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Letters January 28, 2010

Posted on 31 January 2010

Leave it to the Professionals

Dear Bryan,

While the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor applauds the efforts of parents investigating what is at the root of the dispute over contract negotiations, we are disheartened by the inaccurate reporting of information in Point of View by Susan Lamontagne (Sag Harbor Express, January 21)

Representatives of the Teachers Association met with Ms. Lamontagne and three other parents for a little over an hour this past fall. In that short amount of time it was not possible to educate the group on the development of the terms and conditions of a contract designed and redesigned for over forty years between the Teachers Association and the Sag Harbor Union Free School District. In addition it was not possible to convey all the information and exchanges that have taken place in (at the time of the meeting) twenty months of meetings between the parties.

One of the most difficult parts of this particular negotiations process in Sag Harbor has been the misinformation, lack of information, speculation and assumptions used by all the debating individuals proclaiming to be experts on the topic of public employee salaries, benefits, working conditions, labor relations and labor laws.

Negotiations between two parties, when they take place, is meant to be an on-going process where issues are bargained for in good faith, in a timely fashion with respect and regard for one another’s perspectives. The process only suffers further harm when individuals, not directly involved in the process, extract pieces of information from different sources and report that information inaccurately in a newspaper.

We appreciate Ms. Lamontagne’s desire to end this dispute and bring the sides together. These efforts have been made by the Public Employees Relations Board  (PERB) through an assigned Mediator and Fact Finder. If the Board of Education rejects the recommendations of the professionals in the field, what inclination would they have to regard or respect the recommendations of the non- professionals?

The content of Ms. Lamontagne’s article has affirmed our decision to deny anyone outside of the labor relations profession to mediate these negotiations. Although necessary, good intentions alone will not bring about closure.

Eileen Kochanasz, President

Teachers Association of Sag Harbor 

Great Things Can Happen

Dear Bryan,

I wanted to thank you for publishing the “Point of View” regarding the teachers’ contract dispute and also thank Susan Lamontagne for going to such great lengths to seek the facts contributing to the dispute. Her efforts should be commended in hopes they will help people understand her goal to keep everyone informed and better our community. 

We need more parents, community members and teachers who really care about enduring, lasting, sustainable, quality education for our children. The last thing we want is for program to be cut or teachers to be let go. It is evident in these tough economic times the need to come together to help provide lasting solutions. We can sustain the quality of the school that has been built up over the years – AND continue to improve it over time. Great things will happen if the grudges are set aside and we all work constructively with a positive force for the core goal… improving the future of our society through education. 

I hope The Express will continue to research and publish articles like Susan’s to help bring the “sides” together.

Thank you,

Diane Hewett

Sag Harbor

Carpe Diem

To the Editor

Bravo; finally a clear concise explanation of what is really going on and, more importantly, what is not going on between the Sag Harbor Board of Education and TASH. In the January 21, 2010 issue of The Sag Harbor Express, Susan Lamontagne has eloquently explained the issues at hand thereby making it impossible for our community (our parents) to go back into denial or more pointedly not show up for our children.

There is a phrase from a Latin poem by Horace, Carpe diem, this translates to “seize the day.” I, for one, would like to see this community of educators, and our elected board step around the resistance and begin to find their way to a middle ground.

Thank you,

Katherine Brown-Lawton

Sag Harbor


Dear Bryan,   

I do not know where to begin!

From 1935 until he left in 1946 my father, as Principal of Pierson, hired all teachers with an annual contract. The best teachers were rehired normally by August 1st. Those that were not to be issued contracts for the following year were so advised at the close of school in late June. There were no teachers unions because the teachers that taught students, and urged them to succeed, did not need tenure or outside guarantors.

It was gratifying to return for the Pierson 100th Anniversary in 2007 and see rooms named for my teachers, namely: Shep Westcott, Helen Mueller and Tony “Pop” Mazzeo. Their contributions were recognized for dedication and their hope to instill the desire for success in each and every student with whom they had contact.

While we did not have a “dress code”, we were expected to be neat and clean. I do not ever remember students wearing “T” shirts. So much for our progressive educational system! 

Seth R. Schneible Sr.

Via email

Why I Abstained From Voting           

Dear Editor:           

The black shirts warn “Sag Harbor: District  In Crisis.” We are trapped in a storm of epic proportions. Yes this is a storm that is tearing us apart. We all live together on a fragile, beautiful, unpredictable, watery planet and we ourselves are mostly water, I think it is no accident that our hearts and minds reflect this.

We humans possess a nobility of spirit that can inspire us, if need be, to fight for what we treasure and hold dear. The best of us are even willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and die to defend our ideals and our loved ones. We all share this; it is what we call “humanity.”

