The Year in Education 2014

Michael Montgomery and his son Christian at their home in Mattituck. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
Michael Montgomery and his son Christian at their home in Mattituck. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

February — A “true piece of Greenport’s history” is found during construction in Greenport High School’s cafeteria. Underneath the decades-old paneling rested a 1-by-6-foot piece of wood bearing the signature of Barton B. Corwin — one of the original contractors who built the school in 1933. The plank is now on display in the cafeteria. 

Feb. 12 — The Southold school board approves a new property tax exemption for veterans — making it the first North Fork district to opt into the program. The exemption benefits veterans who served during a time of war or in combat zones. Disabled veterans with war-related injuries are also eligible.

March — A female student is cast in the role of a male drag queen in Southold High School’s performance of “Rent.” Some residents express concern about the school’s handling of gay characters in the play, but district and drama club advisors say the decision was based solely on the student’s audition. Many people attending the opening night performance give positive feedback.

March 13 — A new partnership among Southold, Shoreham-Wading River and Shelter Island school district superintendents is formed in an effort to expand educational opportunities. To help jump-start their efforts, the superintendents hold a forum in Stony Brook called “Public Education at a Crossroads.”

March 19 — Greenport School District Superintendent Michael Comanda, who retired this past summer, halts plans for a referendum asking voters whether they would want the district to fund its first pre-K school. Instead, he announces that the new program will be added into his 2014-15 budget proposal without a vote. The new pre-K school will launch in September.

April — For the second year in a row, Greenport High School is listed among the nation’s best high schools in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 Best High Schools report.

May 8 — The Suffolk Times publishes an analysis of school board races on the North Fork and finds that the decrease in willing candidates in recent years is virtually unprecedented. Since the Mattituck-Laurel merger in 1997, there has been only one other time when school board elections across all five local districts featured just one or no contested races. It has now happened four years in a row.

May 20 — Kirsten Droskoski is elected to the Greenport school board after winning a write-in vote. The seat was open because no one petitioned to run for the seat of Lisa Murray, who decided not to seek re-election. Each North Fork school budget passes by wide margins.

June 21 — Mattituck High School celebrates the district’s 100th graduation ceremony. The Suffolk Times also features a story about Class of 2014 valedictorian Christian Montgomery and his father, Michael, who had been Mattituck’s valedictorian 33 years before.

June 25 — The Greenport and Southold school boards reach another shared-services agreement, this time to share Greenport facility manager Marcus DaSilva. Southold’s chief custodian, Daniel Tuthill, decides to retire after a career of nearly 30 years.

June 26 — During a special meeting, the Mattituck school board approves a three-year contract to hire Anne Smith as the district’s first female superintendent. Ms. Smith had already served the district for about 17 years, working as both assistant superintendent and elementary school principal.

July — Leonard Skuggevik announces that he will leave his position as Greenport High School’s principal to become superintendent of the Shelter Island School District, replacing Michael Hynes, who moves to the Patchogue-Medford School District.

July 8 — After learning that a teacher who’s been on special assignment elsewhere for 10 years has decided to return to the district, the New Suffolk school board notifies community members of a “significant” and unanticipated deficit in its 2014-15 school budget. Martha Kennelly had been director at the Mid East Suffolk Teacher Center in Ridge since 2004. New Suffolk has since rehired her to conduct administrative tasks like drafting curriculum.

July 24 — The Suffolk Times’ cover story features Helen Chalmers, an Orient woman who lived in isolation, died alone and left her savings to the community, including a $150,000 scholarship to the Greenport School District.

Aug. 27 — The sky above Mattituck High School lights up with hundreds of floating lanterns as family, friends and community members pay tribute to Kaitlyn Doorhy, a 2012 MHS graduate who died Aug. 22 after being struck by a car at her Connecticut college.

Sept. 22 — Greenport school officials defend the district’s financial standing after the state reports that Greenport needs to improve its oversight of the budget process. The audit findings state that the district overestimated expenditures by about $3.3 million over the past three fiscal years. District officials say they had focused on using leftover funds from the annual budget to replenish depleted reserves.

Sept. 26 — More than 500 people attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Mattituck High School’s brand-new track, an all-weather, polyflex running surface that replaced the former cinder track that long stood at the school. Jim Underwood, who coached track at the school for 30 years beginning in 1984, says the new running surface will also benefit the greater Mattituck-Cutchogue community and calls it one of the “first recreational resources the [whole] community can use.”

Nov. 27 — David Gamberg, superintendent of the Southold and Greenport school districts, says he’s had preliminary discussions with officials at Eastern Long Island Hospital and Peconic Landing to develop a local nursing assistant program. In addition to a planned student communications center in Southold, which nearby school districts will share, Mr. Gamberg says he’s exploring the feasibility of creating other courses to help students become college- or career-ready upon completing high school.

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