Categorized | Letters To The Editor

Letters to the Editor (5/16/13)

Posted on 16 May 2013

Around and Around We Go


Dear Editor,

In the April 25 issue of The Sag Harbor Express, a man asked about the “gas price discrepancy” and if “someone can explain.”

I too asked that same question in 2008 to Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. A letter of explanation was sent to me. At the end of this letter, I was urged “to write to the Attorney General” Andrew M. Cuomo. I did so.

What followed was another letter from that office with another explanation. That was followed by another letter thanking me for “a copy of the response.”

While getting gas at a local station, I asked the attendant why is the price of gas still higher than elsewhere given the fact that paragraph four of the letter dated to me, of December 10, 2008 “outlawed the practice of zoning pricing?”

His answer to me says it all—“no one is enforcing the law!”


Yolanda Field

Sag Harbor


Vote “Yes” for Budget and School Board


Dear Bryan,

This year’s members of the Sag Harbor School Board of Education should be commended for their work serving our community.

This board has worked to foster excellence in education and advocated for meaningful improvements to the school’s curriculum, including supporting a thoughtful implementation of the IB program and actively seeking to improve and connect various curriculums across the schools — most recently sponsoring workshops focusing on language and math instruction.

This board reaches out to and is responsive to a broad constituency, including parents, teachers, administrators and experts in the field.

This board has actively sought to combine services with other East End schools in order to improve efficiency and create significant cost savings.

This board has created a budget that preserves programming, teachers and staff, and that comes in under the New York state-mandated 2% tax-cap.

This board has partnered with, and fostered an extended relationship with, our talented interim superintendent, Dr. Carl Bonuso, recognizing how fortunate we are as a community to learn and grow from his substantial expertise, especially as the school adopts the new state-mandated APPR teacher evaluation program, regarding which he has extensive knowledge and skill, as well as his capable and caring guidance for students, families, teachers and administrators.

I urge you to go to the polls on Tuesday, May 22, vote YES on the budget, and especially to re-elect Chris Tice and Susan Kinsella to the school board in recognition of their dedication and hard-work, skill and professionalism, and their willingness to speak up and address meaningful issues. They have striven to adopt best practices, to be responsive to community concerns and responsible in their conduct and communication. They are committed to the Sag Harbor community and schools and deserve your vote.


Helen Atkinson-Barnes

Sag Harbor


Challenges Ahead


Dear Bryan,

Tuesday, May 21, is election day for the Sag Harbor School Board of Education. It is an important one.

Our board is facing a number of very challenging issues. Choosing a capable new Superintendent, negotiating new teacher contracts and continuing to find ways to keep the budget under the state mandated tax cap are just a few examples of big decisions up ahead.

It is imperative that the board work efficiently and wisely with respect for one another while following best practices. The events of the last nine months convince me that in order to change the current dynamic for the better, our board needs new, different and cooperative voices on their team.

Each candidate presented themselves well at Meet The Candidates Night last week and we are fortunate to have such capable people stepping up to serve the district.

I am most impressed by Dan Hartnett and David Diskin and I write to encourage the public to vote for them. I know these men to be wise, respectful, intelligent and extremely well versed in the issues facing our school district. They will bring their many strengths to the board and help chart a sensible and fiscally responsible course. Most importantly, they will encourage a positive tone and a much needed new perspective to our board at this critical time.


John Battle

Sag Harbor


Determining the Future


Dear Bryan,

As we are now a week away from an important school board election and budget vote, I felt compelled to share some thoughts about our options with your readers. With four seats out of seven being decided on, this is a very important election to determine the future of our school district. As you know, I have been active in district issues for close to 10 years and have commented in the past on the progress we have made, along with bringing to light a number of our challenges still to be faced. I feel I have a reasonable perspective and enough experience to offer balanced insight and actionable recommendations.

As I mentioned last year, in 2004/2005 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 taxpayer 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 were realized. There is greater accountability between the Board of Education and the district, our budgeting process has streamlined and open for all to see and most importantly, our students have achieved at consistently higher levels every year. The board successfully recruited a new superintendent and business official who have turned out to be so impressive that our district has been able to preserve programs and reduce spending increases in an era when other districts had to radically cut staff and programs due to the economy and employee contract obligations. This success was not achieved in a vacuum! Hard work, difficult decision making and leadership were required to move the bar.

So what’s happening this year? Has executive level progress stalled? Is there now a vacuum of leadership guiding the district? Unfortunately I think so! Thankfully our administrators and teachers have continued to step up and propel our students further.

With four seats up for grabs, this election gives us an opportunity to recharge the board. The first step is to grab back two board members who helped us achieve the success of the past in Sue Kinsella and Dan Hartnett. They have both already successfully navigated complex budgeting, executive level recruiting, contract negotiations and detailed long range planning. This should be an easy pull of the lever for all voters.

