Patrick Burke, pictured here in 2014, was named acting principal at Pulaski Street Elementary School following principal David Densieski's reassignment last month pending a personnel investigation. File photo: Riverhead Central School District

Pulaski Street School has an acting school principal following the reassignment of principal David Densieski last month. 

The Board of Education Tuesday night unanimously appointed Patrick Burke as acting principal from Nov. 18 “until it is determined by the Board of Education that such appointment is no longer necessary.”

Burke served as assistant principal from January until last month, when the school board appointed Callan Lonergan to replace him, allowing him to return to the assistant principal post at the high school, a position he’d held from 2014 until January.

Densieski was reassigned to the district office and Pulaski Street orchestra teacher Christina Mercurio was reassigned to the Office of Pupil Personnel Services in mid-November.

Burke’s appointment was supported by parents at the school board meeting, who expressed their dismay of yet another situation at the district involving personnel, and urged the board to appoint Burke in a more permanent position. 

“I am upset. I am disappointed. I’m angry as a parent,” Aquebogue parent Angela Ohlbaum told the school board Tuesday. “I’m not going to ask too many details of what’s going on, but we all know what’s going on at Pulaski Street. Integrity, what does it mean? It means having moral, strong values and being honest, I’m disappointed that there is even a discussion that this is ongoing.”

“Everybody has protection. Teachers have the union, the principals have their little group. Who protects children?” Ohlbaum asked. “You’re in these positions because we trust you, we trust your judgment. Under no circumstances should any child should ever feel a certain way in school. We’re there to protect them, We’re there to oversee anything.”

“I’m not saying what did or didn’t happen. I wasn’t there. It’s not my business, but you know what, it’s been ongoing. We know it, the kids know it, the district knows it. Everybody knows it, there’s nothing to hide here,” she said to the applause of meeting attendees. 

Ohlbaum went on to say that Burke was “the breath of fresh air that Pulaski needs.” She also asked board members to look into any possible camera footage the CCTV system may have recorded of “that specific day in question,” she said. 

Board members and school superintendent did not provide any details about the reason for Densieski and Mercurio’s reassignment, citing an ongoing investigation.

“These are not things that the board is at liberty to comment on right now as it’s currently an active personnel matter. We cannot discuss that publicly at this time,” school attorney Michael Raniere of law firm Igerman Smith said Tuesday.  

Riverhead resident Yvette Downing and mother of a Pulaski Street School student, asked the board to oppose Densieski or Mercurio’s return to the school. 

“There are so many other teachers that want jobs, that will appreciate the kids and and do right by them and these two people do not deserve to come back to this district,” Downing said. 

A group called “Riverhead Town Association of Concerned Citizens,” urged its members through social media to sign a petition that asks the district that “in the best interest of all involved,” Densieski should “not return to his position as principal of Pulaski Street school” because “it would further demean authoritative positions in a school dealing with past events.”

Riverhead school Superintendent Dr. Aurelia Henriquez acknowledged in an interview that the district had received the petition. 

Henriquez addressed parents last night and thanked them for their continued patience.

“We are working to ensure that all outcomes here at the Riverhead Central School District are what’s best for children,” she said. “I just want you to know that, and while you know as the attorney said, we can’t specifically comment, I do want you to know that we are discussing your concerns.”

“I thank this community for allowing us to keep the lines of communication open,” Henriquez added. “I don’t want you to feel like your concerns ever, whether it’s this situation or any other, are falling on deaf ears. We take this very seriously. And again, we just ask for your patience.”

Burke’s annual salary will be $151,033, according to the district’s personnel report for Tuesday’s board of education meeting. 

Correction: Angela Ohlbaum’s name was misstated in a prior version of this story.

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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