Categorized | Letters To The Editor

Letters to the Editor 5/10/12

Posted on 11 May 2012

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Eight Years of Progress

Dear Bryan,

As you know, I have been in involved in the politics of our school district for eight years now and feel I have a good perspective on how far we have come.   I first got involved in 2004 with a group of parents, teachers and community members focused on improving our district.  Our position was that Sag Harbor Schools were really on the cusp of achieving great things but were hindered by legacy/provincial thinking,  poor community communication from the District and out of control spending.   We pushed for progressive program options for students(ie, more AP offerings and curriculum consistency from grade to grade),  open communication from the Board of Education and transparent budgeting/financial reporting.   Eight years ago parents felt that there was a drop off in standards between the elementary school and the middle school, teachers felt they needed to get the tools and the support from the district to provide a more dynamic program and the tax payer was left in the dark trying to understand why there were double digit budget increases year to year.

Fast forward eight years and most of these goals have been realized.  There is greater accountability between the Board of Education and the District, our budgeting process is streamlined and open for all to see and most important, our students are achieving at consistently higher  levels every year.    It is even more impressive that our district has been able to preserve program and reduce spending increases in an era when other districts have had to radically cut staff and program due to the economy and employee contract obligations.

This has not been achieved in a vacuum!!! Hard work, difficult decision making and leadership are required to move the bar.  We have our current Board of Education and as well as the past  leadership of Walter Wilcoxen to thank for the current success of our district.   On Tuesday May 15th,  I encourage everyone in our community to support the proposed budget, but just as important, we need to re-elect Walter Wilcoxen and Gregg Schiavoni.    Walter’s experience in consensus building, commitment to open communication and  accountability are still needed to move our district forward.   Greg’s foundation in the history of Sag Harbor  has proven to be invaluable in making sure that the voice of the community, old and young, is heard.  He is hard working, well prepared and believes in evaluating and improving the program offered by the district while preserving the qualities of our history that make it special.

Knowledgeable, dedicated and experienced board members are what we need to continue the progress we have made…we can’t afford to go backwards.

Keep the team in place!!!!  VOTE WILCOXEN & SCHIAVONI

Steve Clarke

7th GradeParent

Sag Harbor

Background on School Buses

Dear Bryan,

On May 3rd a half-page ad appeared in the Express encouraging people to vote No on Proposition #2, the purchase of buses for the Sag Harbor School District. The ad asks, “What is our core mission?” and was purportedly paid for by Parents who want Educators to be Educators not Bus Operators.

Some background information is in order for your readers to understand the context of this ad which misses the essential point that buying school buses has enabled educational programs to remain in place. In 2008-2009, the Sag Harbor District did not own any school buses. Since then the District has bought five school buses in an effort to reduce the amount of money it spends on contracted bus services. That effort has paid off. In addition to greater flexibility for students to take educational field trips, the District will spend $720,000 less for transportation this school year than it did in 2008-2009. In the three years that the District has owned buses, it has spent a cumulative total of over $1,500,000 less than it would have paid for contractual transportation for that same period of time.

The ad claims that school administrators’ efforts should be devoted to the core mission of educating students and not spending time and effort on tasks associated with operating buses. The reality is that school administrators are continually focused on improving outcomes for students. The administrators and Board of Education are always faced with the task of producing more learning for students within the resources that our taxpayers can provide. Spending less money on bussing is a cost-effective strategy that helps students continue to have access to high quality educational programs because money is reallocated from overhead to academics.

Does it require time and effort to manage a transportation program? Of course it does. A small percentage of the Superintendent’s and Business Official’s time is spent on transportation issues. But, has the education of Sag Harbor’s students suffered as a result of that effort? Emphatically, No! The time and effort have been worth it because in a time when many school districts have had to lay off teachers thereby curtailing programs for students, the Sag Harbor School District has not eliminated any programs for students. Educational programs and services have been preserved and, in fact enhanced — note the recent improvements to the auditorium, the implementation of Pre-Kindergarten, the addition of a high school math teacher, the pending International Baccalaureate Program, and improvements to the elementary playground. How has that been possible? There have been other significant cost savings initiatives, but the fact that over $1.5 million dollars has been diverted from contractual transportation costs to educational programs is a prime reason why educational programs have remained intact.

