Riverhead School District

BOE preview: Board to vote on paying legal fees for Johnson lawsuit


The Riverhead school board is expected to vote tonight on an agreement to pay the legal fees for several past and present administrators and school board members in an upcoming federal case against the district, according to Tuesday’s meeting agenda.

The suit argues that former Philips Avenue teacher Joe Johnson, who is black, was singled out for punishment after pleading guilty to a drunken driving charge, while comparing his treatment to that of former assistant superintendent Joe Ogeka, who is white. The lawsuit states Mr. Ogeka dodged punishment for “multiple DWI convictions” and a “horrific error” that resulted in a student committing suicide while on a school trip in 2000.

In October, Mr. Ogeka was listed as the state’s highest-paid public school employee outside New York City last fiscal year. The report shows Mr. Ogeka, who served as assistant superintendent for personnel and community services before retiring June 2013, was paid $376,340 during the 2013-14 school year. School officials have said he worked during that year to help the district through a transitional phase.

In addition to paying Mr. Ogeka’s legal fees, the resolution includes paying legal fees for the following people named in Mr. Johnson’s lawsuit:

• Former school board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse;
• School board president Greg Meyer and vice president Sue Koukounas;
• School board members Tom Carson, Chris Dorr, Amelia Lantz, Kim Ligon and Lori Hulse;
• Superintendent Nancy Carney;
• Assistant superintendent for business finance Sam Schneider;
• Assistant superintendent for curriculum David Wicks;
• Philips Avenue Elementary School principal Debra Rodgers.

The Board of Education is also expected to adopt its goals for 2015 on Tuesday night, hear a presentation from Family Community Life Center director Shirley Coverdale, and have a discussion about selective classification in the district’s interscholastic athletics.

The school board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Phillips Avenue Elementary School in Riverside.

Scroll down to view the complete agenda and check back later for an update.

RCSD BOE 1/13/15