In an effort to regain school days missed due to Hurricane Sandy, the Sag Harbor Board of Education (BOE) announced on Monday night that mid-winter recess would be cut short by two days.
At its December 3 meeting, the board voted to turn Thursday, February 21 and Friday, February 22, into regular days of instruction. The decision came a couple of weeks after the board announced that April 1, May 24 and May 28 would also become school days. Monday, April 1 was originally scheduled to be part of spring break, while May 24 and May 28 were intended to be snow days.
While members of the BOE expressed frustration at having to cut vacation time, they pointed out that schools are required by New York State mandate to hold 180 days of class. The district had been forced to close five days in a row due to the hurricane and its aftermath, and they were required to make up this lost time.
“Whatever the board decides, we know that there’s going to be a part of the community that’s going to be ticked,” acknowledged Chris Tice, school board vice president. “No matter what decision we make, we’re going to upset someone’s plans.”
According to Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent, the district will try to “honor” commitments that families have already made for school recesses. Still, students who know they will miss a day of school are encouraged to speak to teachers so they can make up the work during and after the break.
“We’re going to move ahead with instruction, but assignments and new material will be conveyed to the students who are away. And they will be expected to catch up during that break, and when they return…[But] we are asking staff to be sensitive to that,” he said.
In the meantime, the BOE is also struggling to find additional snow days in the calendar, should the district need to cancel school due to inclement weather or another emergency this winter. While Dr. Bonuso recommended using February 18, 19 and 20 as potential snow days, some members of the BOE were in favor of using part of spring break for that purpose.
The board decided to hold this discussion for a later time, and noted that future decisions about school closings would be posted on the school website.
In other news, six forums were held last week for members of the community to meet with representatives from School Leadership. The firm has been hired to conduct the search for a new district superintendent and at the meetings, School Leadership asked participants about the qualities they desire in a superintendent and the challenges he or she would face, as well as why they thought a superintendent would be drawn to the district.
While the turnout appeared somewhat low at some of the forums, Theresa Samot, school board president, reported at Monday’s BOE meeting that a total of 159 people (including staff members) met with School Leadership representatives over the course of two days. When the hiring firm conducted similar forums in 2008, 164 people had attended to offer input.
Samot added that as of December 30, 85 surveys on the same subject were submitted online, and the BOE expected to receive even more.
Board member Mary Anne Miller also brought up the issue of further engaging the community in the search. In 2008, the BOE was criticized by some residents who believed they should have had greater input into the final selection of Dr. John Gratto, who was first introduced to the public only after he had been hired as the district’s new superintendent.
“What are we going to do to try to avoid what happened the last time when the community felt as though they were not included and were very insulted and upset when they did not get to meet the finalists, and we’ve now agreed to do the same exact process again?” Miller asked.
Samot said these concerns and others would be addressed during the board’s next meeting with School Leadership on December 12, which will not be open to the public.
At the same meeting, former Pierson principal and Community Coalition member Bob Schneider also gave a presentation on how to create a comprehensive program to prevent substance use and abuse in schools. He urged the district to set aside funds — ideally, approximately $25,000 — to start such a program.
Schneider mentioned that Dr. John Oppenheimer had volunteered to serve as the coalition’s co-leader, provided the school designate a co-leader to develop an in-school program.
The next Community Coalition meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on January 8.
There will also be a special meeting hosted by the coalition on January 24 at 7 pm. During this meeting, Samot said, “a wealth of information and data” about drugs and alcohol will be presented to the board and members of the community.