Year in Review 2023

Year in Review 2023: Drama in Riverhead School District

There’s been no shortage of drama at Riverhead Central School District this year. Superintendent Augustine Tornatore stepped down from his position in October.

Mr. Tornatore previously requested a leave of absence from Oct. 6 to Oct. 23, which the Board of Education approved at a hastily called special meeting on Oct. 5. A source close to district administration confirmed that Mr. Tornatore’s leave request followed an incident in which he “verbally berated” a Riverhead Central Faculty Association official that same day, resulting in that person being rushed to the hospital.

William Galati, the district’s executive director for secondary education, grants and student outcomes, served as interim superintendent until Oct. 29. Cheryl Pedisich took over as interim superintendent Oct. 30 and will serve through June 30, 2024.

Marianne Cartisano assumed a new role as acting assistant superintendent for business, replacing Rodney Asse. Christine Peters was appointed to succeed Mr. Asse as assistant purchasing agent for the district.

A previous shake-up in the district involved Lori Koerner, assistant su-

perintendent for human resources and elementary education. She was put on home assignment following an incident involving Rodney Parrish, secretary to the superintendent, who reported her to the Riverhead Town Police Department for harassment.

According to a police report, Mr. Parrish was with Ms. Koerner on Sept. 22 at the district office when Mr. Parrish stated that Ms. Koerner “got out of her seat, charged around her desk, then grabbed him on his shoulders with both of her hands, turning him and pushed him backwards.” Shortly afterward, Mr. Parrish texted Mr. Tornatore about the incident.

Mr. Parrish did not press charges. Ms. Koerner now is working on school grounds again at a location “away from central administrative offices.”

Incidents involving students have also been prevalent. On March 28, a Riverhead High School student was assaulted, robbed and stabbed on his way home by five individuals wearing ski masks. Three days later, a 14-year-old student was arrested after bringing more than a dozen bullets to school, prompting a lockdown.

The first incident of the 2023-24 school year occurred just three days in, on Sept. 8, when a student sprayed another with pepper spray. Multiple people needed medical treatment.

At a Sept. 9 football game, four cousins between the ages of 5 and 7 were called a racial slur by a high school and a middle school student, as well as a third out-of-district student. Their great-grandfather, Robert Brown, brought the incident before the Board of Education.

Drawings of swastikas at both the middle and high school in November.