Sag Harbor School District Business Manager Len Bernard officially announced his resignation from the position at Monday’s board of education meeting. In early December, Bernard revealed he was moving on to a position in East Hampton Town. At the East Hampton Town municipal organizational meeting held on Monday, January 4, Bernard was named the budget officer for the town and will now serve under new supervisor Bill Wilkinson. Bernard previously held the same title with the town when current Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman was supervisor of East Hampton.
At this week’s school board meeting, members unanimously accepted Bernard’s resignation and he thanked them for their support through his years in the district. In the next few months, Bernard is expected to occasionally work as a consultant to the district while the board crafts the 2010-2011 budget and finds a replacement business manager. Bernard will be paid on a per diem basis at his current hourly salary rate of $51.75. The board will retain Bernard’s services through March 31, 2010.
After the board opened the meeting up to public comment, the conversation turned to the recently failed $6.7 million bond for facility repairs at the elementary school and Pierson Middle/High School. Sag Harbor residents voted down the bond at the polls on Tuesday, December 8. At Monday’s meeting, Chris Tice, former Parent Teacher Association president, said the vote was “a failure of communication.”
“The issue was about effective communication,” noted Tice, who added the board had done a good job at explaining the merits of the bond at previous forums but would have benefited from more community outreach and advertising of the vote. “The turnout for the vote was low. I think the people who showed up were the people who felt strongly ‘no.’”
Parent Richard Kudlak believed parents felt they were forced to accept the parking project which was part of the bond vote. In his conversations with district parents, Kudlak said they supported the various facilities projects, but would liked to have seen the parking project as a separate line item on the ballot.
“I don’t think everyone understood we [the district] were retiring an old bond,” added Kudlak on the 1997 school bond expiring this year, which would have lowered any tax increases for payments on a new bond.
Fellow district parent Helen Atkinson-Barnes speculated that voters felt they were choosing between academic programming or fixing the buildings. Atkinson-Barnes added that though this perception may have been false, she believed the school should show how supporting the bond is also part of the district’s academic mission.
“I think we didn’t do a good job getting the word out about the financial benefits of funding things that way [with the bond],” remarked board member Ed Haye. He added the school’s Long Range Financial Planning Committee will conduct further accounting analysis to help explain this point to the general public. The district is expected to hold another bond vote in the spring.
The school’s financial planning committee is comprised of local professionals in financial fields. Pierson guidance counselor Eileen Kochanasz requested on Monday that a member from the teacher’s association, the PTA and the PTSA be admitted onto the committee.
Parent Janice Arbia pointed out on the agenda that middle school guidance counselor Carl Brandl’s probationary period was extended from January 9, 2010, through January 8, 2011. She asked if Brandl could be awarded tenure although he isn’t a teacher but a counselor. If tenure is possible, Arbia asked why Brandl wasn’t granted long term status after dozens of parents and community members spoke in support of his work at previous board meetings. School superintendent Dr. John Gratto said counselors are eligible for tenured positions but refused to elaborate on the board’s reasoning for extending Brandl’s probationary period.
On Monday, January 4, the board accepted the audit of the 2008-2009 school year and a corrective action plan based on the numerous recommendations made by independent auditors. Board member Ed Haye noted there have been a few drafts of the corrective action plan and called it a “living document” which can be amended in the future. The board mentioned the full corrective action report will be reviewed at an upcoming board meeting.
A Taste of Italy
Near the end of the meeting, parent Jennifer Houser Hoglund announced an upcoming dinner to benefit a school trip to Italy in February. The fundraising dinner, dubbed “A Taste of Italy,” will feature Italian food donated by 11 local eateries including Il Capuccino, the Art of Eating caterers and Tutto Il Giorno. The event will be held on Sunday, January 31, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Pierson High School Cafeteria. In addition to the Mediterranean fare, attendees will be serenaded by Pierson students Elizabeth Oldak and Luis J. Murillo. Admission is $25 for adults and $12 for children. Tickets are available for purchase at the Pierson High School front desk. For more information call Peter Solow at 725-5772 or Marianne Terrigno at 725-0564.