09/19/2014 12:00 PM
The newly completed Mattituck High School track features six lanes. (Credit: Garret Meade)

The newly completed Mattituck High School track features six lanes. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Mattituck-Cutchogue school board members have officially decided against naming the high school’s new track after former Superintendent James McKenna, but decided to name the auditorium after him instead.

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08/22/2014 12:00 PM
The track at Mattituck High School. (Cyndi Murray)

The track at Mattituck High School. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

The color gold will appear on Mattituck-Cutchogue School District’s new track, but it won’t be in the form of stripes. And as for naming the new facility after recently retired superintendent James McKenna, the school board has had a change of heart. (more…)

08/15/2014 3:00 PM
Former Mattituck teacher Anthony Claudio (right) entering the federal courthouse in Central Islip in October 2012 with his attorney, Frank Blangiardo. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson, file)

Former Mattituck teacher Anthony Claudio (right) entering the federal courthouse in Central Islip in October 2012 with his attorney, Frank Blangiardo. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson, file)

A federal judge has ruled that the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District must pay reinstated teacher Anthony Claudio $20,000 more in salary — raising his earnings to where they would be if the district has not fired him in 2009.  (more…)

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.

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06/08/2014 8:00 AM
Retiring Mattituck/ Cutchogue Superintendant James McKenna received a garden tool gift bag from students during the ceremony. (Cyndi Murray photos)

Retiring Mattituck/ Cutchogue Superintendant James McKenna received a garden tool gift bag from students during the ceremony. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

Cutchogue East Elementary students gave retiring school Superintendent James McKenna a farewell send off Friday afternoon by honoring him at the grand opening of the school’s educational garden. (more…)

03/07/2014 10:00 AM
From right, Mattituck-Cutchogue School District Superintendent James McKenna, board president Jerry Diffley and vice president Charlie Anderson at Thursday night's budget workshop. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

From right, Mattituck-Cutchogue School District Superintendent James McKenna, board president Jerry Diffley and vice president Charlie Anderson at Thursday night’s budget workshop. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

Mattituck-Cutchogue School District Superintendent James McKenna says he’s confident additional state aid will be available in time to reduce a looming $110,500 budget gap projected for the 2014-15 school year by half.

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01/16/2014 10:56 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Mattituck-Cutchogue School District assistant superintendent and elementary school principal Ann Smith.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Mattituck-Cutchogue School District assistant superintendent and elementary school principal Anne Smith at a previous school board meeting.

Mattituck-Cutchogue School District assistant superintendent Anne Smith is poised to replace outgoing Superintendent James McKenna when he retires this summer.

Following a heated debated among school board members during Thursday night’s regular meeting, a walk-on resolution to enter into contact negotiations with Ms. Smith passed by a 4-3 vote. School board president Jerry Diffley, vice president Charlie Anderson, and members Doug Cooper and Sarah Hassildine voted in favor.

Ms. Smith, who is the district’s only assistant superintendent and also serves as the elementary school principal, was absent from the meeting.

Mr. Cooper made the original motion to not only enter into negotiations, but to also “appoint” Ms. Smith to the post. Mr. Anderson then seconded the motion — with the understanding that the resolution was to only enter into contract negotiations.

“We’re not appointing anybody,” Mr. Anderson said.

The district clerk later confirmed with The Suffolk Times that the approved resolution states: “A motion to offer position and enter into negotiations with Dr. Ann Smith for the position of Superintendent of Schools effective July 1, 2014.”

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | From left, Mattituck school board members Doug Cooper, Laura Jens-Smith and Jeff Smith at Thursday night’s meeting.

Prior to the vote, school board members Bill Gatz, Jeff Smith and Laura Jens-Smith expressed strong opposition with the superintendent selection process.

Mr. Gatz and Mr. Smith requested that the resolution be tabled because they wanted to interview the assistant superintendent before promoting her. Ms. Jens-Smith also made a motion for the district to enter into an agreement with BOCES to conduct a superintendent search, which is the most common protocol for school districts.

Mr. Smith said he believes a search is needed in order for the district to have an opportunity to make the best superintendent choice.

