Superintendent Augustine Tornatore. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead School Superintendent Augustine Tornatore has taken a leave of absence through Oct. 23, according to a resolution passed by the Board of Education, acting at hastily called special meeting this afternoon.

At the same meeting, the board appointed William Galati, the district’s executive director for secondary education, grants and student outcomes, as interim superintendent. His appointment as interim superintendent is effective tomorrow, Oct. 6 through Oct. 23, according to a second resolution passed by the board at today’s meeting.

Prior to these actions, Assistant Superintendent Lori Koerner was reassigned to her home, according to Board of Education President Colin Palmer.

The reassignment followed an incident involving a dispute between Koerner and another district staff member that reportedly occurred last week on school district property. Rumors about that incident have been circulating around the school community. RiverheadLOCAL has received numerous reports of the alleged incident from community members who asked not to be identified and by anonymous submissions to the editor by way of a news tips email available on this website.

Palmer would neither confirm nor deny the substance of those reports.

“Koerner has been reassigned to home pending an investigation,” Palmer said. “She has been working from home.” The board has not yet taken that action by resolution, Palmer said.

Palmer also declined to comment on whether Tornatore’s leave of absence is related to Koerner’s reassignment to home.

Tornatore refused a request for comment this afternoon outside the district office while the school board was in a closed door executive session during the special meeting. He told a reporter to contact the school board. He went into the district office building and shortly thereafter exited the building and drove away. Tornatore did not return a subsequent phone call seeking comment about his leave of absence.

Palmer declined to say whether Tornatore would be returning to his position in the district.

“He already had a vacation scheduled from Oct. 13 through the 23rd,” Palmer said. He will be using paid personal leave from Oct. 6 through Oct. 12, Palmer said.

Tornatore was appointed superintendent in April 2021, effective July 1, 2021. He signed a three-year employment contract with the district that will expire at the end of the current school year.

Koerner could not immediately be reached for comment and has not responded to a voice mail message left for her at her mobile number.

Koerner joined the Riverhead school district as executive director of curriculum, instruction and professional personnel in 2019. She was promoted to the new administrative position of assistant superintendent for human resources and elementary education in March 2022.

Galati was hired by the district as an assistant principal at Riverhead High School at the start of the 2021-2022 school year. He was promoted to his current post, a newly created administrative position, in April 2022.

Today’s special meeting was the third special meeting of the Board of Education in the last 10 days. Notice for today’s special meeting was provided to the press by the district clerk via an email sent just 25 minutes before the meeting’s 4 p.m. start. Notice of the meeting was not posted on the district website until roughly the same time as the email was sent out.

Palmer acknowledged that today’s meeting was “very, very last minute.” He said the board decided to call the meeting this afternoon. He said he was unable to provide additional details because it is a personnel matter.

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