Riverhead Central School District's administrative office on Osborn Avenue. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Sam Schneider has been administratively reassigned pending an ongoing investigation into an unspecified allegation, Board of Education President Laurie Downs has confirmed to RiverheadLOCAL.

The statement from the BOE comes after two special meetings called solely for the purpose of executive sessions and rumors about Schneider being out of his office left residents in the dark on the status of the district’s second highest administration official. During the next regular board meeting on Oct. 12, Schneider’s position of deputy superintendent was abolished — an apparent demotion — and the district hired an “acting business official” at $125 an hour, with an explanation of the two decisions, but with questions still unanswered.

Schneider acted as the district’s business official, Downs wrote, and therefore the acting business official the district hired, Herb Chessler, will perform the district’s business functions during Schneider’s administrative reassignment. 

Superintendent Augustine Tornatore previously said Chessler’s position would be providing an “additional layer of assistance” on an as-needed basis to the financial operations of the school, particularly with the influx of federal funding into the district and with the pursuit of grants. Tornatore did not give any indication that Chessler would be acting in Schneider’s place, and declined to comment on Schneider when asked by reporters on Oct. 12.

Downs wrote in her statement that Chessler “will not work 8 hours a day, nor will he work 5 days a week.”

The district solicited proposals for special legal counsel services on Oct. 5 and on Oct. 12 hired Volz & Vigliotta, a law firm in Nesconset that often represents school districts in litigation. Downs today confirmed the counsel was conducting the investigation into Schneider.

“It would not be fair to Mr. Schneider to the District to use our own counsel because of the history of work with the Board, the Superintendent and Mr. Schneider himself,” Downs wrote. “It also would not be fair to the employee to discuss the nature of the allegation before we even know if it is true.”

Downs did not answer a question on when Schneider was administratively reassigned and said she could not provide information on what his current duties are or whether he is working from home or on district property. She said she could only provide the information “the board allowed” her to provide.

Schneider declined to comment on his administrative reassignment.

The district abolished the deputy superintendent position with a vote of 6-1 during the board meeting on Oct. 12. They appointed Schneider to the assistant superintendent for finance and operations, the position he held when hired by the district in 2011, with tenure, in accordance with his contract. Schneider’s benefits and salary, which is $212,069 under his current one-year contract, will continue throughout its expiration on June 30, 2022. The district cannot abolish his current position for another year, per the terms of his contract.

Editor’s note: This article has been amended to correct an erroneous reference to the district’s business official as the “town” business official.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]