Riverhead school district officials are requesting community support to receive additional state funding this year.
Riverhead is one of four districts in the state that has received the lowest percentage of Foundation Aid from the state, according to a funding advocacy letter drafted by the district.
Other districts that receive the lowest amount of Foundation Aid include Glen Cove City School District, Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District, Ossining Union Free School District and Westbury School District.
Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez posted a statement on the district website Monday which asked Riverhead residents to contact state senators, legislators and governors to address “funding deficiencies” in the district budget.
“As part of our campaign for fiscal equity, our administration and Board of Education are working together to fight for Riverhead’s fair share of state funding,” the statement read.
The statement included the sample letter and encouraged residents to submit it to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, State Sen. Ken LaValle, Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo and Assemblyman Fred Thiele.
The letter states that: “The Foundation Aid gap in these districts will continue to grow as their student needs and enrollments increase. We are simply asking that we be funded at the same level as our peers by providing these districts with at least 70% of their fully phased-in amount.”
Foundation Aid, first enacted in 2007-08, is the “largest unrestricted aid category supporting public school district expenditures in New York State” according to the New York State Education Department 2019-2020 handbook. This year, it represents approximately 67.3% of the total state aid received by districts statewide.
The average school district in the state receives approximately 80% of their allocated Foundation Aid based on a formula. The four districts receiving the lowest percentage, including Riverhead, receive less than 50% of their allocated Foundation Aid, the district letter said.
Since 2008, the district has seen a 22.8% increase in student enrollment and a 307.9% increase in the number of English language learners.
At a school board meeting Monday, Dr. Henriquez said nearly 50% of all students in the district receive free or reduced-price lunch. She added that poverty levels have a direct impact on learning for students.
“Addressing barriers that affect student learning involves school and district-level support and support that involves families and is community-wide,” she said.
Following the presentation, Stephanie Ranghelli, who has three children in the district, stressed the importance of Foundation Aid.
“This aid is going to help all our children,” Ms. Ranghelli said. “It’s going to trickle down to help our teachers and the importance of this is so big.”
Riverhead High School’s anticipated graduation rate for 2019 is slightly below last year’s graduation rate, according to district officials.
The anticipated 2019 graduation rate is 81.5%, slightly below the 2018 graduation rate of 83%.
During an academic update presentation from district officials Monday, newly appointed high school principal Sean O’Hara said graduation rate is determined by cohort, or the year that a student entered ninth grade. In this case, he said, the 2015 cohort determines the 2019 graduation rate.
The graduation rate has remained in the low 80s for the past two years. The 2017 graduation rate was 82%.
The graduation rate in 2017 and 2018 was higher than state average of 80%. However, it has been lower than the static Suffolk County rate, at 88%.
County and state averages for 2019 were not immediately available for comparison.
Photo caption: Christine Tona, left, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, speaks at Monday’s board meeting. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)