South Country Doings

South Country district moves past grade-fix scandal
Newsday: September 2, 2012 8:03 PM

It's been nearly six months since Superintendent Joseph Cipp Jr. resigned from South Country Central School District in the wake of what a special investigator called a grade fixing scandal.

And while friction lingers between his supporters and detractors, South Country is moving forward.

 It has a new teachers' contract, a new high school principal and a regime change on its school board so dramatic it could shift the district's focus. A majority of the trustees on the old board supported Cipp Jr., but that changed when trustee Chris Picini was elected in May on a slate that pledged reform.

Staffers say morale is up.

Teachers, who were working without a contract since 2008, signed a deal earlier this year that will bring them small but steady raises through 2015.

And a longtime music teacher, Tim Hogan, has been promoted to principal of Bellport High School after a short stint as assistant principal there. Wayne White, head of the teachers union, said members are "excited to see one of their own" move up in the ranks.

 Hogan replaces Bernie Soete, who will serve as assistant principal at Bellport Middle School.

 Despite the changes, South Country's school board is struggling. Trustees have yet to put aside old allegiances.

 Interim superintendent Howard Koenig told the board at a recent meeting that it should consider a retreat to work past its differences.

 "Is this some type of camp where we have to go and hold hands?" asked board president Julio Morales.

 Koenig chuckled, saying, "It's not a lecture."

 Instead, he said, members of the New York State School Boards Association would visit with the trustees to share ideas about how they could improve.

 The interim superintendent said in a later phone interview that the community wants the board to function better.

"We cannot allow 4,700 children in this community to become collateral damage to things that have nothing to do with them," he said.

Picini said "until everyone is willing to play nice together, this is going to be a little tough."

Despite their differences, the group will forge ahead, Picini said, laying out a plan to find a permanent leader, one who will help bolster the district's academics and highlight the success of its many programs.

Koenig, hired in the spring, is to stay with the district through the coming school year.

He said he hopes to both help the district in its search for a permanent leader and strengthen its alternative school, South Haven. Students should be able to leave the school faster if that's what's best, he said, and those who remain should have a clearer path to college or a job.

"There's no reason that shouldn't happen," he said.

Some have said the district focused too much on sports in the past.

Cipp was the winningest high school football coach in Suffolk County before becoming a part of the district's administration.

He was accused late last year of pressuring subordinates to change a star athlete's grades so the student could gain entrance to Syracuse University and play on its football team.

Both the superintendent and the student, Ryan Sloan, repeatedly denied the allegations.

An independent investigation found that Sloan's grades were changed and that Cipp "must have been involved or must have known what was going on."




South Country Honors Those Geared to Serve             4/17/12

The South Country Central School District recently honored two special honorees at the annual SCOPE Educational Service Awards Dinner on Monday,
March 28th at Villa Lombardi’s in Holbrook, teacher Mr. Peter Cisek and School Board member Mr. Kevin Kirk.
The annual program recognizes honorees from Nassau and Suffolk Counties for excellence in service to students and schools.

Mr. Peter Cisek has served as an educator within the South Country CSD for 38 years. A graduate of Ohio State,
he and wife Nancy have two sons, also educators in public education. As a teacher and community member,
Mr. Cisek has dedicated countless hours of service to help his community. He serves on the Board of the South Country Educational Foundation,
an organization that has awarded numerous grants to teachers in support of education.
Furthermore, he has taken on many advisory roles within the school setting.
He advises the school’s Garden Club, which donates food to the homeless and Lighthouse Mission.
He is the advisor of the Woodworker’s Club, and can be seen picking up unwanted lumber from local suppliers to arrange student ‘kits’.
He runs the school’s recycling program, and he promotes the school’s Character Education and Peer Mediation programs when students are having issues.
Mr. Cisek was recognized for his many years of “Excellence in Community Service” by SCOPE.

Mr. Kevin Kirk is currently the Vice President of the South Country Board of Education, serving for two terms.
Overall, he has served the South Country Central School District with distinction for 42 years, beginning his career in 1970 as a math teacher.
Upon retirement, Mr. Kirk was elected to the Board in 2006. Once in office he worked with all educational constituents,
and used his skills as a former coach to develop a team approach on the Board to address the District’s fiscal and academic health.
As a former educator, Mr. Kirk provided insight to other Board members giving the educational “twist” on many items.
By 2008, after helping to reform the District’s fiscal practices, he was elected Vice President of the Board by his peers.
Their confidence in him was drawn from his tireless work ethic and devotion to duty.
Mr. Kirk was honored for his years of “Excellence in Board of Education Service” by SCOPE.



South Country BTA

Contract Ratified
Contract was ratified
Yes: 291     No: 102


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