were later purchased and installed.

March 14 — Riverhead held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Phillips Avenue Elementary School in Riverside to unveil the district’s first completed capital improvement project, being paid for through a $78.3 million bond approved in 2011. Work began this summer at Phillips — the second-oldest school in the district — to reconfigure the parking lot and bus drop-off loops, beautifying the entrance and gut the existing library to make room for a new “21st-century” learning center.

April 17 — The Riverhead school board approved spending $100,000 in reserves on new security measures. The plan includes purchasing new security cameras, digital recorders, shatter-resistant film for glass windows, the addition of “Smart Key” technology and the creation of a bigger security office with large-screen video monitoring.

May — Riverhead High School social studies teacher Lisa Goulding was elected as president of the district’s teacher’s union after six years as its vice president for six years. She replaced retiring union president and physical education teacher Barbara Barosa. The union also elected middle school social studies teacher Chris Butterfield and Roanoke Elementary School third-grade teacher Gary Karlson as vice presidents.

May 23 — Riverhead school board incumbent Jeff Falisi lost his seat in the annual school board vote. Incumbent Amelia Lantz and challenger Chris Dorr won two-year terms in the three-way race. Although voters approved a proposition to allow the district to start a savings account for bus barn capital improvements, voters rejected a plan to allow the district to move the garage to another property near Phillips Avenue. The district has since created a committee tasked with finding a solution to deal with the district’s ongoing transportation facility issues.

June 25 — The Riverhead school board unanimously approved an agreement with retiring administrator Joe Ogeka that pays his full salary throughout the 2013-14 school year as he assists with the transition and restructuring of the district office. The agreement was obtained by the News-Review through a Freedom of Information Law request. At about the same time, Riverhead School District Superintendent Nancy Carney announced administrative changes in schools throughout the district. Mr. Ogeka’s position has not been filled.

Aug. 7 — Many parents and educators were infuriated when the state Department of Education released assessment results for math and English Language Arts. The results showed a significant drop in test scores compared to the previous school year because, for the first time, the assessments were based on the new Common Core State Standards.

September — Peconic Community School celebrated its first anniversary as the area’s newest independent school. This fall, 27 students enrolled, up from nine last year. The school, which started in a small space at East End Arts in downtown Riverhead, now occupies the former elementary school at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Aquebogue.

Sept. 24 — More than a year after the previous contract had expired, Riverhead’s school board unanimously approved a five-year agreement with the district teachers union. The contract doesn’t include raises for the current school year. Teachers will receive 0.75 percent raises for each of the contract’s subsequent four years and will contribute more for health insurance benefits.

Oct. 3 — The Riverhead Charter School in Calverton held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of a $14.1 million construction project to accommodate increasing enrollment. The two-story addition will have new classrooms and space for an auditorium, gymnasium, library, administration offices and a kitchen.

Oct. 10 — Riverhead started its participation in Project Fit America, an athletic and educational opportunity aimed at battling childhood obesity made possible through a combination of private donations. PBMC Health is helping the district run the program, which uses state-of-the-art outdoor fitness equipment designed for exercises that address areas in which children commonly fail when doing a physical fitness tests.

Oct. 24 — Overall results from the state-mandated annual professional performance review plans, known as APPR, showed that only two teachers in the Riverhead and Shoreham-Wading River school districts combined received “ineffective” ratings, despite the poor student assessment scores.

Nov. 12 — Shoreham-Wading River School Superintendent Steven Cohen confirmed he would not recommend reappointing boys’ varsity lacrosse coach Tom Rotanz. Mr. Rotanz said he had spoken to Mr. Cohen and had been told he could be rehired for one more year, as long as he agreed to resign the following year. When he refused, Mr. Rotanz said, he was told he was “too controversial” to remain as coach.

Nov. 19 — Education expert and influential author Diane Ravitch, whose most recent book is “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” met with Long Island administrators and teachers in Hauppauge. She called on them to halt standardized testing within their districts to regain control of the quality of education.

Nov. 26 — State education commissioner John King addressed angry residents at a highly anticipated public forum in Manorville, where he defended New York’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Mr. King acknowledged that some adjustments, such as reducing student testing requirements, are needed — especially regarding English as a Second Language (ESL) students and students with disabilities.

Dec. 3 — The Shoreham-Wading River school board approved implementation of a Princeton Plan starting next school year. The realignment model will divide elementary school students based on grade level rather than on where they live within the district. Model supporters have said this approach will enhance educational opportunities by grouping elementary teachers and students by grade in the same buildings and reducing staffing levels.

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