Shoreham-Wading River School District

Miller Avenue Elementary School principal fired

Shoreham-Wading River superintendent Steven Cohen (left) and school board members Bill McGrath and John Zukowski at last night's school board meeting. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)
Shoreham-Wading River superintendent Steven Cohen (left) and school board members Bill McGrath and John Zukowski at last night’s school board meeting. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

Less than a year after she was named principal at Miller Avenue Elementary School, Patricia Nugent was fired Tuesday night after the Shoreham-Wading River school board approved Superintendent Steven Cohen’s recommendation to deny her tenure. 

Ms. Nugent was transferred to Miller Avenue at the start of the school year from the district’s Briarcliff School, which will close by next school year, despite a large protest from parents. A little over a year ago, close to 200 Miller Avenue parents attended a Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting to voice opposition about the move — not so much in protest of Ms. Nugent, but more-so in support of Miller Avenue’s former principal, Louis Parrinello, who was transferred to Briarcliff.

After Tuesday’s school board meeting, Mr. Cohen didn’t disclose the reasoning for his decision to deny Ms. Nugent’s tenure, but confirmed that the school board voted in favor of firing her. The move takes effect June 30.

Mr. Cohen said the school board also approved his recommendation to appoint Christine Carlson to serve as the principal for the district’s new K-2 program at Miller Avenue. Ms. Carlson is currently an elementary school assistant principal in the William Floyd School District, he said.

The Shoreham-Wading River school board voted 4-2 to terminate Ms. Nugent’s employment with the district. School board vice president John Zukowski and member Jack Costas voted in opposition. Member Richard Pluschau was absent.

The school board also voted 4-0 on a number of personnel appointments, which Mr. Cohen said included the appointment of Ms. Carlson as the new Miller Avenue principal. Mr. Zukowski and Mr. Costas abstained from the vote.

The district is preparing to restructure its elementary program for the 2014-15 school year under a Princeton Plan model, which was coined in New Jersey and is designed to enhance educational opportunities by grouping elementary teachers and students by grade in the same buildings, as opposed to neighborhoods or “catchment areas.”

The district is turning Miller Avenue Elementary School into a kindergarten through second-grade primary school and Wading River Elementary School into a third-grade through fifth-grade intermediate school.

The school board unanimously approved closing the district’s current K-2 building, Briarcliff Elementary School in Shoreham. The district has discussed some options for possible future uses of the facility, including transforming it into a pre-kindergarten building, renting the space out or keeping it vacant.

Citing concerns about potential real estate negotiations, school officials have declined to say how much money they anticipate saving by closing Briarcliff. However, they’ve estimated that money saved by shutting it down and combining other elementary schools will lower teacher salary costs by nearly $1 million next year.

Current Briarcliff principal Louis Parrinello is expected to replace Stephen Donohue, who is retiring as Wading River Elementary School principal next school year, Mr. Cohen said.

Ms. Nugent and Ms. Carlson’s names weren’t listed on the meeting’s agenda since the district doesn’t publish names from the personnel section of its agenda until after the minutes are approved at the following meeting.

The school board didn’t discuss the Miller Avenue principal decisions and no one in the audience spoke about the changes during the public comment portion of the meeting.

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