By Tessa Raebeck
At what many members of the Sag Harbor School Board call their favorite meeting of the year, the district recognized the contributions of seven retirees and granted tenure to five teachers Monday.
The retirees, interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso joked, have been in the district for some 20 to 200 years each.
“I’m speaking as a colleague of theirs, somebody who started in the school when all of them had already established careers,” Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone, who started as a teacher at the school, said of his teachers before a crowd of friends and family gathered in the Pierson library.
“From the minute I walked into the building, I could always look to these four ladies for guidance and support and for setting the benchmark of professionalism,” he added.
Art teacher Laurie Devito, Mr. Malone said, has worked for 31 years to “ensure that art has been an integral part of our school and the educational experience for all the boys and girls. When you enter our school, art is truly alive.”
Mr. Malone spoke of the commitment shown by third grade elementary school teacher Bethany Deyermond, who has been in the district for 29 years, to promoting the growth and success of her students.
“All the boys and girls who have had the good fortune to work with her have truly benefited from that experience,” he added.
Those who have been “lucky enough” to work with Nancy Stevens-Smith, the elementary school’s Response to Intervention (RTI) specialist, during her 33 years at the school have learned much under her direction, Mr. Malone said.
“Each year, Nancy guided her students, our school and our entire community to become more aware of the tremendous contributions of African-Americans throughout history and for that we are grateful,” Mr. Malone said.
School board member Sandi Kruel thanked all the retirees, saying she is privileged and honored they have all worked with at least one of her three sons.
When asked what he was grateful for on a school assignment, “my son was grateful for Martin Luther King because if it wasn’t for him, he wouldn’t have been able to have Ms. Stevens as a teacher,” Ms. Kruel added.
Retiree Nancy Remkus has served the district for 31 years, filling multiple roles as a classroom teacher, special education teacher and music teacher.
“The institution that we all call Morning Program started with Nancy’s encouragement and triumphed due to her talents and care,” Mr. Malone said. “Our school is going to continue starting each day with a song and we thank Nancy for that.”
Spanish teacher Rafaela Soto Messinger is also retiring from the elementary school, although she was not in attendance Monday.
Director of Pupil Personnel Services Barbara Bekermus honored longtime staff member Laurie Duran, senior clerk typist for the district.
“When I was going to take this job,” Ms. Bekermus said of her position. “I thought, well, at least I have Laurie to teach me this job and show me the ropes.”
“The directors came, they went, and the only constant has always been Laurie—and every director has relied on you to steer the ship and show them the way. I’m grateful that I had my first year with Laurie, because I could not have done it without you,” she added.
A special education teacher for 33 years, Peggy Mott has “worked with some of our most challenging students, not only academically, but emotionally,” Ms. Bekermus said, adding that Ms. Mott advocates for her students and many of them told Ms. Bekermus they never would have taken challenging courses, graduated and mapped out careers without the guidance of Ms. Mott.
Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols celebrated his friend and longtime colleague Douglas Doerr, a science teacher.
“The pride with which he approaches his position here at Pierson is the same pride and commitment that he shows with regard to his own kids and as a single father, I’ve watched his kids grow up and turn into wonderful, wonderful people,” Mr. Nichols said.
Also at Monday’s meeting, five teachers were nominated and unanimously approved for tenure. Teachers can be nominated for tenure after they’ve served three years in the district.
“The board treats—all of us treat—tenure very, very seriously,” Dr. Bonuso said. “It’s not something that we automatically dole out. We know how important the teaching act is.”
For grades seven through 12, Anthony Chase Mallia was awarded tenure for mathematics, Richard Schumacher for chemistry and Kelly Shaffer for French. Elizabeth Marchisella earned tenure for Visual Arts and school counselor Adam Mingione was granted tenure in his field.
“This is one of the many fun things we get to do as a board and we have many very talented staff throughout our buildings,” said Chris Tice, school board vice president.
“To me,” said Dr. Bonuso, “I think teaching is the most noble of all professions, so to have the ability to say thank you to people who have devoted their life to that is an honor.”