The Riverhead Central School District's new office at 814 Harrison Avenue in Riverhead. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead High School has a new senior naval science instructor for its NJROTC program.

The Board of Education on Tuesday night appointed David Chiaro to the position at an annual salary of $125,143.annual salary.

Chiaro replaces Timothy McAllister, who resigned in August.

The board also extended the temporary appointment of ROTC Instructor Zachary Morales Oct. 31.

Teaching controversial issues

In a 4-1 vote, with trustees Christopher Dorr and Colin Palmer absent, the board approved the third and final reading of an amendment to the district’s policy concerning teaching about controversial issues. Trustee Therese Zuhoski cast the only dissenting vote.

The policy, first adopted in 2005 and last revised in 2012, addresses the need for classroom teachers to engage students in discussion and debate with the aim of stimulating the “exchange of ideas and deep thinking.”

“The goal is for students to learn to disagree respectfully and discuss and examine issues rationally, objectively and thoroughly, to enable students to draw informed conclusions, and function productively and with civility in our democratic society,” according to an amendment to the revised policy adopted Tuesday.

“The Board wishes to ensure that controversial issues are presented in a manner that preserves the academic integrity of the District, are of significant interest to the community, have political, economic, cultural, or social significance, and encourages students to come to their own opinions while respecting the opinions of others, and promotes inclusivity and dignity for all students, while reflecting community values,” the police, as amended, now states.

Zuhoski questioned what the community values are that will be reflected in the discussion.

“Community values are most specifically showing respect and being open and being ultimately, showing respect for having multiple sides, multiple views and outcomes,” Executive Director of Secondary Education, Grants and Student Outcomes William Galati responded.

“(T)he great thing about Riverhead is that it is a diverse community with different viewpoints,” Superintendent Augustine Tornatore added. “So we want to celebrate the diversity and provide the opportunity to allow everybody to share their thoughts, but to also share opposing thoughts as well.”

Zuhoski asked how a math teacher might be capable of discussing a controversial issue, in the same way as a social studies teacher might be.

Tornatore said the key is to emphasize respect in the discussion. Teachers receive training to be prepared for these kinds of discussions, he explained.

School accountability update

Galati gave a presentation on the State Education Department’s accountability system, explaining how schools and districts are classified under that system and what the classifications mean.

The Riverhead Central School District is a target district, meaning it has at least one school identified as a Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) School or Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) School or it has been identified for the low performance of one or more accountability groups at the district level.

Pulaski Street School is a TSI school. Roanoke Avenue Elementary School and Riverhead Middle School are CSI schools.

The State Education Department partners with local districts to help them develop and implement improvement plans. The state provides school improvement grants to help the schools and district meet their plans’ goals. Riverhead received a total allocation of $575,000 in school improvement grant funding in the 2021-2022 academic year. The funds were used to support reading and mathematics district-wide, social emotional learning, parent and family engagement, after-school programs, tutoring, translation services and more.

Blue Waves Recognition and Appreciation program awards

Assistant Superintendent Lori Koerner presented the September awards in the Blue Waves Recognition and Appreciation program. The awards went to: Pulaski Street School Principal Patrick Burke, Riverhead High School Special Ed Teacher Jill Tapper, Special Education/PPS Department Administrative Office Assistant Joann Ramirez, Frank Sciarratta of the Buildings and Grounds Department and Vicki Brown, Food Service, Aquebogue Elementary School.

Transportation studies approved

Approved contracts with Transpar Group Inc. for a transportation efficiency study and a transportation electric vehicle feasibility study, at a total cost not to exceed $78,875, to be reimbursed by a grant or state aid. The vendor was selected after a request for proposals process.

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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.