Nurse Judy Marcus-Shivers and security guard Sarah Atkins were honored by the Board of Education May 23 for saving the life of a young child choking on food at Riley Avenue Elementary School May 9. Photo: Alek Lewis

Security guard Sarah Atkins and substitute nurse Judy Marcus-Shivers were honored by the Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday for saving the life of a choking student at Riley Avenue Elementary School.

“I thank them from the bottom of my heart for the work they have done and truly appreciate the quick action that they took,” Tornatore said, as he invited both women up to receive certificates of appreciation. They received thunderous applause from the crowd.

On May 9, Atkins and Marcus-Shivers performed the Heimlich maneuver on a student who was choking on a chicken nugget. 

Jennifer Alonso Moreno, salutatorian, left, Emma Elli, valedictorian and Amaya Hopkins, top career and technical education student of the Riverhead High School Class of 2023.

The board also honored the valedictorian, salutatorian and top career and technical education (CTE) student of this year’s graduating class. 

The Class of 2023’s valedictorian is Emma Ellis. She has been a pole vaulter on the high school’s track and field team since she was a freshman, is the current track and field team captain, has received All County and All Division recognition and broke Riverhead’s girl’s pole vaulting record, Tornatore said. She is the symphonic band’s flute section leader and has played in the pep band. She has been a Riverhead CAP peer leader, a member of Athletes Helping Athletes. She is an AP scholar with distinction, a Rensselaer math medalist and the French Honor Society president. She will be attending the University of Notre Dame in the fall to study chemical engineering. She has a weighted grade point average of 109.8806.

The class’ salutatorian is Jennifer Alonso Moreno. She is president of the Women’s Empowerment Club and the stage manager for the Riverhead Blue Masques, Tornatore said. She is a member of the Science Olympiad team, Key Club and the National Honor Society. She is an AP scholar with distinction and has qualified for the College Board’s National Hispanic Recognition Program. She participated in the Angelo Del Toro Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute in Albany this year. She will be attending Boston University in the fall to study computer science. She has a weighted grade point average of 109.5399.

The top CTE student this year is Amaya Hopkins. She is enrolled in the computer science and application development course in Eastern Suffolk BOCES in Bellport, where she has developed “highly efficient and well developed programs and applications” and was recently inducted into the National Technical Honor Society, Tornatore said. She plans to attend Suffolk County Community College in the fall with plans to become a technical engineer. She has a weighted grade point average of 102.7967.

During the meeting, the school board also:

  • Passed significant changes to the bell schedule of several buildings for the next school year. The changes align the schedules of all the K-4 elementary schools so that all the schools start at 9:25 a.m. and end at 3:40 p.m.; the changes result in a reduction of 10 minutes of school time for Riley Avenue and Aquebogue and a reduction of 5 minutes of school time for Roanoke Avenue and Phillips Avenue, when compared to the current schedule. They also recommended Pulaski Street school start at 8:30 a.m. — 30 mins later — and end at 2:45 p.m.; the schedule change results in a loss of 14 mins of class time from the current schedule. No changes to the high school or middle school schedules were adopted. The changes were adopted by the board in reaction to a recommendation from the Transpar Group, which is currently in contract with the district to review and recommend changes to the district’s bus routing and transportation services to make them more efficient in time for the next school year. 
  • Approved a $52,500 agreement with National Business Technologies for mentorship to the district’s director of technology. The firm will provide professional, cyber-security and project management development and mentorship, as well as miscellaneous duties as assigned by the district for a total of 350 hours throughout the year. The resolution passed 4-2, with trustees Christopher Dorr and Virginia Healy opposed and Trustee Therese Zuhoski absent. Healy said before the vote that she was opposed to the amount of hours included in the contract, “I think it’s excessive and not warranted at this point.” This is the third time the board has contracted with the group for mentorship and development services. The district has contracted with the group for other services, including for wireless network upgrades.
  • Adopted a change in its policy to allow for the board to purchase or procure goods or services over $20,000 on a basis of “best value,” rather than the lowest possible bidder. The policy, under General Municipal Law, allows contracts to be awarded by a governing body based on “quality, cost and efficiency, among responsive and responsible offerers.”
  • Abolished one position in the Contracts Technician job title, effective June 30. The board passed the measure 5-1, with Dorr dissenting. He did not comment before the vote.
  • Heard a presentation from STEM Directo Jeannine Campbell about the district’s current and upcoming STEM related courses and extracurricular activities.

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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: