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Riverhead school board turns down $550K contract with education company offering virtual learning tools

The Riverhead Board of Education failed to approve a $550,840 contract with an education company that offers “dynamic, virtual learning tools.”

The contract with Edjuncture that the board rejected at last Tuesday’s meeting was for an asynchronous digital tool kit for the 2022-2023 school year. The district had intended to pay for the service through money received from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grant.

The measure failed after board member Virginia Healy expressed concerns.

“I have a concern with the large amount of money and the research that I’ve done,” she said. “It’s over 5,300 students that are going to be signed up for this digital tool kit which is really just being piloted.

She said the board had limited information and she couldn’t be sure the service had been field tested.

“I don’t think that’s where we should be putting our children, in front of another software platform for that amount of money … I’m hesitant that we should be adopting a non-field-tested product with limited research.”

According to the information provided on a quote to the district, Edjuncture is an education company based in Jericho, N.Y. The company consists of a group of educators with a combined 95 years of experience as teachers, counselors, principals and superintendents.

The digital tool kit would have included student and teacher access to homework help, learning management system, Road to Mastery Program and ELA/ENL reading comprehension, writing and language acquisition support for the 2022-2023 school year.

Board members Colin Palmer and Matthew Wallace voted for approval of the contract while board president Brian Connelly, vice president Laurie Downs and Ms. Healy voted against it. Board members Therese Zuhoski and Christopher Dorr were absent.

Extreme Heat

Greg Wallace, the president of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association President, said the district should discuss the effects of extreme heat on Riverhead’s students, in a statement at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Mr. Wallace’s statement was read by Ashley Pope, a representative of the district’s law firm, Guercio and Guercio, in the absence of the district clerk, Lisa Rheaume.

“We, as a district, need to start having a conversation about classroom temperature and the impact that extreme heat has on the learning environment of the children especially now that all classroom doors are required to be closed for an active shooter deterrent,” Mr. Wallace said in his statement.

The classrooms of greater concern that are mentioned in Mr. Wallace’s statement include the east facing second floor rooms in the high school, middle school, in Pulaski Street Elementary School as well as the gymnasiums in the district.

Superintendent Augustine Tornatore addressed Mr. Wallace’s concerns before the meeting came to an end. 

Mr. Tornatore said he has been meeting with assistant superintendent for finance and operations, Dr. Rodney Asse, high school principal Sean O’Hara and others to look at options to be able to air condition more classrooms.

“We certainly want to have students and staff in a comfortable environment so that we could optimize learning,” Mr .Tornatore said. “We are in conversations to see how we could use those funds to be able to handle the air conditioning needs, so right now they are doing an assessment to see what is the best pathway forward to be able to optimize the cooling space but also keeping in mind the electrical costs as well.”