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I am a Cuban-American woman born and raised in New York City. My parents have instilled in us a love for the United States and patriotic passion. We are also proud of our Cuban heritage and are affected by situations that arise in my parents’ native home. READ

11/21/13 10:00am
11/21/2013 10:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Riley Avenue Elementary students learned how to keep their hearts healthy Wednesday afternoon, thanks to volunteers from North Shore University Hospital LIJ.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Riley Avenue Elementary students learned how to keep their hearts healthy Wednesday afternoon, thanks to volunteers from North Shore University Hospital LIJ.

More than 600 students at Riley Avenue Elemenary are taking part in an educational program know as the Heartist (Heart + Artist) Project, run by North Shore University Hospital. Sheila Davies, a nurse practitioner at the hospital, taught students about the human heart Wednesday afternoon, giving them tips to keep the strongest muscle in their bodies healthy.

Over the next month, students will be working with the school art teacher, Melissa Haupt, to create illustrations featuring the heart healthy tips they learned Wednesday. The art will then be featured in a healthy recipe book to be handed out to North Shore LIJ patients upon leaving the hospital, Ms. Davies said.

06/02/13 1:00pm
06/02/2013 1:00 PM
The new research area.

Phillips Avenue Elementary students in the school’s research area in March.

A recently released state report shows that two Riverhead elementary schools with poorer and more diverse student bodies are underperforming on English-language arts and math assessments.

The state issued its annual “report cards” for all school districts in March. The reports comprise district demographics, enrollment and student assessment performance information. The number of students eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch is also included in the report.

Of Riverhead’s four elementary schools, which educate pre-kindergarten through fourth-grade students, Phillips Avenue and Roanoke Avenue lagged behind Aquebogue Elementary and Riley Avenue in Calverton. Test scores and information about the Pulaski Street School, which educates the district’s fifth- and sixth-graders, was also included in the report.

While populations of both black or African-American and white students have slightly decreased slightly in the Riverhead School District since the 2010-11 school year, the Latino student population has increased significantly.

Last school year, 2011-12, the Latino student population was 1,384, an increase of 191 students over 2010-11. There were 907 black students enrolled in the district last year, down by 67, and 2,585 white students, a decrease of 35.

Phillips Avenue Elementary in Riverside and Roanoke Elementary in Riverhead had the highest numbers of minority students, and the highest amount of students meeting federal economic standards to qualify for free lunch. The state also reported that Phillips Avenue students had the poorest performance on English-language arts and math assessments.

Following is a summary of report findings for each school.

Phillips Avenue

• The report found that Latinos made up 46 percent of Phillips Avenue’s student population in 2011-12, with 258 students. There were 160 black students and 126 white students. Of those enrolled, 409 students, about 73 percent, were eligible for free lunch and 39 students were eligible for reduced-price lunch.

• About 35 percent of Phillips Avenue third-graders and 23 percent of fourth-graders scored below the state’s English-language arts proficiency standard. About 22 percent of students in third grade and 15 percent in fourth grade didn’t meet math proficiency standards. Nearly 11 percent of students who took the science assessment at Phillips Avenue scored below the state’s proficiency standards.

Roanoke Avenue

• According to the report, 182 Latino students, 124 white students and 66 black students were enrolled at Roanoke Avenue in 2011-12. Of those, 237 students were eligible for free lunch and 24 qualified for reduced-price lunch. Free lunch eligibility nearly doubled compared to 2010-11, up by 116 students.

• Nearly 23 percent of third-graders and 25 percent of fourth-graders scored below state proficiency standard in English-language arts, the report found. In math, about 10 percent of third-graders and 8 percent of fourth-graders failed to meet the state standards. Nearly 8 percent of the students who took the science assessment scored below the state’s proficiency standards.

Aquebogue Elementary

• The report counted 247 white students, 136 Latino students and 71 black students at Aquebogue. Among this population, 189 students qualified for free lunch and 25 for reduced-price lunch.

• Nearly 14 percent of third-graders and 10 percent of fourth-graders scored below the state’s English-language arts proficiency standards, according to the report. About 11 percent in third grade and 6 percent in fourth grade didn’t meet math proficiency standards. Nearly 6 percent of fourth-graders who took the science assessment scored below state standards.

Riley Avenue

• Riley Avenue’s student population included 485 white students, 98 Latino students and 39 black students. Of those, 185 students were eligible for free lunch and 38 for reduced-price lunch during the 2011-12 school year.

• Riley Avenue had the highest percentage of students who met or exceeded state state’s proficiency standards for English-language arts and math. About 5 percent of third-graders and 4 percent of fourth-graders scored below the standard for ELA and about 4 percent in third grade and 2 percent in fourth grade did so in math. All 121 students who took the science assessment scored above the state’s proficiency standards.

Pulaski Street School

• The report found 380 white students, 192 Latino students and 128 black students were enrolled in the school in 2011-12. A reported 285 students qualified for free lunch and 55 for reduced-price lunch.

• In fifth grade, 10 percent of English-language arts assessments and 7 percent of math exams received scores below the state’s proficiency standard. In grade 6, about 8 percent of English-language arts scores and 4 percent of math exams fell below the standard.

