Can Police Cover?
In reference to articles in the Sag Harbor Express and Southampton Press “Village Budget Nixes Two Cop Positions.”
Not having expertise in being a Village Mayor or being a Village Board Trustee but happen to be a Sag Harbor Village Taxpayer, will someone explain how nine cops will man the village day and night especially in the summer?
Better brush up on my “expertise.”
Florence M. O’Connell
Funds for Whaling Museum
To the Editor,
With the summer season nearly here, The Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum is planning on opening its doors just a tad earlier as we host an Earth Day Celebration and Exhibition of H.O.P.E (Help the Earth Help the Ocean) on Sunday, April 21 from 1 to 4 p.m.
Free to the public — with conservationists Anne Doubilet and Asher Jay, it is also an opportunity for the museum to introduce the community to our two new staff members, Museum Site Manager, Greg Therriault and Business Manager, Vanessa Petruccelli.
Please excuse our appearance as the museum is presently in Phase I of a Capital Campaign to repair and paint the exterior of the building. We are pleased to announce that Century Arts Foundation has pledged a $50,000 matching grant that will help us reach our goal by reaching out to our community and friends to help The Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum match and raise the money needed. We plan to begin work in the spring of 2014, if not sooner. INCE Painting Company has been selected to do the work.
In keeping with our whaling heritage and local history, three very special exhibitions will open in collaboration with the Peter Marcelle Gallery this summer. The museum remains committed to its unique whaling history while, at the same time, moving it forward into the 21st century pledging to Save The Whales and Save The Whaling Museum.
President, The Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum
Sharing Decision Making
As your readers know Gregg Schiavoni recently resigned from the Sag Harbor Board of Education. This marked the second time within a year that a board member resigned, which in itself is not unusual. Board members come and go, choose not to run for reelection, are voted out of office and occasionally resign. We even had one board member who resigned twice on two separate occasions.
What is unusual is that letters raising serious concerns about the conduct of the board and the governance of our school district accompanied both resignations. I don’t believe that these concerns should be dismissed out of hand because both Gregg and Walter Wilcoxen are gentlemen of intelligence and integrity.
Unfortunately, much of the public discussion since Gregg’s resignation has acted to cloud instead of illuminate the genuine issues facing our district. The tenor of the discussion has made the possibility of meaningful discourse much more difficult.
In the eyes of our most vocal neighbors the two most important issues seem to be the urgent need to replace interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and the conduct of the board in executive session.
At recent board meetings and in last week’s Express it was suggested that the board’s decision to extend interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso’s contract reflected at best foolish and thoughtless decision making that would detrimentally effect our district, or at worst, some sort of unspecified impropriety. Kate Lawton commenting on the consultants School Leadership’s recommendation to postpone the search for a new superintendent until next year stated “that really feels like a crime to me, whether they said it or not and they’re the experts, there’s so much time there. It just feels wrong.” Steve Clark a gentleman who I know personally and have the greatest respect for was quoted as describing an interim superintendent as ”a Band-Aid on a long term problem”.
Let me in part agree with Steve and share a slightly different perspective, my perspective and experience as a former board member, as a teacher and as a community member who has actively served on a number of school district committees since 1993.
At the beginning of the school year my main concern was that an interim superintendent would simply tread water, be a caretaker and that none of the urgent and immediate issues confronting our district would be addressed. In Steve’s words a Band Aid. It’s for this reason that many of us actively involved in the district greeted the news of the extension of Dr. Bonuso contract with relief. It opened the possibility that this would not be a lost year. Let me give you an example.
In 2009 our community defeated a school construction bond, which in part would have addressed serious issues relating to health and safety and the maintenance of our school facilities. In the more than three years since then, past boards of education have been unable to place a revised bond before the community for its approval. The issues associated with the facilities directly affect our kids, the educational program, teachers and staff and they have not gone away.
The extension of Dr. Bonuso’s contract has allowed us to move forward.
For the past number of months, our district’s facilities committee has been working to develop a comprehensive plan to address the neglected issues of health and safety, substandard conditions and provide resources to effectively maintaining our buildings. Within the next several months the plan will be presented to the board of education for their review. It is then expected that with the board’s approval, a bond will be placed before the community next fall.
As committee chair, Dr Bonuso has led this effort and our committee has been a model of effective shared decision making, openness and inclusion, what some would call “Best Practice.” He insisted for example, that neighbors of our school who had in the past voiced concerns about aspects of the bond not only be given a seat at the table but that the district treat their concerns seriously and with respect.
If we are to be successful in the passage of this bond we must demonstrate to the community that what we recommend is essential to the health and safety of our kids, support of our educational program and the maintenance of our existing facilities. This requires a continuity of effort and leadership. I remind your readers that the last two bonds proposed by past boards have failed.
Without question, a new superintendent arriving in the middle of the process would massively complicate matters and require a significant delay of as much as a year. No responsible administrator would move forward with a bond without careful review. To expect that our new superintendent would be able to quickly assimilate this information and successfully lead the effort to pass a bond is neither reasonable nor realistic.
My comments are not conjecture or hypothetical. I am speaking from experience as the co-chairman of the committee and one of the board of education members who successfully led the effort to pass the bond that provided for the complete renovation of the existing Pierson High School and added a new science wing, library, music rooms, general-purpose classrooms, art rooms, lunchroom and gym.
The genuine issue here is not the urgency of replacing Dr. Bonuso. It is a question of process. Will the board of education ensure the active engagement of parents, teachers, community members, and even students in the process of selecting a new superintendent?
The issue of school board executive sessions is a difficult one. None of us really knows what transpires behind those closed doors. What is clear, is that over the past number of years successive boards have, at times, discussed topics in private that, by law, should have been public discussions.
There are two essential points. For our system to work we must have trust and confidence that our board members to the best of their ability are going to do the right thing. That includes the responsibility and obligation of a board member, if he or she believes that the board as a whole is acting inappropriately in executive session, to bring the issue to the floor in a public session of the board of education.
In other words, it requires self-regulation. Even with the continued vigilance of the public, the system won’t work any other way.
Board members sometimes make mistakes. But even in this current controversy, I don’t believe anyone thinks that our board has been lining its pockets with money, or been involved in some corrupt criminal act.
From my perspective the greatest concern we should have about the governance of our school district is not associated with acts of the board taken behind closed doors or in the dead of night, but instead decisions made in public with our tacit approval. Over the last number of years the meaningful ability of parents, teachers and the community to contribute to decision-making in our school has diminished. We have moved further and further away from the principle of shared decision making which requires the contribution of the community in everything from curriculum to district goals. This vision of governance is not simply pie in the sky or idealism but is mandated by the state and district policy.
To the extent we fall short of this vision we only have ourselves to blame.
To the Editor:
I was shocked to hear the railings on the bridge between Sag Harbor and North Haven were rusted out so soon. Wasn’t that bridge put up just a few years ago?
Are our bridges and tunnels being built so poorly and using material that is so cheap that it rusts out so easily?
Makes you wonder how safe all our bridges and tunnels are.
And that graffiti all over it — can’t the town or state or village do something about keeping it clean?