Proposition #2 will be voted upon May 15th in conjunction with the school budget. It asks voters to approve up to $575,000 to purchase buses that would nearly eliminate the need for outside buses from contractors. It is expected to save the school district approximately an additional million dollars over the next 10 years when compared to the same services provided by contracting for buses. That additional $1,000,000 in savings is despite estimated yearly increases in expenses for gas, maintenance, and drivers’ costs as well as buying the buses.

Will operating a fleet of a dozen buses consume some time and effort from administrators? Yes. But, rather than detract from the educational mission of the school district, the purchase of buses is a means to an end which furthers that educational mission because so much more money can be reallocated to education instead of overhead.

The Sag Harbor Board of Education devoted six workshops to the scrutiny of expenses for the 2012-2013 school year in a constant effort to provide a high-quality education at a cost that is reasonable to taxpayers. The budget that voters will vote upon on May 15th keeps the same high-quality educational programs in place in 2012-13 as are currently in place. The budget has no cuts to educational programs.

The Board also voted unanimously to put Proposition # 2 before the voters because passage of it will enable transportation costs to be reduced — thus helping to keep educational programs intact. Please don’t be deceived by a dubious ad. Instead, please cast an informed vote on May 15th. Voting will be from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the Pierson gym.


Dr. John Gratto

Superintendent of Sag Harbor Schools

Supports Tom Gleeson

Dear Bryan,

With the School Budget and School Board Election Vote soon upon us on May 15th, I would like to speak out in support of one of the people running for a seat on the Board. Tom Gleeson has been a resident of Sag Harbor since 2005; over the years I have seen him at a majority of the public School Board meetings. He is well informed as to not only the educational issues but also the budgetary issues that all board members must address. Through many discussions with Tom, I know how passionate he is about the value of a good education, while at the same time, as a homeowner, sensitive to the pressures put on the people who pay the taxes that make our school district operate.

I feel Tom has realistic opinions about what programs the school should be implementing and how they should do it; at the same time, he is open minded, realizes it takes consensus to come up with a solution and does not have an ego that would stand in the way of finding those solutions. It is because of his love of the community that Tom is running for Board. I feel he will be an excellent addition in a time when a Tax Cap is making every decision crucial in the upcoming years.


Richard Kudlak

Sag Harbor

Supports Wilcoxen and Schiavoni

Dear Bryan,

This year the Board of Education has proposed a School Budget that does not exceed the tax cap. In other words, despite the rising costs associated with running the school district, our School Board has managed to build and present a budget with less than a 2% increase.

What is more remarkable is that they have presented a budget with virtually all our programs and staffing intact!

During a very challenging and uncertain economy, this Board has refused to lose its positive and determined vision to develop and responsibly improve upon our children’s education. Bringing in the IB program and the Pre-K program are strong examples of this.

Walter Wilcoxen and Gregg Schiavoni are running for re-election to this impressive School Board. They have earned our support by their dedicated and effective leadership.

We should all turn out to support the School Budget with a YES vote and allow these men the opportunity to continue their good work for our district.

We are lucky to have them both.


John Battle

Sag Harbor

A Wholehearted Endorsement

To Editor:

I wish to express my strong and wholehearted endorsement of Gregg Schiavoni and Walter Wilcoxen for the Sag Harbor School Board. Gregg and Walter have demonstrated a determined commitment to maintain high quality educational standards while keeping a steady hand on expenses. As a Sag Harbor Village Trustee and father of four young children, I fully appreciate the balance between quality and cost.  This is a continuing struggle that requires the substantial experience and leadership of Walter and Gregg.  The School Board faces serious challenges in the near future with the upcoming teacher contracts, the tax cap and the implementation of the IB program.  Gregg and Walter’s ability to build consensus with the other board members will be required to achieve success on any of these material issues.

Please use your vote wisely and help to maintain strong schools in this community by voting for Gregg Schiavoni and Walter Wilcoxen.

Timothy Culver

Sag Harbor

Weighing in on Walter

Dear Bryan:

During the past few years, the Board of Education, among its many responsibilities, has made two major policy decisions fundamental to improving the academic standards of the district and the achievement of its students.  One is the adoption of the International Baccalaureate  (IB) program and the other is the start of a Pre-Kindergarten program.  I support the re-election of Walter Wilcoxen because he has been a staunch advocate for both programs and will support the ongoing work and provide the resources needed for the youngest to the oldest of our students to excel.

