Aurelia Henriquez to resign after three years as Riverhead’s superintendent

Riverhead superintendent Dr. Aurelia Henriquez submitted a resignation letter during a special Board of Education meeting Monday.

The board approved the separation agreement effective June 30. The resolution did not specify her reasons for resigning.

In a statement, Board of Education president Greg Meyer cited “certain irreconcilable differences” and “in the best interest of her family” as reasons for her resignation.

“The BOE wishes to thank Dr. Henriquez for her commitment to the students staff and community during her tenure with the district,” Mr. Meyer said during the meeting. “Dr. Henriquez extends her appreciation to the students, staff and community for their support of her leadership as superintendent of schools. On behalf of Board of Education, we’d like to wish Dr. Henriquez luck in her future endeavors.”

In a split vote, the board then appointed Christine Tona, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, to serve as interim superintendent starting July 1.

Board members Therese Zuhoski, Laurie Downs and Brian Connolly voted against the appointment.

“[Ms. Tona] had three no votes for her tenure appointment not less than two weeks ago,” Ms. Zuhoski said ahead of the vote. “She has been interviewing outside of our district for other employment for at least the last year if not longer and in my opinion just because she’s been here longer does not mean that she’s qualified for this interim position.”

Reached by phone Monday, Mr. Meyer, whose 12-year tenure on the Board of Education ends June 30, declined to provide additional comment on the sudden resignation, but said he’s confident in the new board members. 

“I believe [the board] has got some great direction on how to move forward and what their next steps are,” he said, which includes working closely with Ms. Tona.

The board is set to meet for its annual reorganizational meeting July 7.

A statement sent through the district’s public relations firm said the board of education plans to begin a “thorough search process to identify the best candidate to serve as the district’s next superintendent of schools.”

“Since this is a confidential matter of personnel, the board of education, the district and Dr. Henriquez will have no further comments regarding this matter,” the statement said.

The resignation comes as the district is holding graduation ceremonies over three days, continuing Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Dr. Henriquez delivered a speech to the graduating class during a virtual ceremony Friday.

The statement from the district said that “Dr. Henriquez extends her appreciation to the students, staff and community for their support of her leadership as superintendent of schools.”

Riverhead voters rejected the school’s proposed 2020-21 budget earlier this month and soundly rejected a bond proposal earlier this year.

Dr. Henriquez had been an assistant superintendent in the Brentwood School District before she was unanimously approved in May 2017 as Riverhead’s next superintendent, replacing Nancy Carney.

In January 2019, the school board approved two-year extension for her contract. The extension was was approved 4-2, with Ms. Downs, Brian Connelly, Elizabeth Silva and Ms. Zuhoski in favor and president Susan Koukounas and vice president Christopher Dorr rejecting the proposal.

At the time, Ms. Koukounas said that approving the decision would be financially imprudent.

Dr. Henriquez earned $224,000 in 2019, according to SeeThroughNY.