Board president Greg Meyer, left, new member Matthew Wallace, board member Laurie Downs, and board vice president Brian Connelly. Photo: Maria Piedrabuena

The Riverhead Central School District is updating its code of conduct for the 2019-2020 school year, proposing a series of changes at the recommendation of both the state school boards association and a district-wide committee that reviewed current policy. 

Changes include:

  • The addition of a section called “Why do we have a code of conduct”
  • Additional language or language changes. NYSSBA recommends changing or refining existing language so there’s “ a focus on positive school culture and respect,” Tona said. 
    • The word “conduct” will be changed to “behavior”
    • The word “sanctions” will be changed to “consequences”
    • Definitions for “Behavior” and “Respect” have been added
  • Cell phones: 
    • Teachers and administrators are authorized to confiscate students cell phones that are being used in violation of the Code of Conduct and/or in violation of policy 5695, Student Use of Electronic Devices
    • Teachers and administrators are permitted to look at the screen of the cell phone and can request the student’s cooperation to search the cell phone further. Without a student’s permission, teachers and administrators cannot undertake a more extensive search until conferring with the superintendent or the school attorney for guidance, Tona said. 
  • Discipline of Students with Disabilities: 
    • The entire section has been replaced with new NYSSBA language that Tona said was more “comprehensive.” The new language has more detailed definitions, a new Manifestation Review section, as well as a new section on “students presumed to have a disability for discipline purposes.”
    • Tona emphasized that these procedures are already being followed as per current special education and education law, but that now “the public and families can see exactly what the steps are that should be undertaken for students with disabilities or with those suspected with a disability.”
A board minority voted to elect Laurie Downs president and vice president July 2. Both motions failed. Photo: Maria Piedrabuena

Other revisions to district policy were also introduced at last night’s meeting. These include:

Residents may submit written comments on the proposed changes within the next 30 days. 

Assistant Superintendent Christine Tona highlighted the main revisions and additions to the updated code of conduct in a presentation at Tuesday’s school board meeting. The BOE adopted the first of three required readings after a public hearing, in compliance with New York Codes, Rules and Regulations Title 8 section. 

The district-wide committee is comprised of administrators, teachers, parents and students, Tona said. The committee is required to meet yearly to review the code of conduct. It was last reviewed on November of 2018. 

Once the updated code of conduct has been adopted, it will be disseminated to all staff and reviewed at faculty and department meetings, Tona said. She also added that copies of the adopted code of conduct will be available in all buildings, it will be posted on the district website, a presentation to students will be made at the beginning of the school year and a summary will be included in the district calendar.

The public can submit written comments within the next 30 days by sending a letter to:

Riverhead CSD Board of Education
700 Osborn Avenue
Riverhead, NY 11901

New president, vice president for the board of education

Greg Meyer was elected and sworn in as the board president last night. Votes in favor included former president Sue Koukounas Matthew Wallace, a newly-elected board member and Christopher Dorr. 

Brian Connelly was elected and sworn in as the new vice president. Votes in favor included Meyer, Koukounas, Wallace and Dorr. 

Laurie Downs, who was elected to a second term on the board in May, was nominated to be president and vice president by fellow member Therese Zuhoski, who also voted for her on both occasions; Downs did not win a majority vote. Connelly voted for Downs to be president as well. 

Meyer has previously served two terms as board president and two terms as vice president.

“Every year is the same old, same old,” Downs said after the vote. “When you do the same thing over and over and expect something different, it just stays the same. I truly believe that every board member should just rotate, there should not be nominations, it should rotate and everybody should have a chance at it.”

A board minority votes to elect Laurie Downs board president.
Photo: Maria Piedrabuena

Designation of board committees

Designations were approved for five committees. The previous IDA Abatement Committee was abolished and a new Facilities Committee was created:

  • Audit Committe: Koukounas, Dorr, Meyer
  • Health and Safety Committee: Downs, Wallace, Zuhoski
  • Inter-Governmental/Policy Committee: Downs, Koukounas, Dorr
  • Wellness Committee: Zuhoski, Connelly, Meyer
  • Facilities Committee: Wallace, Connelly, Meyer

Personnel Actions

Among the different actions taken in regard to personnel, from approval of advisors, to teachers, and others, a particular resignation was highlighted as a bittersweet moment at last night’s meeting. Director of professional personnel Brian Doelger, a position he has held for the last five months, has submitted his resignation as he has been appointed as the new superintendent at the Shelter Island Union Free School District. 

“Very well-deserved — we loved having him here and we are sorry to see him leave so quickly,” Schools Superintendent Dr. Aurelia Henriquez said. 

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Maria Piedrabuena
María, a multimedia reporter, graduated from Stony Brook University with degrees in journalism and women and gender studies. She has worked for several news outlets including News12 and Fortune Magazine. A native of Spain, she loves to read, write and travel. She lives in Manorville. Email Maria