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Riverhead School Board extends superintendent’s contract

Aurelia Henriquez will retain her position as superintendent of the Riverhead Central School District for an additional two years. Although a proposed extension of her contract was not listed on the school board’s agenda Tuesday night, it was approved 4-2, with members Laurie Downs, Brian Connelly, Elizabeth Silva and Therese Zuhoski in favor and president Susan Koukounas and vice president Christopher Dorr rejecting the proposal.

“It is resolved that the Board of Education at Riverhead has approved an extension for the superintendent’s contract of an additional two years,” Ms. Koukounas read after the vote.

The state’s Open Meetings Law requires board members to discuss an agenda item publicly if it is proposed at a board meeting. After proposing the contract renewal, Ms. Koukounas said that approving the decision would be financially imprudent.

“This is a disservice to our students,” Ms. Koukounas said. “This is fiscally irresponsible to our taxpayers.”

Dr. Henriquez was unanimously appointed as superintendent in May 2017. She began her term Aug. 31, 2017, replacing outgoing superintendent Nancy Carney. At the time, the board approved a contract for a three-year term at a starting salary of $220,000.

The extension will add two years to that original term, which would now end in 2022.

Ms. Downs, who has been involved in the district for almost 20 years, then took a moment to recognize Dr. Henriquez’s efforts throughout the last academic year. She mentioned the superintendent’s efforts to initiate round-table discussions, start a food pantry in the district through Long Island Cares and remove three schools from the state “focus” list.

“I have seen a tremendous amount of good come to this district since Dr. Henriquez has come,” Ms. Downs said. “I hear nothing but positive things about her from the community, taxpayers, parents, even students and staff.”

While she didn’t disagree with Ms. Downs, Ms. Koukounas said there has been no formal discourse among board members about the future of her position.

Ms. Zuhoski rebutted the president’s comment: “I fully disagree with you that we have not discussed goals, mission, vision — I think Dr. Henriquez has absolutely seen a vision for this district,” she said.

Before the vote, Ms. Silva also expressed her support for Dr. Henriquez.

“As a parent in the district, I support Dr. Henriquez 100 percent,” she said. “We have baby steps, that are going to go into big steps … It takes time. And this is what we need to get done, to give it time.”

Directly after the board approved the decision, Ms. Downs spoke up once again: “I’d like to congratulate Dr. Henriquez on her extension,” she said. “Thank you for all you have done.” Her comment was met with applause from the audience.

Greg Wallace, treasurer of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, also congratulated Dr. Henriquez on her contract renewal.

In an interview, Dr. Henriquez said it’s common practice for superintendents to request an extension in the middle of their terms.

At the meeting, the superintendent thanked the Riverhead community for the decision.

“It is an honor and privilege to serve as the superintendent of the schools here in Riverhead,” she said. “Always know that you have my full commitment, and I want to thank everyone for the continued support.”

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