Districtwide results

• About 40 percent of all district students, or 2,021, were eligible for free lunch during 2011-12 and another 357 for reduced-price lunch. Those numbers compare with 1,833 students and 336 students, respectively, during the previous year, 2010-11.

• Nearly 12 percent the Riverhead School District’s elementary enrollment during the 2011-12 school year — 596 students — were considered limited English proficient, or LEP, according to the report. That’s an increase of 55 students over the 2010-11 school year, the report shows. LEP refers to students who have not yet developed fluency in reading and writing because their primary language is not English.

• Phillips Avenue had 160 LEP-designated students; Roanoke Avenue had 120; Aquebogue had 73; and Riley Avenue had 60. The Pulaski Street School had 51 LEP students.

• According to the report, the district’s black, Latino, LEP-designated and economically disadvantaged students in grades 3-8, as well as students with disabilities in those grades, failed to make adequate yearly progress in English-language arts assessments. Adequate yearly progress, or AYP, indicates progress toward proficiency for all students.

The same classifications of students in those same grades also failed to make AYP in mathematics last school year.

As for science, as measured in only grades 4 and 8, the district’s black and white students achieved AYP. Riverhead’s secondary students achieved AYP in both English-language arts and math.

• The report also addressed enrollment and graduation rates, documenting a total district enrollment of 5,010 students during 2011-12, up 112 students from the previous year. There were 328 Riverhead High School graduates in 2012, up 20 students from the previous year. However, the total number of dropouts was also up by 10 students, to 71.

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03/23/11 12:01pm
03/23/2011 12:01 PM

VERA CHINESE PHOTO | Riley Avenue Elementary parent Karen DiGiaimo said she is concerned over the loss of one security guard at the school.

The public has been mostly mum on spending under the Riverhead School District’s proposed 2011-12 $110.3 million budget.

But one school board member is concerned about how much money the district plans to use from the previous year’s fund balance.

During Tuesday’s school board meeting at Riley Avenue Elementary School, board member Tim Griffing said he is worried that using such a large portion — $3.4 million of the approximately $4 million fund balance — to offset a potential tax increase for Riverhead residents might lead to a larger tax spike in the future.

Last year, the district used $2.6 million of a $4 million fund balance, said interim assistant superintendent for operations and finance Joseph Singleton.
The district will likely use about $3.6 million in reserves for the 2012-13 school year, according to Mr. Singleton.
“That $3.4 million might not be available [next year,]” Mr. Griffing said. “You can’t bank on the same amount.”

Mr. Griffing said his concerns largely stemmed from the increase in the amount of money the district must contribute to the pension funds of former district employees. The $2.1 million state mandated increase, 39 percent over the previous year, is due largely to declining stock revenue in the down economy.

School officials said the fund balance would hopefully be replenished through unspent money under the 2011-12 budget. Mr. Singleton said fluctuations, such as changing oil prices and teacher turnover, often lead to a surplus at the end of the year.
Still, the exact 2011-12 fund balance will not be known until the end of that school year.

“We’re doing a lot of praying these days,” Mr. Singleton said during the meeting.

The tax levy — the amount of money the district collects from taxpayers — is still expected to rise 5.97 percent from $82.7 million this year to $87.7 million, even with the reserve fund drained. Without the use of those reserves, the increase would have been about 7.8 percent, according to a previous budget presentation.

That’s because Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed cutting $2.9 million, or 16 percent, in state aid to the Riverhead district, causing administrators to plan for the worst, school officials have said.

The meeting was the third in a serious of budget presentations held at different schools within the district. The school board is scheduled to adopt the budget on April 12 and the public will vote on the spending plan May 17.
Safety worries at Riley

• Several parents commented on safety concerns over Riley Avenue’s dismissal process. Parent and Riley Avenue Parent Association member Karen DiGiaimo said the loss of one of the school’s two security guards — just one of 38 positions being cut districtwide in an effort to keep down spending — could lead to a safety hazard when children are getting on buses at the end of the day. The school will continue to employ the other security guard.

“To decrease security from two to one, I think is going to be a very big problem,” she said during the meeting.

Ms. DiGiaimo said she would like Riverhead Town Police to conduct a safety seminar for children or to place a crossing guard near the intersection with Donna Drive.

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03/17/11 5:07pm
03/17/2011 5:07 PM

Riley Avenue Elementary School in Calverton held its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade with principal David Enos leading the way as Grand Marshal Thursday afternoon.

First-grade students made posters, decorated floats and made costumes. The six classes of first-graders paraded in the front parking lot of the school for the rest of the students, teachers and parents who came out to watch during the spring-like 60 degree day.

The school has held the event for the past eight years.

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BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riley Avenue first-graders in the St. Patrick's Day Parade at the school.

03/13/11 12:19pm
03/13/2011 12:19 PM

Students at Riley Avenue Elementary School presented “Cinderella” Saturday at Riverhead High School.  The play was produced by fourth grade teacher Jim Schaefer and starred Kimberly Gershel and Ella Malanga as Cinderella and RJ Steuber as the prince.

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BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Prince RJ Steuber and Cinderella Ella Malanga at the ball after the kiss.