School board president Laurie Downs at the July 6, 2021 meeting. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Laurie Downs was appointed to a second term as school board president by board members during the board’s annual organizational meeting last night.

The vote, by a show of hands, was 6-0, with Trustee Chris Door abstaining.

Trustee Matt Wallace nominated Dorr for board president and the district clerk began a second vote — Dorr, Wallace and Brian Connelly raised their hands in support of Dorr — but attorney Chris Venator of the law firm Ingerman Smith, counsel to the district, interrupted the vote.

“Since you already have a majority,” Venator said, “you don’t do another vote.”

The board failed to appoint a vice president. Past vice president Therese Zuhoski’s name was put in nomination by Downs and Dorr nominated Wallace. Each candidate got three votes. Dorr, Connolly and Wallace voted for Wallace; Downs, Zuhoski and Healy voted for Zuhoski; Palmer abstained from both votes.

“You’re not required by law to have a vice president,” attorney Venator counseled the board. He told them they can take another vote at the next board meeting if they wanted to. “But you can move on without a vice president at this time,” he said.

Superintendent Augustine Tornatore took his seat on the dais last night, having assumed his post July 1. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Last night was the first board of education meeting for newly hired Superintendent Dr. Augustine Tornatore, who started in the job July 1.

Tornatore said he’s been meeting with district administrators since April, when he was hired by the board of education. He’s also visited each of the district’s school buildings and the transportation department, he said.

“I am extremely impressed with student engagement” in the classrooms, the new superintendent said. He was also impressed with the condition of the the buildings, which he said were very clean and well-maintained.

“Everyone has been very welcoming,” Tornatore said. “I’ve shared my entry plan with the board of education for my first 100 days,” he said.

Tornatore said he has “an open door policy” and welcomes the community to discuss with him “all the great things going on here in Riverhead and of course any concerns they may have.”

The board of education’s newest member, trustee Colin Palmer, who was elected in May, takes the oath of office, administered by District Clerk Lisa Rheaume. Photo: Denise Civiletti

At the annual organizational meeting, the board of education takes care of a variety of housekeeping tasks — approving appointments to various committees, appointing impartial hearing officers, designating the district’s official depositories (banks) for the district’s funds and official newspapers/media for the district’s public notices, setting meeting dates, appointing club advisors and coaches, and authorizations for various district officials to conduct certain business on behalf of the district (for example: the superintendent’s ability to certify payroll.) It also approves various annual contracts, such as contracts with the Riverhead and Baiting Hollow libraries, contracts with bond counsel, outside auditors and insurance companies, as well as tutorial, psychology, psychiatry and other student services. See the school board’s agenda online, with attached contracts, for details.

The board last night also appointed a new assistant principal at the high school, Dr. William Galati. He joins assistant principals Kellyann Parlato and Nicole Taylor on Principal Sean O’Hara’s administrative team at the high school. Galati previously served at principal at Hewlett High School from 2018-2021 and prior to that was principal at Southold Junior-Senior High School (2009-2018.)

Trustee Brian Connelly, re-elected in May, takes the oath of office for his second term July 6, 2021, administered by District Clerk Lisa Rheaume.
The newly constituted Riverhead Board of Education at its first meeting of 2021-2022. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Editor’s note: This article has been amended to correct errors in the nominations of board officers and recorded votes.

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Denise Civiletti
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.