By Tessa Raebeck
In efforts to reduce cuts to teacher positions, school programs and supplies brought on by tight budgets, the Sag Harbor Board of Education (BOE) is considering hosting a forum for East End school districts to discuss the possibility of sharing a superintendent and other services in the future.
In 2011, the New York State Legislature established a two percent real property tax cap, limiting the annual increase of property taxes levied by school districts (as well as local municipalities) to two percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.
A provision of the legislation permits a handful of school districts with enrollments of 1,000 students or less to share a superintendent.
In November, the Greenport and Southold School Districts were the first in the state to announce plans to do so. Effective July 2014, the districts will equally split the salary of current Southold Superintendent David Gamberg, who will work for both districts and report to both school boards.
At Monday’s meeting, school board member Daniel Hartnett proposed examining the possibility of a similar merger in Sag Harbor.
“The sentiment I sense in the community,” said Hartnett, “is a great desire to value what is really treasured and honored here, which is our educational program, our sports program.”
“Looking three to five years out,” he continued, “and looking at numbers crunching and seeing a lot of that is in peril if the tax cap remains — and I think we need to assume the tax cap is going to remain — I think it is incumbent on us to examine all possibilities.”
Hartnett suggested spearheading a summit of neighboring school boards and administrators, as well as local elected officials.
BOE Member Susan Kinsella said that offering a part-time job wouldn’t provide the same opportunity for the superintendent to be an integral part of the community, which is a priority of the board in its current search for a permanent superintendent.
Hartnett said it is far too late to impact the current search; he simply wants to start a dialogue.
“This is a long-term project,” he said, “but it comes from a place where we all value what happens in the classroom with our kids and the values we have of our curriculum, of our approach, of our style of teaching, of our class size — but all of that is in jeopardy in the fairly near future.”
“Three years down the road, I’d hate to see us under duress,” agreed BOE member David Diskin. “I’d much rather see that [conversation] now at a point where we can vet out these things.”
In other school news, school board members Diskin, Mary Anne Miller and BOE vice president Chris Tice agreed to meet with director of technology Scott Fisher to take concrete steps to set up a podcast (audio recording) of board meetings to be broadcasted on the district website.
Also at Monday’s meeting, district architect Larry Salvesen presented a projected schedule for the implementation of the capital projects approved by the bond vote November 13.
The timeline includes a startup phase, the preparation of construction documents to submit to state agencies, the subsequent review of those documents, the bidding and awarding of contracts and the actual construction.
The final closeout is projected for October 2016 according to the timeline, which Salvesen said represents a conservative estimate. Construction projects are scheduled so as not to interfere with school instruction.
Looking for feedback from the community, the district is hosting a public meeting to discuss the next steps for bond implementation and the reforming of the Educational Facilities Planning Committee Thursday, December 5 at 6 p.m. in the Pierson Middle/High School Library.