Mattituck BOE names track after McKenna, re-elects president

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08/01/2014 9:00 AM |
A new track is under construction at Mattituck High School. The school board decided Thursday to name the track after James McKenna. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

A new track is under construction at Mattituck High School. The school board decided Thursday to name the track after James McKenna. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

The Mattituck-Cutchogue Board of Education has re-elected its president and decided to name the high school’s new track after James McKenna, who officially retired Thursday as the district’s superintendent.

During a special meeting Thursday night, the board elected Jerry Diffley to serve another year as president. It also approved a walk-on resolution sponsored by board member Bill Gatz to name the track after Mr. McKenna, who was absent from the meeting.

Thursday’s special meeting was scheduled after the board failed to elect a president at its annual reorganizational meeting in June.

During Thursday’s meeting, Laura Jens-Smith nominated fellow board member Mr. Gatz to be president and read a statement explaining why she believes the board needs new leadership.

“I think we do ourselves and Jerry disservice by asking him to preside as president year after year,” she said. “We deny the board and the community the ability to develop new leaders for this board.”

Mr. Gatz suggested the school board model the local fire district’s system of rotating officers every couple of years.

“Everybody is in those positions for two years and they rotate,” he said. “I think that [system] would serve not only this district but other districts as well too.”

Vice president Charlie Anderson said he appreciated the suggestions and believes “some of them, maybe, should be taken into consideration.”

The board then re-elected Mr. Diffley in a 4-3 vote, with Mr. Gatz, Ms. Jens-Smith and Jeff Smith voting in opposition.

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Gatz proposed naming the track after Mr. McKenna as a way to honor his 25-years of service to the district.

Mr. Diffley attempted to have the motion saved for discussion at the board’s next regular meeting in order to give the community an opportunity to comment since the resolution wasn’t listed on the agenda and no one from the public attended Thursday’s meeting (with the exception of a Suffolk Times reporter).

He also suggested naming the auditorium after Mr. McKenna instead of the track.

“Jim loves music and that’s really his passion — music and the arts,” Mr. Diffley said. “Certainly, our superintendent showed up to all sports [events], but it might be more of a tribute if there was something else appropriate in the arts to name after him.”

After those ideas failed to gain the board’s support, the resolution to name the track after Mr. McKenna was unanimously approved.

As for the current construction, contractors are soon expected to paint a small patch of the track in order to make sure it’s the correct shade of blue. The district has decided the track will be blue with gold stripes, which are the school’s colors.

The track is scheduled to be completed this summer.

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