Gregory Wallace, president of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, said...

Gregory Wallace, president of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, said the teachers, none of them tenured, received notice last Friday. Credit: John Roca

Riverhead schools plan to cut nearly 38 teaching positions, making it the latest school district on Long Island to announce layoffs as federal COVID funding is set to run out and state budget negotiations continue.

The full-time equivalent of 37.8 teaching positions would be eliminated after the school year ends, said district spokesman Ron Edelson.

Of those, 19 would be “excessed completely” and four reduced to below full time, said Gregory Wallace, president of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association. Fifteen positions would be cut through attrition; those jobs would not be filled, he said. 

Wallace said the affected teachers, none of them tenured, were notified last Friday.

“It’s heartbreaking and heart-wrenching to go through this,” he said. “This is purely budgetary. It’s not based [on] what the students need. … They are losing out on needed services and academic intervention.”

The affected positions include 11 in elementary schools and 1.5 in music assigned to elementary schools, Wallace said. On the secondary level, the cut positions include two in English, one in foreign languages, 1.7 in art, two in social studies, 1.2 in math and 0.4 in science.

Interim Assistant Superintendent for Business Marianne Cartisano declined to be interviewed but called the district's financial situation a “perfect storm” when she presented a preliminary budget report at a board meeting last month.

“We are now at the perfect storm where your increased staffing is not going to align with your funding, and that some of that staffing, we need to back off of,” she said. 

From 2018 through 2023, the district gained roughly 133 full-time employees, including instruction and noninstructional staff, according to her presentation. 

Meanwhile, federal pandemic aid is running out later this year.

“In the last several years, we have received $19 million worth of funding to either hire staff to get us through COVID or to do one-time, nonreoccurring expenses,” she said. “What happens is when that money runs out, you fall off the cliff.”

Wallace also pointed to charter school tuitions, tax abatements given by the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, and years of underfunding from the state as reasons for the district’s financial woes.

Riverhead’s proposed 2024-25 budget is $201,464,530, up 4.93% from $191,999,210 in 2023-24. 

Under Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget, Riverhead is projected to receive 4% more in total aid in 2024-25 than the current school year, Newsday reported in January. State budget negotiations are continuing, with the budget due April 1.

As the number of staff has increased, enrollment in the district's seven schools has slightly decreased, from 5,831 in 2018-19 to 5,738 in the last school year, according to state data.

Educators have noted increased student needs from years of pandemic disruptions and rising costs.

The district declined to say what other positions or programs may be cut as evaluations continue, Edelson said. But in her presentation, Cartisano noted the district needs to tighten its belt.

“We do need to find a balance between what we can afford and what programs we run,” she said. 

The school board will next meet on Tuesday. A district budget vote is scheduled for May 21, a week after a May 14 budget hearing.

Last week, Amityville school officials said they planned to cut 47 staff positions as they try to fill a $3.6 million budget gap.

In that district, the school board on Wednesday hired EFPR Group, an accounting firm headquartered in Rochester, to conduct a forensic audit. The audit is costing the district up to $18,500 and is set to be completed by April 30. 

With John Asbury

Latest videos


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months