And so we are willing to wage war. It is in our nature. Look around. There are painful examples worldwide. Two sides firmly entrenched and righteous. We can fight hard and courageously. If only we could stop demonizing our adversaries, we might see that cooperation is a more potent weapon than conflict.

While the details of day-to-day life may obscure the fact, our Board of Education and the members of TASH are ultimately self-sacrificing idealists trying to create a better learning environment for our children. Education just isn’t the best career choice for those who are seeking money and power. It is ultimately a very personal undertaking.

Which brings me back to why I abstained from voting on the recent bond issue. Last winter I worked alongside the dedicated, knowledgeable, and hard-working folks who comprise the Long Range Planning Committee. We thoroughly assessed the state of our schools’ infrastructure, and diligently researched the best alternatives. All of which beg for our attention.

At the same time, we really need to stop for a moment and try to remember that real learning isn’t necessarily neat and tidy. We can train our students in the skills to perform magnificently on standardized tests. This isn’t difficult if we choose to make it our primary goal. We can create a whole generation of high-scoring test-takers, and this really does appeal to our desire to excel and shine. Go team!

I believe that our future really depends on nurturing a generation who have the skills and confidence to approach life with real creativity. A bright shiny building is a wonderful thing. Still, I would rather have a somewhat less shiny building, and concentrate more lovingly (did I really say that?) on the human element first.

Wouldn’t it be self-indulgent and grandiose if we just decided to call ourselves the PIERSON ACADEMY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES? But for one wonderful thought! We have a track record of outstanding accomplishments already, and it just keeps getting better. I don’t know where we are headed, but if we nurture our dreams, we can move mountains. Let us shake hands and dream together.

Rick Gold

Sag Harbor

Breathing Free

Dear Bryan,

 “A serious thing happened on the way to the forum.”  Nationalized, socialized health care got derailed.  And, for the time being, our democracy got a reprieve from a potentially mortal wound. Thank you patriots of Massachusetts!

What happened in Massachusetts is nothing short of a miracle. Actually, in my world, it was divine intervention by a God who has not deserted us. I was worried, of late, that God had abandoned America because we have been acting like we do not need Him. Luckily, He is still with us. That is Good News.

The other good news, fair reader, is that Americans do not want big government.  We know, as Jefferson did, that “the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” If we do not have liberty we have forsaken the hopes, dreams, and sacrifices of our forefathers and all of “those huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  

Bill Jones

Hampton Bays

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4 Responses to “Letters January 28, 2010”

  1. Elementary Parent says:

    I see Mrs. Kochanasz will “deny anyone outside the labor relations profession to mediate these negotiations”.
    Fine. But why the heck did she put the students and parents through the torment of the menacing black and gray tee-shirts for half a year?!!
    By definition, wearing the tee-shirts made this a public matter.
    In fact, it was perceived as a cry for outside help!!
    Help is offered.
    Help is declined.

  2. Harborite says:

    I agree with the previous post.
    Why parade the issue in public with the tee-shirts, essentially asking for public help, only to decline it when offered?

    That said, I am glad the gray tee-shirts are now gone.

    If Mrs. Kochanasz declines any outside participation, why did she invite it in the first place?

    The black tee-shirts should be dropped as well when inside the classroom.

  3. Chris says:

    “Leave it to the Professionals” could be the funniest thing I’ve read today.
    Two months ago the Teacher’s Association asked parents to stand up and speak out. Now the Teacher’s Association is telling parents to sit down and shut up. I guess we too dumb. I hope Ms. Kochananasz does not treat her students with such contradiction and condescension. As well, she might think about brushing up on subject-verb agreement: “Negotiations…is”? Not a big deal, but such poor grammar looks very, well, unprofessional.

  4. John E. Hooker says:

    Debate between President Obama and House Republicans

    Dear Bryan,

    I’m sure you enjoyed the televised debate between President Obama and House Republicans last Friday. It was a rare occurrence of unscripted exchange – at least from the President.

    In the meantime, the world carried on without us. Two days later, Fareed Zakaria summed up a change he noticed at the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, last week: everyone was talking about the Beijing Consensus whereas they used to talk about Washington’s. In other words, while our dysfunctional government squabbles, China takes the stage.

    Look – as President Obama says faced with difficulty – don’t you think it’s time to support a non-ideological, pragmatic, bipartisan leader to dig ourselves out of this hole?

    The Soviet Union imploded primarily because of its obdurate adherence to ideology.

    Does that ring a bell?

    John E. Hooker, North Haven

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