The Year in Education 2013

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Students and staff at the morning buses at Cutchogue East Elementary School  on the first day of the 2013-14 school year Monday morning.
KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Students and staff at the morning buses at Cutchogue East Elementary School on the first day of the 2013-14 school year.

From security to Common Core, it was a year loaded with news coming out of the North Fork’s school districts.

January — School districts enhanced their security systems and emergency plans following the Dec. 14 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 27 people — including 20 children and the gunman — were killed. The Southold Town Police Department also evaluated area schools’ evacuation procedures.

April 29 — Greenport High School was ranked one of the best high schools in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 Best High Schools write-up. The study analyzed 21,035 public high schools across the country to find out which are successfully educating their students.

May 21 — In this year’s annual school board vote, former Mattituck school board member Jeff Smith won a new term as a write-in candidate. He won Janique Nine’s seat, who had not sought re-election. In addition, Oysterponds school board candidate Charles Squire of Orient withdrew from the race about two hours before the election, citing residency requirement issues.

June 6 — Greenport High School valedictorian Alex Whittle, who has autism, was featured in The Suffolk Times cover story describing how he had overcome daunting hurdles. When asked what advice he’d offer other disabled students, he said he could answer in three words: “Defy the odds.”

June 11 — The Oysterponds school board appointed former superintendent Joan Frisicano to serve as interim principal while it searches for a permanent replacement for outgoing principal Françoise Wittenburg.

June 20 — Oysterponds school board candidate Betsy Dzenkowski announced her withdrawal from a run-off race against school board president Dorothy-Dean Thomas. Ms. Dzenkowski didn’t actively campaign for the post after she tied with Ms. Thomas for the last of three open seats during the May 21 election.

July 2 — The Oysterponds school board and the district’s teachers union approved a new two-year pact, an agreement made nearly a year after the last one expired.

July 8 — On the same night Greenport school board member Michael Mazzaferro resigned, the board appointed former school board vice president Lisa Murray to serve out the remaining year of his term.

Aug. 7 — Many parents and educators became furious when the state Department of Education released the results of this year’s student assessments. The results showed a significant drop in test scores compared to the previous school year because, for the first time, the assessments were based on Common Core standards.

Aug. 15 — The Mattituck-Cutchogue school board appointed Anthony Claudio as a probationary fourth-grade teacher. The appointment came three weeks after a federal judge ruled that Mr. Claudio, 51, was to be reinstated because a jury had found that the district had discriminated against the former special education teacher based on his age when it denied him tenure in 2009.

Aug. 21 — The Greenport school board approved Superintendent Michael Comanda’s intent to retire this summer. He has said he plans to remain in his part-time superintendent position at the New Suffolk Common School District.

September — The Greenport and Southold school districts received $150,000 in aid secured by state Senator Ken LaValle to further various shared-service plans, most notably a last-minute track construction project underway in Greenport.

Sept. 19 — Mattituck High School officials announced details of preparations for the district’s 100th commencement in June and unveiled the centennial class flag.

Oct. 3 — Southold school board vice president Judi Fouchet launched the Southold School Educational Foundation, designed to expand the district’s ability to support enrichment programs and opportunities for students without digging into its own pocket.

Oct. 22 — Mattituck-Cutchogue School District voters approved a $925,000 track bond proposal. The new all-weather polyflex track will allow the track team to host home meets. Construction is expected to start in June.

Oct. 23 — Southold school officials said the district had pulled a controversial book from the elementary school’s curriculum after parents said they were shocked to learn their children’s classwork included reading Jeanette Winter’s “Nasreen’s Secret School,” based on the true story of an Afghan girl, Nasreen. Her grandmother enrolls her in a secret school after the girl’s parents are taken away (and never returned) by members of the Taliban.

Oct. 24 — Overall results from the state-mandated Annual Professional Performance Review Plans, known as APPR, showed that no teacher in any Southold Town school district received an “ineffective” rating despite poor student assessment scores.

Nov. 8 — The Greenport School District became the first on Long Island to get 100 percent of its electricity from a renewable energy source. The 260-kilowatt photovoltaic system covers nearly 85 percent of the building’s roof, and the solar panels generated about 156 kilowatts of electricity that day, officials said.

Nov. 15 — Greenport Superintendent Michael Comanda and his Southold counterpart, Superintendent David Gamberg, announced the districts have reached a shared-superintendent agreement. Come this summer, when Mr. Comanda retires, Mr. Gamberg is expected to take his place for the next two years while keeping his Southold superintendent position — a move state officials are calling a first for Long Island K-12 school districts.

Nov. 19 — Education expert and influential author Diane Ravitch met with local school administrators and teachers and called on them to halt standardized testing within their districts to regain control of quality education. In addition to promoting her newest book, “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” Ms. Ravitch, a New York University professor, former U.S. assistant secretary of education and Southold resident, said she believes schools need to join together to halt what’s come to be known as high-stakes testing.

Nov. 21 — Mattituck-Cutchogue School District Superintendent James McKenna announced he’ll retire in July. Following a 41-year career in education, Mr. McKenna said he’s decided to retire to spend more time with his wife and family.

Nov. 26 — State education commissioner John King addressed angry local residents in a highly anticipated public forum in Manorville where he defended New York’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Mr. King acknowledged that some adjustments, such as reducing student testing requirements, are needed, especially regarding English as a Second Language students and students with disabilities.

Dec. 18 — Superintendent Gamberg confirmed that “Nasreen’s Secret School” had been returned to the Southold elementary curriculum.

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