Featured Story
01/17/19 5:30am

Officials in the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District are taking steps in response to “several” reported incidents of students using racist language, “acting in association” with anti-Semitism and joking about their support of and admiration for Nazism and Adolf Hitler. READ

06/09/12 3:00pm

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOS

The Mattituck-Cutchogue Athletic Booster Club held its annual Sprint into Summer 5K run/walk on Saturday morning in Mattituck.

Hosted by East End Road and Trail Runners Club, the race began at Main Road and Reeve Avenue and finished up on Pike Street.

Cutchogue resident Shawn Fitzgerald finished in first place with a time of 19:09. Shawn ran the entire race pushing a running stroller containing his sons Colin, 5, and Trevor, 3 with a total weight of about 70 pounds.

05/12/11 3:02pm
05/12/2011 3:02 PM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Mattituck school board candidates Jerry Diffley, Joan Ferris, Charlie Anderson and Laura Jens-Smith during Wednesday's PTSA forum.

One thought seemed to be on the minds of most of those who questioned the four Mattituck-Cutchogue School Board candidates Wednesday night:

What would they do to change the teachers’ contract to be renegotiated in 2014?

The four are vying for three board seats on next Tuesday’s ballot.

“I would be very concerned about the length of the contract,” former board member Joan Ferris said during the Parent Teachers Student Association-sponsored candidates forum. “In this economic climate, we can’t afford to have a five-year contract.”
Ms. Ferris said that the district also needs to ask all teachers to contribute more toward their health insurance.

“It can’t be just the new employees,” she said. “The teachers union will cut off the arms and legs of the newly hired to protect their own.”

Jerry Diffley, the current board president, said that the district has a five year contract because teachers agreed several years ago to reopen negotiations and give back half of their projected salary increases. He said that he would like to renegotiate step increases, salary increases teachers receive based on years of service and additional graduate credits earned, in addition to their annual increases.

In the last contract the board successfully negotiated teacher contributions to their health insurance premiums as a percentage of the cost, he said. That allows the district to increase employee contributions as premium rates increase.

Laura Jens-Smith, a nurse who has two children in the district, said that she would like to tackle the pension plan, but that without New York State revamping its pension system, there is not much that can be done to change things on the local level.

It’s the board’s job to lobby at the state level,” she said.

She would also like to reexamine the steps program and keep teachers from being paid extra for serving on lunch duty and other extra jobs.

Current board vice president Charlie Anderson said that he would like to negotiate face-to-face with union members.

“Last time, we kicked the lawyers out,” he said.” It got ridiculous.”

He added that teachers need to be more realistic about their health insurance contributions.

“What I pay where I work is more than teachers pay,” he said. “I’m not here to bash teachers, but we have to keep asking.”

Despite a light attendance, the night wasn’t without fireworks. MaryAnn Fleischman, who this spring organized a group called The Educated Taxpayers, stormed out of the meeting after learning that one of her questions would not be asked, saying under her breath that she couldn’t believe this was happening in America.

Moderator Joe Pufahl said that the question was a personal attack aimed at one of the candidates, which he said was not in keeping with the ethics of the discussion.

Mr. Pufahl asked the candidates to describe their three most important issues.

Mr. Anderson said his main focus is taxpayers, who are hurting, and he wants the state to provide more funding to cover state mandates. He added thathe wants to make sure that students who don’t have special needs or aren’t gifted and talented get more out of their educational experience.

“Kids in the middle get lost in Mattituck,” he said.

Ms. Jens-Smith wants to focus on the curriculum, on communication between the school and the community and on financial issues.

“To communicate more clearly is just having a dialogue that’s more direct,” she said, adding that she believes board members have an obligation to educate residents on the issues facing the district, perhaps through frequent updates to the school website.

Mr. Diffley said that he plans to focus on a number of statewide issues, including unfunded mandates, the proposed 2 percent tax levy cap and revisions to the state pension system.

Ms. Ferris said her focus would be on communication, curriculum and values.

“We all have to continue to work towards what’s best for the kids,” she said.

The budget vote and school board election will be held next Tuesday, May 17, from 3 to 9 p.m. in the Mattituck High School gymnasium.

02/19/11 2:39pm
02/19/2011 2:39 PM

The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District will likely spend $1.3 million below what’s budgeted this year, but district officials say the governor’s assertion that districts have enough reserve funds to make up for state aid cuts is false.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2011  budget would slash Mattituck’s state aid by about $424,000. In addition, the district must pay $400,000 more into the state employee retirement fund next year, and also faces contractual increases in salaries and other increased operating expenses, Superintendent James McKenna said during Thursday’s school board meeting.

If the district taps its fund balance to keep taxes from rising, there will be little left to cover unforeseen expenses in years to come, Mr. McKenna added.

Mattituck’s draft 2011-12 budget is to be released during a March 8 special meeting. Late last year Mr. McKenna said the new budget will call for the elimination of 10 jobs. He did not say how many of them might be teachers.

The district has done a good job keeping spending below the budget in recent years, and has already tightened its belt to the point where it will not be able to replenish the fund balance by further spending reductions, Mr. McKenna told the board.

In addition, he said $200,000 of the current fund balance is attributed to three long-time teachers taking advantage of an early retirement incentive last summer, a windfall that came after this year’s budget passed and is not likely to be repeated.

The district used $900,000 in fund reserves to offset the tax rate hike in the current school year’s budget.

Mr. McKenna did note that a much-rumored 2 percent property tax cap proposed by the governor will likely not be passed by the state Legislature in time to affect the 2011-12 school budget.

Still, he said, the district must consider long terms needs when deciding how to spend its anticipated reserve funds in light of the likelihood that the cap will pass later this year.

“At some point … there’ll be nothing left,” Mr. McKenna said.

He added in an interview Friday that the drastic choices some school districts have had to face — including the layoff of a third of the teaching staff at the Sachem School and the 40 staff positions proposed to be cut in Riverhead — could force the legislature to examine other school reforms in conjunction with the tax cap. They include reworking the state pension system, providing relief from unfunded mandates and picking up more of districts’ special education costs.

“I think the state’s not going to let the districts fall off the cliff,” he said. “My prediction is that what’s going to happen is all these topics are going to be on the table.”

In other business, school officials gave tours Thursday of the district’s new Mac lab, which has 60 new Macintosh computers in two rooms in the upstairs technology rooms where the school’s morning TV show is taped.

Technology teacher John Roslak and technology director Gerri Doherty have been working to allow all the computers in the lab to interface seamlessly with one another. While the computers are able to “talk to each other,” Mr. Roslak said that it hasn’t been easy for people using the computers to transfer their knowledge of PCs to the Macs.

“The terminology is totally different,” he said. “You have to learn almost a different language.”

The computers also use different programs. Students had been editing video using FinalCut Pro on the PCs, but are gradually learning to use the Adobe Premiere video editing program on the Macs, though Mr. Roslak said that many students are having a hard time making the adjustment to the new programs.

School Board president Jerry Diffley commented that social media sites, long belittled by many as a waste of time, have now begun to play a major role in world events, such as the recent revolution in Egypt, making it more important than ever that students leave Mattituck with a broad-based knowledge of how computers work.

“Every corporation is going to this technology,” said assistant superintendent Anne Smith. She added that many college courses now require students to complete part of their coursework through internet communications.

“It’s not to be taken lightly,” said Mr. Roslak of the new technology, as he listed a number of his former students who are now working in television production and computer design-related fields. “To communicate visually is so important.”

[email protected]