Good Morning
Good Morning
Long IslandSuffolk

Riverhead school district


6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Riley Avenue, Phillips Avenue and Aquebogue elementary schools and Riverhead High School.


The district proposes a $125,909,672 budget for 2015-16, a 3.81 percent increase from the current $121,285,298. The local tax levy would rise 3.94 percent, from $93,500,131 to $97,188,499.

This increase is within the state's tax-cap limit of 4.58 percent, so a simple majority vote will be required to approve the budget. The district said it could not provide estimates for school taxes on the average single-family home because equalization rates have not been set and tax rates for the three towns that encompass the district could not be calculated.

The proposed budget includes raises of 0.75 percent plus step increases for some teachers; the size of the step increases depends on experience. There would be no reductions in staff, and the district would add six ESL teachers, two bilingual elementary teachers, 0.6 art teacher, 0.6 health teacher, 0.5 technology teacher, 0.5 social studies teacher, one elementary math specialist, one guidance counselor and one assistant director of pupil personnel services.

Voters will decide on three other ballot propositions. One asks approval to spend from capital reserves to buy a parcel of land in Calverton for a new bus garage; make improvements to the parcel; construct a buildings and grounds maintenance structure on the district's main campus, demolish the existing bus garage on the main campus and build new athletic fields in its place. The next proposition is to approve, through bonding $1.2 million, building a multipurpose turf field on the main campus. The proposition is contingent on passage of the of the earlier proposition. The other proposition seeks permission to establish a repair reserve fund of up to $5 million and fund that reserve from unexpended fund balance.

District website:


Incumbent Susan Koukounas is facing challengers Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, Laurie A. Downs, Gregory John Fischer and Bradford Harnig for two at-large seats. Terms are three years.

Susan Koukounas

BACKGROUND: Koukounas, 43, is an adjunct math professor at Suffolk County Community College. She has a bachelor of science in math from SUNY Old Westbury and a master of science degree from Queens College in secondary education, and she is a candidate for a doctorate in educational leadership from Dowling College. She is vice president of the school board and president of the Aquebogue Parent Teacher Organization. She has been on the board since 2012 and is running as a team with Ann Cotten-DeGrasse.

ISSUES: Koukounas said state assessments do not measure a student's growth in English language arts and math in grades 3 through 8. She said the state must restructure its system to measure an individual's academic performance and growth.

Ann Cotten-DeGrasse

BACKGROUND: Cotten-DeGrasse, 71, is a retired Riverhead teacher. She and her husband, Antonio, have lived in Riverhead 32 years. She was on the school board from 2008 to 2013 and is the immediate past president. She is a past president of the North Fork Breast Health Coalition and the 2013 woman of the year for the East End Women's Network. Cotten-DeGrasse graduated with a bachelor's degree from Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She is running as a team with Susan Koukounas.

ISSUES: Cotten-DeGrasse said she would like to improve student performance scores through extended staff development, and the continued improvement of facilities through community involvement. "I feel that teachers need to be trained in the Common Core curriculum," she said. "That was the downfall when they rolled it out, they rushed it and didn't do staff development. I think that is a key part how we are going to recover. I think there are good things about Common Core, but the way they rolled it out was a disaster."

Laurie A. DownsBACKGROUND: Downs, 59, is an administrative assistant for an entertainment company. She graduated from Hauppauge High School in 1975. She has two children who graduated from the district. She has served as the secretary of the Riverhead Middle School PTO, vice president and president of the Riverhead High School PTSO and president and event planner of the district's PTO executive council. This is her second run for the board.

ISSUES: Downs said she believes the district is "top heavy" with administrators and the money could be better used hiring more teachers. She said because of the influx of unaccompanied minors -- and with the expectation that the district will get more over the summer -- the district needs to work harder to get funds from the federal government. "I don't mind educating the child. I have no problem with the children. All children should be educated," she said.

Gregory John Fischer

BACKGROUND: Fischer, 58, is a management consultant. He received an associate degree in business management from the Borough of Manhattan Community College in 1977, a bachelor's degree in finance and economics from SUNY New Paltz in 1980 and a master's degree in production and operations management from the University at Albany in 1982. He has four children, two of whom are in district schools. He is director and a board member of Americans for Legal Reform and a past trustee of the Greater Calverton Civic Association. This is his second run for the board.

ISSUES: Fischer said the top two issues facing the district are financial pressures and curriculum problems such as Common Core, program cuts and student relocation. He said Common Core should be suspended and that local curriculum controls should be expanded. "With three degrees in business and 30 years of related experience," he said, "I alone have the access and the resume to show that I can lead efforts to overcome the financial challenges."

Bradford Harnig

BACKGROUND: Harnig, 46, is a Long Island Rail Road conductor. He enlisted in the Navy in 1988. He received an associate degree in liberal arts from Suffolk County Community College in 1995 and a bachelor's degree in organizational management from St. Joseph's College in 2014. He also has certificates in leadership and supervision and in management from St. Joseph's, both received in 2014. He has three children in district schools. He is a former Cubmaster with the Cub Scouts and a former Little League coach.

ISSUES: Harnig said before the district hires any administrators the board should replace some programs and services that have been taken away, such as the number of buses, and restore the ninth period at the high school. He also said school board members should not be affiliated with any special interests or have other political aspirations. "I'm not someone who has a political agenda," he said. "I have no affiliation with the teachers' union or the superintendents. I will be the right voice for the kids; I'll be the right voice for the taxpayer. I don't owe anybody anything."

Latest Long Island News