Letters January 15, 2009

Posted on 16 January 2009

Doing Anything for Increases


Dear Editor,

The “Comments from the Web” on Sagharboronline.com are totally erroneous and misinformed. In my letter “No Bailout for the School District” (Sag Harbor Express December 4, 2008) I prophesized that the Sag Harbor Teachers’ Union will do anything to obtain unrealistic and unaffordable fixed step increases as they had in their expired contract, even at the expense of bankrupting the community. When I questioned, “Why can’t the teachers’ union take a pay freeze so they do not bankrupt the community,” I also asked the following: “Or do they think that the Sag Harbor School District is going to get a government bailout?”

Well, in reading the “President’s Perspective” column in Dick Ianuzzi, President of eth New York State United Teachers’ Union, I predicted correctly: He states, “In the same way Congress passed a $700 billion rescue package for Wall Street, it should also approve direct fiscal relief to New York through emergency block grants and for Medicaid and other underfunded mandated programs (New York Teacher, page 10)” Ianuzzi wants his union to get some of the bailout money. I rest my case.

Vince Starace



Everyone is Hurting


Dear Editor,

At the informational meeting the Sag Harbor School District held on December 18, 2008, the District’s attorney presented the board’s contract offer to TASH as well as the demands of TASH, the teachers’ union. The BOE offered what amounts to a 23% increase per teacher for a three-year contract. TASH is demanding what amounts to a 27.72% increase for a three-year contract. Both figures include salary and benefits for three years. There are other issues such as health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, domestic partner insurance, personal days, duty periods, course approval, increased pay for field trips, coaching stipends, etc. also on the table.

Everyone has to ask, “What is reasonable based on today’s economy?” I read an article in the Wall Street Journal by Sarah Needleman entitled “Pay Raises Seen Taking a Hit,” dated December 16, 2008. The article analyzes salary trends for many professions, white collar occupations and blue collar jobs. Needleman states that employers are “bringing some workers’ projected annual pay raises to a low not seen in three decades.” The article analyzes data from trustworthy sources, such as the Wharton School, Hewitt Associates and Watson Wyatt Worldwide Inc. Needleman enumerates what we hear on the news on a daily basis: “Companies are very concerned about managing their fixed costs.” Needleman cites Professor Peter Cappelli of the Wharton School who informed us that the “latest salary cuts are particularly noteworthy given employers have eliminated 1.9 million jobs in the past year and various industries may see lower pay gains than others.” Needleman also states that “Workers in education and financial services are also expected to receive below-average annual merit increases for 2.3% and 2.9% respectively, down from 3.5% and 3.9% in July.” I emailed this article to the Board of Education when I heard that the board and TASH’s negotiations hit a roadblock. Fact-finding is the next step in negotiating their contract.  I hope that the board, the district’s attorney, and TASH heed the admonitions of this article. Everyone is hurting in this economy.

How can the taxpayers afford to cover a large increase in taxes when their salaries, 401Ks and benefits are dwindling? The board should reconsider their overly generous offer. The union should reconsider their unaffordable demands in this economy. The community is pleased that the district’s teachers have raised the achievement levels of their students. However, the teachers should also value the working conditions of the Sag Harbor District. Their classes are generally small, their student load is low, and for the most part, the students are a homogeneous group who have excellent family support. The teachers do not need combat pay that other teachers deserve who teach in districts rife with onerous socioeconomic issues.

As I stated in a previous letter, I hope an agreement is reached that is fair to the taxpayers as well as the teachers.

Elena Loreto



In Memory of Guy Bennett


Dear Bryan:

Since our father’s passing we keep thinking about how, in our quest to “take him home” as we had promised, that we were unprepared to offer any words of comfort to the friends and family who gathered a year ago in his memory. It was not that we were at a loss for words, but that we had too many to express how profoundly his passing affected us.

That first year was certainly a long one filled with trials and tribulations as we all experienced a roller-coaster ride of emotions. Finally when we found the right fit for him — where he was comfortable, well cared for, and loved — everything else seemed to fall into place. The disappearance of “Old Daddy” was a painful process making way for the emergence of “New Daddy” who we came to know, love, and understand on a whole different level. In fact we feel privileged to have had the opportunity to be a part of both those lives, as our children may have never known their grandfather at all.

We want his friends and family to know that we never let him forget them. We read him their cards and showed him their pictures while reminding him of their names. We kept him abreast of deaths, births, weddings, and other important events. His favorite photo of Mommy hung on the wall where he looked at her every day. He did not suffer and he was comfortable and happy. He was never a burden to us and we looked forward to our visits with him very much. He brought our families closer and taught us how to love on a whole different level. Together we developed an alternative form of communication that did not require him to remember words or names. We were his “two” and he was always happy to see us, as he touched our faces, patted our heads, and squeezed our hands.

It was that last day as we sat by his side and he squeezed our hands so tightly that he bruised his own and his eyes were clear and aware that we knew he had come full circle and that Old and New Daddy had become one. Although he was unable to speak, he let us know that he was not frightened or in pain. We held the phone to his ear so he could hear Mommy and Bruce say goodbye and we saw his eyes fill with tears of joy to hear their voices and comprehend their words. The joy reflected in his face that day filled our hearts. We are not sure what he was experiencing but we like to think that in those final hours everything we had “remembered” for him came flooding back and he was up to date like he had never been away – or perhaps his loved ones were there to guide him on his next journey – or perhaps his life was passing before his eyes and it had become clear that the beautiful girl whose photo he looked at every day was in fact his wife of more than 60 years. Something we know for sure is that we were blessed to have been able to share this time with him and that we miss him very much.

Barbara Bennett Armstrong

MaryBeth Bennett Schoen


Adrift — And I Don’t Mean Snow


Dear Bryan,

From Labor Day on it’s always fun to watch the harbor clear out, as boats large and small take their winter (often Saran Wrapped) vacation. By November’s end, there’s usually a straggler or two visible from my house in North Haven. This year, however, there remains one lonely sailboat moored nearby. It seems very touching to me. Is it a victim of the bad economy? A bitter divorce? Death in a family? Or simple abandonment, Because this is all too disturbing to contemplate, I’ve decided to give the boat it’s own voice. Here goes — and Happy New Year, by the way. Keep up the good work.


Here I float — alone in the bay,

Having braved Christmas, New Year’s —

Soon, Valentine’s Day.

I watched. I waited and the harbor cleared out,

Awaiting the dinghy, the whir of a prop

Anything at all to signal some help.

Now it’s turned real cold, and I can’t even yelp.

Where is Malloy, or Reiser or Sander —

Any of the regulars who used to meander?

I’m growing moss and a colorful mold.

For all I know, there’s a mouse in the hold.

At least for me, there’d be sweet company,

But by now he’d have eaten through all the provisions,

As a voyage this long, he’d never envisioned.

Come to think of it now, is it long or short —

When you’re just sitting here and haven’t left port?

Does no one notice — do they just look away?

Certainly the locals see me bob and sway.

The wharf is long, but the nights are longer.

Won’t someone save me who’s bigger and stronger?

Please have a meeting or some kind of mingling — 

Before I’m reduced to a mere pile of kindling.


-       Susan Dusenberry

-       North Haven

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