“I’m not saying Dr. Smith isn’t an appropriate candidate, but I think we owe it to this community to go see what else is out there,” he said.

Both attempts to table Mr. Cooper’s resolution and to conduct a superintendent search failed by a 3-4 vote, with Mr. Diffley, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Anderson and Ms. Hassildine casting dissenting votes.

Following the approval of negotiating with Ms. Smith, Mr. Gatz had some harsh words for Mr. Cooper.

“I’d like to thank Mr. Cooper for taking away the opportunity for Mr. Smith and I to at least pick a candidate,” he said.

“I agree with you Bill,” Mr. Smith said.

After the meeting, Mr. Cooper said Ms. Smith’s interview, which did not include the entire board, took place Monday and no other candidate had been interviewed.

“The fact that she’s our assistant superintendent and following the promotion track,” he said when asked by a reporter why he picked Ms. Smith. “She was excellent in the interview we had.”

The school board later entered into executive session to discuss the following items: special education state complaint; a Mattituck-Cutchogue Teachers Association (MTCA) grievance; a personnel issue; four contractual issues; negotiation updates with administrators and the MCTA; and a discussion of legal issues, in which the school board invited the district’s attorney to talk with.

Mattituck-Cutchogue School District residents and students will be given a chance to vote on the track's color.

The district’s students and residents will be given a chance to pick the track’s color.

In other district news, the school board agreed to let students and residents pick the track’s color.

Last month, district business administrator Michael Engelhardt had said the track color choices include black, green, red and blue. He cautioned against the blue choice because he believed the shade looked more like a baby blue color.

But at Thursday night’s meeting, he provided green, red and a darker shade of blue samples.

Most school board members said they hoped the end result will be a blue track with gold stripes, which are the school’s colors.

District officials are expected post on the school’s website the instructions on how to vote on the track color.

Voters approved a $925,000 bond in October to replace the defunct cinder track with a new facility suitable for the team to host meets. The track is expected to be completed by the end of August.

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12/12/13 2:46pm
12/12/2013 2:46 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The existing cinder track at Mattituck High School would be replaced by an all-weather track if voters approve a $925,000 bond proposal Tuesday.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | This existing cinder track at Mattituck High School is slated to be replaced by an all-weather track.

Mattituck-Cutchogue School District business administrator Michael Engelhardt is scheduled to give a financial update about the high school track project at Thursday night’s school board meeting.

The board is also expected to vote on two resolutions pertaining to the district’s $925,000 track bond, which voters approved during a Oct. 29 special vote for the purpose of replacing the old facility.

One resolution is to approve a $3,500 rate fee agreement for finance advisory services from Munistat in Port Jefferson Station. The other is for a $6,800 bond rating by Standard and Poor in order to “facilitate the sale of bonds to finance the track,” according to the meeting’s agenda.

In addition to discussing finances for the track, the board is expected to vote on Superintendent James McKenna’s letter of intent to retire July 31. He announced his retirement during last month’s board meeting.

Scroll down to view the complete agenda. Check back later for an update.

Mattituck school board meeting, Dec. 12, 2013

11/29/2013 5:00 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVON PHOTO | James McKenna in his office Monday.

JENNIFER GUSTAVON PHOTO | James McKenna in his office Monday.

If you ask Mattituck-Cutchogue School District superintendent James McKenna to describe running a school district, he compares it to being an orchestra conductor.

Without the musicians, there would be no performance, Mr. McKenna says. He’ll also tell you he doesn’t do anything special and just takes people’s ideas to figure out a way to make things happen. It’s a district’s staff, teachers, students and residents that are the true force behind a school’s success, he says.

Following a 41-year career in education, including 25 in Mattituck, Mr. McKenna has decided to pass the baton.

At the conclusion of his monthly report during last Thursday’s regular school board meeting, Mr. McKenna, 62, said he’s decided to retire to spend more time with his wife and family.

“I’d like to think I did the very best I could during the time that I was here at Mattituck,” said the superintendent, whose voice was hoarse and who fought back tears as he struggled to talk. “This is a great, great district. You should be proud of what you have here and I’m glad to have been a part of it.”

