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Top Stories 2021: New superintendent, Budget passes in Riverhead

2021 was an eventful year in the Riverhead Central School District. 

In April, after a nearly six month search, Dr. Augustine Tornatore was appointed the Riverhead Central School District superintendent.

His term started July 1, a year after former superintendent Aurelia Henriquez resigned, citing “certain irreconcilable differences” and “the best interests of her family” as reasons for her departure.

Mr. Tornatore previously served as assistant superintendent at the Liberty Central School District and director of K-12 social studies at Newburgh Enlarged City School District. He also worked as an administrator in Baldwin and as a teacher in East Rockaway before coming to work at the Riverhead Central School District.

In May, after two failed attempts to pass the 2020-21 budget, Riverhead residents approved the $154.9 million spending plan by more than 1,300 votes. The budget did not alter the tax levy, even though it represented a 10.08% spending increase, due to a 42% boost in state aid. 

October brought some tribulations for the district, starting with the abolishment of the role of deputy superintendent, a role served by Sam Schneider since 2016.

The resolution was approved by the board of education in a 6-1 vote on Oct. 12. Later that month, the board hired Herb Chessler as “acting business official” for $125 per hour with another 6-1 vote. Board member Chris Dorr cast the dissenting votes on both resolutions.

It was later confirmed that Mr. Schneider was placed on leave and an investigation was underway after unknown allegations were made against him. The investigation is still ongoing. 

At the end of November, the board hired Faith Caglianone as assistant superintendent for finance and operations at a rate of $100 an hour after Mr. Chessler indicated he would soon be resigning from his position. Mr. Chessler is leaving his position because, according to Dr. Tornatore, he had only agreed to it on “an extremely temporary basis.”

Ms. Caglione will work part time and continue for the rest of the year as needed, according to Dr. Tornatore. Her contract is effective Dec. 1 through June 30, 2022.