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School district and residents team up to form Riverhead education foundation

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There will soon be an education foundation in Riverhead whose mission is fundraising to supplement tax dollars supporting education programs in the Riverhead Central School District.

Board of Education president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, who announced the idea at a recent school board meeting, said this week the proposal has gathered steam and is moving forward.

“Thirteen people have so far committed to working on this,” Cotten-DeGrasse said. “A lawyer has volunteered to do the incorporation and an accountant has volunteered to take care of the books until there’s a formal board of directors with officers, including a treasurer,” she said. The group will seek 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status with the IRS.

The group will hold its first meeting Jan. 19 at 7.p. at the district office. Volunteers are welcome, Cotten-DeGrasse said. Anyone who’s interested should contact her through the district office.

The school board will vote tonight to spend $75 to join the American Schools Foundation Alliance.

Cotten-DeGrasse said she first heard of the concept at a 2008 state school boards association conference and was very excited by it. Since then, she’s attended a conference on how to establish an education foundation.

Two other school board members, Amelia Lantz and Kimberly Liggon, have agreed to help the board president to get things started, Cotten-DeGrasse said. Once it’s up and running, the school board members will step aside, she said. The foundation board will decide how to raise money and how to spend it, Cotten-DeGrasse said.

“As the crunch comes, with the 2 percent tax cap imposed by state legislators, we have to have some kind of alternate sources for dealing with things this district needs to move forward to give kids a rich, multi-spectrum education,” Cotten-DeGrasse said. She said she’s “losing sleep at night” worrying about how the district will be able to fulfill its mission and still cut the $3.1 million necessary to bring the 2012-2013 operating budget in within the 2 percent tax levy limit.

Board president denies rumors about program cuts

Since Schools Superintendent Nancy Carney quantified the budget reduction for the board at a recent meeting, rumors have been swirling throughout the district about programs and activities that the board has decided to cut to meet the cap.

Cotten-DeGrasse said Monday the rumors are very frustrating.

“We have not made any decisions about anything,” the school board president said emphatically.

The superintendent and the district’s chief financial officer, Sam Schneider, have provided the board with cost analyses detailing how much would be saved by various cuts, Cotten-DeGrasse said, but that’s as far as it’s gone.

Rumors the board has decided to eliminate music and 7th grade foreign language studies in the middle school and eliminate electives in the high school are unfounded, according to Cotten-DeGrasse.

A resolution on tonight’s school board meeting agenda, titled “2012-2013 Budget Goals,” sets forth four goals for the upcoming budget that:

  • stays within the 2 percent tax cap
  • “preserves program for RCSD students to the greatest extent possible”
  • maximizes staff productivity
  • recognizes the current fiscal reality for Riverhead residents

The school board meeting convenes at 7 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.