New courses for high school students
Riverhead High School principal Dr. Charles Regan pitched seven new course offerings to the Riverhead Board of Education Tuesday night. Regan would like to add the new courses to the high school curriculum in the 2016-2017 school year.

The new course offerings — robotics, principles of engineering, baking and pastry, digital filmmaking, environmental science, AP French language and culture — “represent increased rigor and growth,” Regan told board members. They represent a continuation of the sequence in six academic departments, he explained.

A “Robotics 1” course in the technology department would offer college credits through SUNY Farmingdale for $140 (or $70 for students who receive free and reduced lunch.) The high school currently has a successful robotics club.

Another new technology department offering, “Principles of Engineering” would be a hands-on laboratory class that would allow students the opportunity to examine engineering case studies as well as work with 3D modeling software and 3D printing.

A “Baking and Pastry” class would be added to the food and consumer science department to allow interested students an opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge of cake decorating, assembling, filling and icing cakes, create a mock baking pastry business, design a website for the business and create online order forms. This will be the third class in the sequence of culinary arts classes the high school currently offered.

“College Readiness” would help prepare students for the realities of life on a college campus. Topics would include where to go for help in college, explanations of RAs, the bursar and more. The class is designed to be a half-year class which would include presentations by the high school guidance department.

The art department would see the addition of a “Digital Filmmaking” course, which will allow students to produce short films and commercials. The class would teach filmmaking techniques from conception to exhibition, allow students to analyze films from different genres and explore careers related to film and video production.

A new “Environmental Science” course would focus on the interactions of people and their environment. The course would explore real-life issues, major ecological concepts and environmental ethics. This will not be a laboratory course and would be an option for students who have fulfilled their lab requirements for graduation but who are interested in continuing to take science courses.

An AP French Language and Culture course, which has been planned for a couple of years, will study language and culture emphasizing communication, vocabulary usage, language control and cultural awareness. The course will be taught exclusively in French.

Board member Lori Hulse asked whether there would be any issue fitting the new courses into an eight-period day.

“No, most of the classes are in sequence, so they would not be taken concurrent with anything else that’s already being offered,” Regan replied.

Koukounas: low bond rate saves district $4 million-plus
The district finalized the last portion of the bonds in the amount of $32,262,249, which brings the bond to the total permissible bond. The bonds were sold at the interest rate of 2.4899 percent, which is lower than the previous two bonds, allowing the district to shorten it to 15 years, which will save between $4 million and $5 million, Koukounas said.

School boards association membership in limbo
A resolution authorizing the expenditure of $11,272 on New York State School Boards Association annual membership dues failed to gain a board majority. Hulse voted against the measure, which was supported by Susan Koukounas, Kim Ligon and Anne Cotten-Degrasse. But with board members Amelia Lantz, Christopher Dorr and Greg Meyer absent, Hulse’s vote was needed to pass.

Hulse said she does not see enough value in the membership to support the expenditure of more than $11,000 in annual dues.

“It doesn’t cover certifying board members, which is required by law. And I think that with the environment and climate that we’re in, $11,200 for email updates and a subscription to that is really just not financially feasible,” Hulse said. “If we’re paying separately for certifications I think it’s an expense we can’t afford at this time.”

Student population surge?
Riverhead community member Lori Downs asked how much the district’s student population grew this year. School superintendent said she did not have the number and would provide the information to Downs by email

Downs asked whether the district’s school buildings will be “at full capacity” after the building renovations are completed.

Though she did not have the statistics on hand, Carney said capacity issues are “something that we are really are looking at as we move into the future.”

Phillips Avenue, with close to 600 students, is just 50 students below capacity, Carney said. Aquebogue is up to close to 500 students, Riley is close to 600, Roanoke is up to about 400 students, and both the Middle School and Pulaski are close to 800 students, she said.

Budget transfers questioned
Yolanda Thompson, of Aquebogue, expressed frustration with the district’s budget transfers, particularly the way the codes are displayed in the meeting agendas. After doing research at home, Thompson said, she noted that some of the funds which were transferred came out of accounts such as a Social Security fund and were being transferred into an account for the Riverhead Charter School. Thompson questioned whether these types of transfers are allowable.

Assistant Superintendent Sam Schneider said the transfers are allowable and were needed to fund the unexpected enrollment increase at the charter school. Schneider said that when the budget is set, it represents a reasonable expectation of where the money will be needed, but as the year goes on it becomes clear where money will not be needed.

Status of meeting video for public access TV
Hulse asked whether the district is planning to record school board meetings for televising on the Cablevision public access channel. Carney said that was something the district intended to do after resident Laurie Downs announced at the end of the last school year that she would no longer record the meetings for Channel 22 — something she’d done as a volunteer for 15 years.

Hulse said she believes the district should provide video coverage for the public access channel.

Carney said the district is interested in offering community service to students by having them record the Board of Education meetings to be aired on the public access channel.

“We’re going to see if we can pursue that as we move forward,” Carney said.

RiverheadLOCAL is now providing full meeting video coverage of Riverhead school board meetings. The videos can be accessed here and

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