The next step is to add new energy and perspective. David Diskin is a great choice. I have known David for as long as I have been involved in district issues and he is intelligent, level headed and a great communicator. I have experienced first hand his dedication to our school and his desire to insure that we continue to move forward with great offerings for our students while maintaining a level of responsibility to the taxpayers that fund the great work at the school. David’s experience and leadership will truly benefit the school board and our community.

As to how to use your 4th vote…choose wisely.


Steve Clarke

Sag Harbor


Set a Tone for Professionalism


Dear Bryan,

After many years working on school board elections and helping to shape public opinion and policy around school districts issues, I have decided to run for the Sag Harbor Board of Education for the following reasons.

I believe in excellent public education. It benefits not only the local community, but  the nation as a whole and is an obligation we owe our country.

I will bring over 25 years of business experience to see that the needs of providing a world class education to our students are balanced with a reasonable cost that all taxpayers can afford.

This district faces upcoming challenges that must be dealt with swiftly; the hiring of a permanent superintendent, settling outstanding contract negotiations and seeing that budgets are prepared that both preserve our programs while finding efficiencies to save costs.

My wife Faith and I have lived in Sag Harbor for fourteen years , we have two daughters grades six and ten. We moved to Sag Harbor not only for the beauty and unique nature of this community, but because we found a place that shared our values. Few places remain in America where you can truly know your neighbors and know their kids. This town takes great  pride in doing what is best for the children. I will help to nurture Sag Harbor’s values and traditions by adding a fresh and dynamic perspective to the Board of Education.

I believe the board must set a tone for professionalism and process that will inspire and motivate our administrators, educators and other staff. With this mind set, we can take Sag Harbor from a good school district, to a truly great one.

I am a listener, a bridge builder and am dedicated to an open process that will engage the community in a positive way.


David Diskin

Sag Harbor


Bringing Experience


Dear Editor,

I am a candidate for the Sag Harbor Board of Education seeking to be reelected to the board.

I joined the board in 2010, hoping to foster a positive mindset in the community and bring the entire community into the education process. In addition, I hoped to initiate benchmarking procedures with other school districts, leading to analysis that would result in best practice policies. I also participated in the team effort with the board to prepare our students to be life-long learners, realizing we are in the midst of an information revolution. With bilingual skills a necessity in the future work force, more focus must be placed on language arts, Spanish and computer science. I also wanted to promote transparency in the board’s relationship with the district educational process and the entire community. From my first days on the board I have been a proponent of strong adherence by the board to strict governance policies, and separating the board’s responsibilities and authority from the operational responsibilities of the district.

Over the last three years I have participated in all areas of activity as a board member. The next three years bring many challenges critical to the long range success of the school district and to our students.

The three most important are:

1. We are in the process of implementing the International Baccalaureate program. IB is a very ambitious educational initiative undertaken by our school system. If successful, the rewards to our educational system will be immeasurable. It needs the constant and continued support of all concerned parties every step of the way. In addition, its success and progress must be objectively evaluated to ensure its implementation is both effective and efficient.

2. The Educational Facilities Planning Committee will be releasing a proposed bond for approval by the board in the next several months. As a member of that committee, I worked to ensure that the bond will address essential safety and health issues related to our facilities, the repairs necessary to maintain our buildings and rectify substandard conditions. The last two bonds proposed by the board failed to receive community support, the last defeated in 2009

3. The contract with the teachers’ union is due in June of 2014. We cannot afford to go through the same process that took place during the last contract negotiation. The acrimony, lack of communication and confidentiality, and failure to acknowledge common interest were factors devastating to the negotiating process and a great disservice to our students, school, and community. It is the obligation of the board to find common ground where possible and also to understand that to protect the quality of our educational program, teachers and taxpayers, the contract needs to be fiscally sustainable over time. The board should begin negotiations with TASH as soon as possible. Communication is necessary from the outset, confidentiality is an integral part of success, and common interest and comparative analysis are closing tools that should be critical to reaching a consensus.

If I am reelected to the board I know I can bring the experience necessary to play a fair and respected role in the process of solving these problems. I am asking for your support. Please vote on Tuesday, May 21.


Ed Drohan

Sag Harbor


Building Excellent Program


Dear Mr. Boyhan and Ms. Menu:

It is an honor to be again considered by the Sag Harbor community for a position on the Board of Education. As the parent of children who have benefited from district schools and programs (my youngest son is currently a 9th grade student in Pierson High School), I am grateful to this community for its commitment to build an excellent educational program and the generosity in funding it.

However, I am also concerned about our future.

Complex challenges confront us: recruiting and supervising a superintendent to serve as the community’s educational leader and manager of district staff, programs and facilities; implementing new standards and curricula tied into high stakes testing and evaluation of staff; on-going maintenance and capital repairs of our facilities; changing demographics; limited and varying state aid; ever increasing unfunded mandates; etc.