Although Mr. McKenna has already submitted his letter of intent to retire in July, the school board isn’t set to vote on it until its Dec. 12 meeting.

After school board president Jerry Diffley praised Mr. McKenna for his dedication and hard work, the audience of about 70 people gave him a standing ovation.

“We will sorely miss Mr. McKenna,” Mr. Diffley said. “He is Mattituck-Cutchogue. He’ll always be Mattituck-Cutchogue. He lives and breathes blue and gold.”

A Flushing native, Mr. McKenna began his teaching career at Massapequa High School in 1973, at age 21.

“That’s when I started wearing a tie,” he recalled. “I had to wear one every day because I was teaching intermediate algebra to juniors and the hall monitor once said to me, ‘Can I have your hall pass, son?’ ”

Mr. McKenna later taught math in Southampton, where he currently lives, from 1977 to 1987 and then worked as an assistant principal in the Riverhead Middle School for two years before coming to Mattituck in 1989 as the high school assistant principal and later principal. He became the district’s ninth superintendent in 2006.

When asked why he decided to become an administrator, Mr. McKenna said he wanted an opportunity to help school operations run more efficiently.

“As a teacher, you kind of have a vision of how you think things could be better,” he said. “Then you’ll say, ‘Why not? Walk your talk.’ ”

Mr. McKenna said he’s proud of the supportive atmosphere he says he’s helped create for teachers as superintendent, as well as enhancing the dialogue between the school and community through an increasing number of public forums at the school. He also highlights passage of the capital improvement bond about eight years ago as an achievement. While Mr. McKenna and the district have had to make tough decisions by cutting costs in to maintain student programs, the superintendent said he’s pleased budgets have passed throughout the economic downturn.

“I’ve said to people, and I know some don’t want to believe it, but we have literally run Mattituck-Cutchogue on a dollar and a dream,” he said. “We really have done fabulous things without spending a lot of money.”

Mr. McKenna said he believes the time is right to retire when education is at a crossroads and the new standards aren’t something he’ll be able to see through to the end.

“I think it’s time for someone to come in and see it through,” he said. “We’ve begun some progress on it.”

Last year, Mr. McKenna and the school board agreed to halve the superintendent’s scheduled raises for the next two years. Although he was to receive yearly pay hikes of 3.5 percent for each of the next two years, they reached a new four-year deal in April 2012 with raises of 1.75 percent in each of the next four years. Mr. McKenna will also pay 20 percent of his medical insurance premiums, up from 15 percent. His salary for the 2013-14 school year is $190,988, according to his contract.

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11/29/13 8:00am
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Southold superintendent David Gamberg.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Southold superintendent David Gamberg.

First, Greenport Superintendent Michael Comanda said he’ll retire at the end of the school year. Then it was announced that Southold Superintendent David Gamberg will lead both districts.

Now, less than a week later, Mattituck-Cutchogue Superintendent James McKenna has announced he’ll also retire in July.

So is it possible that Mr. Gamberg could serve as the chief of all three local high school districts?

He says there’s not a chance, even if that taxpayers’ dream scenario has been buzzing on the North Fork rumor mill this week.

Mr. Gamberg said he’s focused solely on becoming Greenport and Southold’s superintendent for the next two years.

“I wish him all the best,” he said of Mr. McKenna. “I’ve enjoyed working with him and congratulate him on his retirement.”

Anne Smith, Mattituck-Cutchogue’s assistant superintendent and elementary school principal, who started in the district in 1996, could be a leading candidate to replace Mr. McKenna but declined to discuss the possibility in any detail.

“The Board of Education has the full responsibility and oversight to determine leadership decisions,” Ms. Smith said. “I don’t know what the board’s direction will be. Right now, we’re focused on Jim’s retirement and celebrating his achievements.”

School board president Jerry Diffley said after Thursday’s meeting that he doesn’t believe sharing a superintendent with a neighboring district is feasible since Mr. Gamberg has already signed on to be Greenport’s next superintendent and Riverhead School District Superintendent Nancy Carney is responsible for more than 5,000 students. Mattituck has about 1,400 students.

The school board is looking to work with BOCES to initiate a superintendent search within the next few weeks, Mr. Diffley said.

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