Editorial: Thumbs up, thumbs down for 2015

SWR football

Here’s what our editorial board liked and didn’t like this year.

thumbs upSWR football unbeaten once again

Perhaps senior quarterback Jason Curran summed it up best as he stood on the field at Hofstra University in late November, basking in the Shoreham-Wading River football team’s 24th straight win and second consecutive Long Island championship.

“I feel like we changed this community with the way we rallied back after last year,” he said. “We changed how football is looked at in this community.”

The Wildcats’ dedication, perseverance and teamwork in 2015 was a sight to marvel at. From the team’s season opener — when junior Kevin Cutinella scored the first touchdown — through the Long Island Championship win over Locust Valley, the Wildcats played with a consistent fire to be the best.

For a program that had been a relative unknown in high school football, Shoreham-Wading River has now cemented a legacy as one of the most inspirational teams we’ve seen.

thumbs downSilly season in Riverhead

Typically — and unfortunately — it’s just another year in Riverhead when we see shenanigans in Town Hall. Last year, it was a swiss cheese budget that, as predicted, needed to be filled with reserves this year. But 2015 was a local election year, making it even more ripe for silliness.

Flip-flopping on an important issue that affects people with cancer and other sicknesses? Check. Bringing up a 26-year-old arrest warrant (with the help of someone else running in the race) in order to prove your opponent lacks character? Check. Proposing to give yourself a raise while the town’s major union works a year without one? Check. These were just a few examples, although the Town Board did have some moments of fair reason this year. Raising taxes instead of balancing yet another year’s budget on fictitious dollars was one of them. The supervisor’s agreement to put his squabbles with Councilwoman Jodi Giglio aside and improve the town’s computer system are others. Unfortunately, those were things that should have been done long ago.

thumbs upChanges coming to Common Core

Educators had no time or training to help them or their students prepare for the new, more rigorous standards known as Common Core.

While you’d be hard-pressed to find many people who are against challenging our students to rely less on memorization when it comes to math — or think more critically when it comes to English — the rollout of Common Core has been a disaster.

Nearly five years later, a plan to overhaul the system is in the works. And the decision comes not a moment too soon.

One change allows districts to ignore the standards without sacrificing federal funding. In New York, the governor’s task force recommends a moratorium on linking teacher evaluations to student test scores until the 2019-20 school year in order to “avoid the errors caused by the prior flawed implementation.”

With the opt-out movement gaining momentum over the last few years, it’s apparent Common Core is in dire need of an overhaul. Our elected officials need to continue taking an active role in reconstructing the educational system — one that doesn’t include high-stakes testing at its core.

thumbs downLack of transparency in Riverhead schools

Transparency should be a goal pursued by all governmental agencies, including school districts.

But when a 4-year-old boy was mistakenly left on a bus, the Riverhead school district made no attempt to inform parents beyond those directly affected. It was the kind of mistake the school ought to make parents aware of. And when no information is disclosed, it only fuels the rumor mill.

In a separate matter, the school district denied the News-Review’s FOIL request for a copy of an agreement made between the district and one of its employees. Eventually, this newspaper obtained a copy from another government agency, and the document showed the district agreed to rehire an employee it previously fired.

The fact that one public agency granted access to information the district decided not to share is a scary reflection of what information the district believes should be shared publicly and what information it believes should be considered private.

Photo:  James Puckey, left, and Kevin Cutinella carry the 54 flag in memory of Tom Cutinella onto the field before Shoreham-Wading River’s win over Elwood/John Glenn in the Suffolk County Division IV final. (Credit: Daniel De Mato, file)