We face these issues in the shadow of a 2 percent cap on the tax levy that limits revenue generation.

In Sag Harbor, it is time to re-build processes that develop short term/long term goals that set the priorities which address these issues in an efficient and cost-effective fashion.  Data-based goals and on-going progress reporting must be communicated by the BOE to the public in full transparency.

The community consensus required to support our schools in financially challenging times will rest on the public’s trust that the BOE is providing clear and transparent leadership.

I am honored to offer my skills: 35 years of experience as teacher, counselor and administrator in educational settings; and, past BOE member in this important work. I am strongly committed to fiscally smart public education as our best chance for passing on to the next generation the values that we hold so deeply in this country and the skills they will need to keep our nation strong and bright.

Please support the budget and the propositions, and help me with your vote on May 21.


Daniel Hartnett, LCSW

Sag Harbor


Wants to Address Challenges


Dear Editor:

Unique skills and temperament to meet upcoming challenges…

My sister, a lifelong educator and author, asked me why I wanted to serve on the school board. I told her I believe in my heart of hearts that teaching – education is the most important segment of our world and our country. It helps shape our thoughts as adults and provides the base and framework, along with family and environment, for our children to grow, to learn, to fulfill their natural individual talents and skills.

I conveyed to her that this upcoming term for a new board member will be loaded with a unique convergence of challenges. Our district must actively develop and implement the new state teacher and administration state standards evaluation program. We need to introduce a new and radically different state/federally mandated Core Curriculum. It is also critical as well that we implement, develop, evaluate and adjust our new IB program introduced this last year for the first time.

I recognize the importance of making this happen, but am committed to playing a leadership role in achieving results, not just talking about it in the board room.

My sister has always recognized and appreciated my passion for the law, and I promised her that were I to be elected I would utilize my 37 years of legal expertise to work hardest to create a setting and environment for the important 2014 teacher collective bargaining agreement. It is urgent that teachers and BOE work together to solve their common goals of satisfying both teacher and student needs given the realistic expenses and revenues of the district.

It is my hope that I can convey to those who will be voting on May 21st my appreciation for sound analysis based on valid experiences. As a Jesuit educated mind (12 years) I have come to appreciate all points of view and find ways (many times in wholly new and different approaches from the past and the mainstream) to understand, to respect all, and harmonize, working at making order from chaos. This is an important trait I hope to bring to the school board if my candidacy is successful.

I want to do the work and to make a difference here in our little Sag Harbor world as best as I can, hoping that I will be able to help our students and children to learn and grow in their individual ways, with our full community engagement and participation, so that their school lives now, will equip them well for their very different world and often different careers of tomorrow.

Thomas Ré

Sag Harbor


Thinking of the School


Dear Bryan,

I would like to share some thoughts regarding the school budget, the tax increase and the failings of the school board the last two years to accomplish anything important relating to improved educational opportunities for our students. They have hired a full time athletic director, continued to subsidize the cafeteria and YARD, failed to search for a forward thinking superintendent and provided medical gap insurance to families to cover co-pays, all at the tax payer’s expense. But on the positive side, well they have…you fill in the blank. And that is what I would like to write about, the blank.

After this election I urge the new school board to set goals that will lay the groundwork to achieve educational excellence. What can they do now so in several years they can look back and say, this is what we did and it is good. My example is what the board members achieved when I was on the BOE, at least the first four years. I must stress, tt was not me, it was us! We hired a new superintendent and business official that brought fiscal stability to the district resulting in savings the current administration and BOE are taking advantage of; we instituted Pre-K; we hired a wonderful PPS director, we repaired and updated the facility-even without a bond passing (thanks Monty), and we instituted International Baccalaureate (thanks Jeff). Wow, I call that success. I am proud of these accomplishments as my fellow BOE members should be also. We were not of the same mind in all we discussed and oversaw, but we most certainly made accommodation with each other in order to accomplish our goals, the district goals. We also respected each other, mostly.

I urge the newly elected BOE to take a broad look at where they want the district to be in five years, then work backwards and say, if we want to accomplish our five year goals where do we have to be in three years, then where do we have to be in one year. This is a well used goal strategy.

I offer several suggestions for improved educational outcomes: 1) Full time district supported Pre-k for all available students, 2) Bring IB to the middle school, 3) Move fifth grade to the middle school to free up space in the elementary school, and finally 4), create a culture of excellence where we dedicate our district to the idea that every student who graduates will have excelled in something.

I sincerely hope David Diskin is elected to the BOE. His calming manner and respectful treatment of everyone is something to be marveled at. And if he is elected I’m sure the other BOE members will welcome his intelligence and dedication to educational excellence.

Respect, Integrity, Intelligence, Excellence, I wish the new board of education the best of luck.

Walter Wilcoxen

Sag Harbor


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