Over her 20 year tenure at the Sag Harbor Elementary School, principal Joan Frisicano has amassed a collection of kid-friendly items in her first floor office. Glass dishes filled with lollipops and candy lay atop her conference table. Her floor to ceiling bookcases are lined with children’s books and student artwork decorates her walls.
Last fall, after Frisicano announced she would retire in January 2009, students taped color-paper renderings of Frisicano’s favorite insect, the lady bug, on her office windows. Even though Frisicano rescinded her decision in November, almost one week after her announcement, the lady bugs have stayed up.
But come September, the lady bugs along with the rest of Frisicano’s office belongings will be packed up as she will retire before the new school year begins.
“When I resigned back in the fall, it was a hasty decision. The reaction that I got from the community and teachers had a negative appearance and that wasn’t my intent. I didn’t want [my leaving] to be disruptive to the school,” said Frisicano of her first retirement announcement.
Frisicano added that she also decided to stay with the school through an uncertain budget year. With the possibility of program cuts if the school budget didn’t pass, Frisicano said she wanted to stay at the helm of the school and lend her experience if cuts had to be made.
Frisicano first came to the school in 1989. Under her leadership Sag Harbor Elementary flourished into a Blue Ribbon school, recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its excellence.
“The school is a place where children are valued and they are eager to learn. We have a staff that is willing and equipped to provide outstanding instruction,” opined Frisicano. She added that offerings like “Morning Program” help create the feeling of a “school family,” a concept Frisicano has championed during her tenure.
“With Joan it is all about the kids,” said assistant principal Matt Malone.
Although retiring from her role as a Sag Harbor school administrator, Frisicano said she will likely pursue another position or different career.
“I started looking at where I am age-wise and I think I have one more step to go in my career, but I haven’t put my finger on it yet. All my thoughts right now are about leaving everything at the school in a good place,” Frisicano remarked. “I know I am not moving away. I can’t imagine any place better to live.”
The position of Bridgehampton School Superintendent will be up for grabs in the next year when current superintendent Dr. Dianne Youngblood retires, but Frisicano said she doesn’t have any intention of pursuing this post at the moment.
“I haven’t applied for that job. I am very happy with what I am doing here. I want to work through the summer and make sure that it is a smooth opening for next year,” remarked Frisicano.
As of yet, Frisicano hasn’t handed in her official letter of resignation to the board of education. Once the letter is submitted, the school will begin the search for a new candidate, said superintendent Dr. John Gratto. Dr. Gratto added, though, that the school is already eying a Sag Harbor administrator to fill Frisicano’s shoes.
“Typically, we would do a search to find the best candidate, but I believe that we already have the best candidate – Matt Malone. He understands the culture of the community,” said Dr. Gratto. “Joan has been thinking about retirement for over a year now and she has done an excellent job of grooming [him] for that position.”
Malone has been a member of the Sag Harbor School community for almost 14 years. For roughly four years, he has worked as assistant principal.
Of his candidacy for the position, Malone said “I love being a part of the Sag Harbor district. It has been an absolute pleasure working here. Working under Joan, I gained the knowledge and experience to be a solid candidate.”
Though Frisicano didn’t name Malone as a potential contender for the job, she did say the incoming principal should “be themselves.”
“I don’t believe in people trying to replicate somebody else. They should be their own thinkers,” remarked Frisicano.
Frisicano added she is excited to embark on the next phase of her career, but her exit from the school is bittersweet.
“A lot of who I am and who I identify myself as is [wrapped up in] this school,” lamented Frisicano. “I think September will come and I will probably be in shock.”