As Pierson’s former principal, I had personal experience working with Walter and his family — as parents and community-minded citizens — to develop and present to the public the Pierson building renovation and expansion plans.  Their support, then and now, for many initiatives to improve educational opportunities has contributed to the improvement of the Sag Harbor Schools and benefited our children.  Walter’s capacity to see and address the big issues as well as his commitment to the Sag Harbor Schools — which began two decades ago — has continued in his leadership as a school board member and president.  More recently, Walter and I collaborated in organizing the Educational Forum that gathered community input on educational issues facing the district.

Serving on the next board of education, Walter will provide the dedication, vision and continuity to ensure educational improvement including the successful implementation of IB and eventual availability of early childhood education for all.  These programs are giant leaps forward and will be instrumental in academically preparing Sag Harbor students for the next stages of their education, careers and lives.


Bob Schneider

North Haven

Stands Behind the Incumbents

Dear Bryan

I am writing to voice my support for Walter Wilcoxen and Gregg Schiavoni in the upcoming election on next Tuesday, May 15th. for the Sag Harbor Board of Education.

Over the past 3 years Gregg and Walter have tirelessly served our community as board members working to preserve our programs and to keep our budget in check. This kind of successful commitment to the community is not born out of personal ambition, but out of a deep sense of what is right for our town.

First, I believe that the Board’s decision this year to proceed with the International Baccalaureate program is the single most positive action any board has taken for improving the district in the last 10 years. Without the strong support and advocacy of Gregg and Walter this may not have come to pass. The IB will strengthen our curriculum, improve staff training and give our students a fair chance at thorough preparation to enter the  global world upon graduation.

Second, as we enter new contract negotiations, we are going to need people who understand reasonable fiscal management. I know that both Gregg and Walter will have the best interests of all our tax payers in mind. We want to do everything possible to preserve our programs for our students and having strong voices at the negotiating table is the best way to achieve this. With the 2 % tax cap in place, we need  to bring our staff into a cooperative understanding that reform on benefits is a key to saving our enrichment and after school programs. Schiavoni and Wilcoxen know this, and they will work hard to get it done.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, I feel very strongly that Schiavoni and Wilcoxen have a strong commitment to a transparent process of governance. There was a time in this town when backroom deals and patronage were commonplace. Over the past six years these things have become a thing of the past. We need to shine daylight on everything our Board does and it needs to be wide open to public scrutiny. I know that Walter and Gregg are firmly rooted in the values of process and openness. Not only does this approach protect the education of our kids, it also protects the taxpayer from wasted dollars on boondoggle spending and inefficiencies in administration.

So I urge all parents, alumni, seniors and citizens at large to reelect Schiavoni and Wilcoxen on Tuesday May 15th. Let’s keep these great board members in place to keep our schools moving in a continued positive direction.


David Diskin

Sag Harbor

A Responsible Budget

Dear Editor,

Many thanks are in order from Noyac. Thank you to those who participated in the Great East End Clean Up on Saturday, April 21: John Arendt, Ralph DiSpigna, Vince Starace, Chuck Neuman, Elfie Winkle, Randy Ackerman, Gary Ackerman, Julie Totero, Joe Fee, Tom Jones, Evie Jones, Aidan Crowley, Robert Smith, Janet Grossman, and Elena Loreto. Noyac  Road from Whalebone Landing to Cromer’s Market  looks cleaner because of the efforts of these folks.

At our April 24 meeting, Dr. John Gratto, Superintendent of Sag Harbor Schools explained the 2012-2013 Proposed Budget: $34,182,256, up 2.88% in spending from last year’s $33,226,084.

The spending increase of 2.88% results in an increase of 1.94% in the Real Property Tax levy. The Budget includes appropriating $500,000 from the Fund Balance.

Thank you, Dr. Gratto, Business Manager Janet Verneuille, Board of Education, and the administrators for your diligence in keeping the budget under the 2% cap.

The Noyac Civic Council urges all voters to make informed decisions by perusing the budget and bus referendum on the website  If you have additional concerns, Dr. Gratto will answer your questions at (631) 725-5300 ext. 411.

Elena Loreto,

President, Noyac Civic Council

Opposes Ferry

Dear Bryan

I am against the proposed Sag Harbor — Greenport  ferry because I am concerned about the environmental impact on air and water. Sag Harbor is no place for a “transportation center,” which should be kept outside the village preferably in North Haven as it is.

The character and beauty of Sag Harbor are important to me and I don’t believe the village can handle  the additional traffic congestion on Bay Street, Route 114 (Hampton Road), Main Street and on the wharf.

In the near future, we will  have  cars from the condominium project adding to Hampton Road traffic problems.


Linda Lilienfeld

Sag Harbor

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