Nancy Carney at the Aug. 15, school board meeting. Photo: Denise Civiletti

This week marks the official changing of the guard in the Riverhad Central School District’s superintendent’s office. School Superintendent Nancy Carney is retiring from the post effective tomorrow.

Carney, 58, is the longest-serving superintendent of schools since Richard Suprina, who served eight years as superintendent, from 1983 to 1991.

A classroom teacher and elementary school principal before coming to Riverhead in 2005 as an assistant superintendent, she was named superintendent of schools after her predecessor, Diane Scricca, retired in 2010.

Carney’s tenure coincided with major changes in the public education environment, including the implementation of a state-mandated 2-percent property tax levy limitation and the adoption of Common Core standards and a whole new regimen of testing students and evaluating teachers.

At the district level, Carney worked to secure the passage in October 2011 of a $78.3 million construction bond to fund an array of repairs, renovations and upgrades to the district’s seven school buildings and campuses. Voter approval by just 234 votes came after a $123.9 million construction plan was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in February 2010.

She personally oversaw the major construction and renovation work that followed.

“Her work on the performance contract — she took that on as if it was her own,” Riverhead school board president Greg Meyer said in an interview.

The district’s buildings and facilities are upgraded and modern as a result of those efforts.

Carney also supervised the establishment of a capital reserve account that allowed the district to save funds for the purchase of a new transportation center site in Calverton.

District voters approved budgets in each of Carney’s seven years at the helm. District spending increased just under 25 percent over that period, from $109.6 million in 2011-2012 to $136.4 million in the upcoming 2017-2018 school year. During Carney’s tenure the district’s overall enrollment increased by more than 600 students. The number of English language learners has roughly tripled, from 538 in 2010 to 1,550 in 2017. The number of special education students in the district is up by 281, to 1,056.

“Mrs. Carney did some great things for our district,” said Meyer, whose tenure as a trustee predates Carney’s as superintendent. “She brought stability, which the district was in dire need of,” he said.

Riverhead had a lot of turnover in the superintendent’s seat in the years before Carney’s ascension. Her predecessor, Scricca, held the job for just three years. Prior to Scricca was an interim superintendent, Joseph Singleton, for just shy of a year. Singleton succeeded Paul Doyle, who served less than two years. Doyle followed back-to-back interims, Joseph Laria and Robert Pinckney, each of whom held the post for just a few months.

“Riverhead school district had a revolving door of administrators for a number of years,” said former school board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse. “When Nancy Carney came she provided stability,” she said.

“I think Nancy’s heart is in the right place,” Cotten-DeGrasse said. “She was extremely dedicated to Riverhead. She attended every event, every concert, got involved in Rotary. She really wanted to keep her finger on the pulse of the town,” Cotten-DeGrasse said.

“Another thing about Nancy, she came through the ranks, which I think is the right way. She taught for years,” said Cotten-DeGrasse, a retired teacher and former Riverhead Central Faculty Association president. “She had a very good pedagogical base. At heart she was a teacher before an administrator.”

Cotten-DeGrasse, who along with former member Amelia Lantz, resigned from the board in June after a dispute with the board and administration over personnel processes and policy, said she wished Carney had been more outspoken as a district leader.

“She is a team player and because she is a team player she allowed the superintendents association to fight a lot of the battles I think she should have been fighting locally,” Cotten-DeGrasse said, pointing in particular to the Common Core standards.

Carney declined to be interviewed about her tenure as superintendent. “I wish to go out quietly,” she said. ”I am truly proud of our accomplishments,” she said. “Of course there are disappointments… I am excited for the district to move forward. There are many good things happening.”

Meyer echoed that sentiment. “We’re looking forward to starting a new chapter,” he said. “But Mrs. Carney will be truly missed.”

Carney’s successor, Dr. Aurelia Henriquez takes over on Thursday. 

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.