Mary Anne Miller will be stepping down from the Sag Harbor School Board this year after serving two terms. She discusses that decision and reflects on her time as a board member.
You served on the school board for two full terms. Many say you would have been a shoe-in for this year’s election. What was it that made you decide not to run?
It was an extremely difficult decision for me to make I will say that. I very, very, very much enjoyed my time on the board. I enjoyed the challenge of advocating and supporting and finding good solutions for public education. And I especially enjoyed all of the achievements and challenges that the district faced while I was on the school board, I would say at first, I thought I was going to run again and then I spent at least three or four months really, really thinking about it and I just came to the conclusion that it was probably best to move on. Again it was a very difficult decision, but I just felt like my time was up and that I should move aside. I don’t intend to disappear. I very much enjoy work-shopping challenges and pushing ourselves to find some new ways to deal with old challenges, and, as a parent and a very active community member, I’m going to stay involved and try to make a positive contribution to the district in a different way.
How are you going to stay involved?
Well, almost by default because I am a parent of an incoming 10th-grader. I can see myself becoming more active in some of the organizations that support our school district like the PTSA and Sag Harbor Booster Foundation. I will definitely continue to stay very focused and involved in the actual school board agendas and meetings. I also manage a Facebook parents’ group (Sag Harbor School District Parents Connect).
What do you consider the biggest achievements that you had on the school board?
Well I’ve been thinking a lot about that, I’m kind of a nostalgic kind of a person. When I got on the board, [it] was involved in an extremely difficult, contentious labor negotiation with our teachers union. We had a brand new superintendent, and the community was very unhappy with the way that the superintendent had been chosen. So he came in under a cloud of negativity and really bad feelings from a large part of the community. Southampton Town had just done a reassessment after many years of not having done one, so people’s taxes had changed and increased sort of overnight. We had a very vocal group of homeowners who were very upset and nervous about how they were going to be able to afford to stay in Sag Harbor. I had just wanted to support educational initiatives. All of sudden, I realized that there were all of these things in a sort of tornado that made it kind of hard to talk about curriculum. And then we received a serious letter from the state telling us that the district was experiencing real fiscal distress. So when I think of all of that, and where our district has come in six years, the incredible amount of programs that we have added and maintained, our enrollment has increased; just incredible, good positive things coming out of the district. I feel happy, and I’m glad to have been a part of all of that.
What, in your opinion, are the biggest challenges that the school board will face over the next few years?
We have the looming issue with the tax cap. That’s there, and I think the district has set itself up, at least in the past six years, that we are in very good shape financially, but I do think that the hard days and years are coming. We’ve worked hard to get our reserves to where they should be and try to rein in costs, but I do think that the financial challenges of continuing to maintain what we’re used to maintaining—those days are very close. The balance for this upcoming board and their new super, that’s going to be the biggest challenge. They’ve just got to keep pushing the limits, we have to keep changing.