Tag Archive | "education"

Sag Harbor School District Hires New School Business Administrator

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Jennifer Buscemi will be the new School Business Administrator for Sag Harbor.

Jennifer Buscemi is the new School Business Administrator for Sag Harbor.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Sag Harbor School District on Monday, July 28, appointed a new school business administrator to fill the position left open by John O’Keefe’s departure earlier this month.

The new administrator, Jennifer Buscemi, will start work on Monday, August 4, and serve a three-year probationary term ending August 3, 2017.

“I am very excited to get started in my new role,” Ms. Buscemi said in an email Wednesday, July 30.

Ms. Buscemi, who lives in Brentwood, is leaving her post as executive director for finance and operations at the West Babylon School District. She has held that position since November 1, 2011.

“I feel that my background and work experience will enable me to support the educational and fiscal goals of the superintendent and the board of education,” she continued. “I will work hard to maintain all the wonderful programs the district currently offers, while also working to expand educational opportunities for all students. In the coming weeks, I look forward to meeting and working in partnership with my new colleagues and all the members of the Sag Harbor community.”

Mr. O’Keefe started as business administrator in 2012 and left the district on July 16 for a position as assistant superintendent for business and operations in the West Hempstead School District.

At Monday’s board meeting, school board member David Diskin congratulated the superintendent and those involved in hiring Ms. Buscemi.

“That’s a very difficult thing to walk into and to do it so quickly and successfully—great,” Mr. Diskin said to Ms. Graves, who started in the district this month.

“This was someone with exceptional skills,” Chris Tice, vice president of the school board, said of Ms. Buscemi, adding that she “comes with a wealth of fabulous experience.”

“We’re very fortunate,” agreed board president Theresa Samot.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Ms. Graves outlined her entry plan, saying her focus, especially in the beginning months, would be on listening to and learning from all the various stakeholders in the community.

In her decision making, Ms. Graves said she simply asks herself, “What is best for students, fair for adults and what the community can sustain?”

Ms. Graves outlined a timeline starting in July 2014 that will begin collecting “evidence and documentation of the district’s strengths, challenges and needs.”

She said the remainder of the summer would be spent conducting interviews, reviewing documents and implementing surveys to learn more about her new district.

Ms. Graves also presented a timeline of interviews she hopes to conduct with a number of groups and individuals across the community, ranging from bus drivers and student leaders to the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce and local real estate agents.

During October, with the help of the school board, she will analyze that data and prepare a report to reflect the findings, then share that report and solicit feedback from administrators, faculty and staff, and school committees.

By mid-November, Ms. Graves said she will have created a work action plan for the year with “vision, goals, objectives and measurement indicators,” and present a draft of that plan to the district’s stakeholders.

The next meeting of the board of education will be held Monday, August 18, in the Pierson library.

In Wake of Resignation, Sag Harbor School Board Will Appoint New Member

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A student navigates the halls of Pierson High School. Photo by Michael Heller.

A student navigates the halls of Pierson High School. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Following the resignation of board member Daniel Hartnett two weeks ago because he is moving out of the district, the Sag Harbor Board of Education decided on Monday, July 28, that it would interview candidates for the newly vacant seat on the board.

The board discussed three options at Monday’s business meeting: Having a full interim election to allow the community to vote for the candidate; not filling the empty seat, which would allow the New York State Education Commissioner Roger King to fill the seat for the board if he so chooses; and appointing a candidate of its own choosing who would serve until May 18, 2015.

Citing similar situations in the past, board president Theresa Samot recommended the board interview potential candidates and choose a new member.

Ms. Samot said the first option of holding an interim election is “a costly one,” adding, “I don’t think we want to leave it open to the commissioner to appoint someone who may not be familiar with the workings of the board.”

The board’s vice president, Chris Tice, said most districts on Long Island that are currently facing “this challenge or opportunity” seem to opt for the board appointing a new member. She added that was the decision recently made by the East Hampton School District, which saw its president Patricia Hope resign this month.

“Unless it’s a month before an election… there’s almost no districts now that are spending the money to have elections and few districts are leaving it open,” Ms. Tice said.

Board member David Diskin said he was torn over the decision. He said although his heart always feels an election is the best choice, the financial and legal implications make him think it’s the wisest choice to fill the position as a board.

“I’ll concede to the will of the board on that one,” Mr. Diskin said.

“I’m for the appointment,” said school board member Sandi Kruel. “The election, I think, is just too costly and time-consuming. The only time I think you should leave a board position open is if there’s a very short period of time before the next election.”

The next scheduled school board election will not be held until late May.

Ms. Kruel added that this will be her seventh appointment in reaction to a resignation during her tenure as a board member, “so that’s the way it’s been done since I’ve been on the board so far.”

The board agreed unanimously to appoint its next member and expressed the hope that as many applicants as possible will come forward. Board members discussed ways to get the word out to all members of the community; even those who are outside the “school family” and do not regularly use social media.

“I would love to see a ton of applicants,” Mr. Diskin said. “I don’t want to choose between a handful of people because people didn’t know about it.”

During public input, former board member Mary Anne Miller expressed her support of a public vote.

“We should try very hard to let the public decide the board members,” said Ms. Miller, adding she believes a lot of community members would support a vote despite the cost.

She said while the annual 14-hour election in May costs upward of $7,000, the district could consider holding an election on a smaller scale.

In an email Tuesday, July 29, Ms. Miller said the district could keep the polls open less than 14 hours, use one machine, which would cost $550 to rent, as opposed to three, or consider using paper ballots to save on the machine rental altogether.

Ms. Miller said in the September vote held on behalf of the John Jermain Memorial Library, polls are open 10 hours, only two machines are rented and the vote does not include newsletters and associated postage fees. According to estimates given by former Superintendent Dr. John Gratto in 2012, a special election similar to the library vote would cost an estimated $3,841, as opposed to the $7,655 he estimated for a standard, larger vote.

Ms. Miller’s remarks were made after the decision to move forward with interviews had already been made by the board.

The deadline to submit applications to be the newest member of the Sag Harbor school board is Monday, August 11. The BOE is hopeful it will have a candidate by the next scheduled board meeting, Monday, August 18.

Click here to access the school district’s release on the position.

Sag Harbor School District Board of Education Position Now Available

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The following was released by the Sag Harbor School District on Wednesday, July 30:

The Sag Harbor Board of Education is seeking a person to fill a Board of Education seat that recently became vacant. If you wish to apply for this Board of Education position, please email a letter expressing your interest in and qualifications for the position to Mary Adamczyk, the Board of Education Clerk, at madamczyk@sagharborschools.org by Monday, August 11th.  The Board will review letters from interested applicants. Interviews for applicants will be held on August 13 or 14. The chosen candidate is expected to be appointed to fill the open position at the August 18, 2014 Board of Education meeting.

Board of Education members serve on a voluntary basis to provide governance to the school district. The school board is a corporate body that oversees and manages a public school district’s affairs, personnel, and properties. As you consider whether or not you would like to apply for this important responsibility, please first read about the characteristics of effective (and ineffective) school boards and assess your willingness and desire to be part of a highly effective Board of Education by clicking here.

Board of Education meetings are typically held from 6 to 9:30 p.m. on two Mondays each month. You will serve on several Board committees and liaisons to outside organizations that would involve additional time.

By agreeing to be appointed to this open board seat, you would fill the position until May 18, 2015.  If you wanted to fill the remainder of the open term, which ends on June 30, 2016, you would need to run for that position at the election held on May 19, 2015, along with any other candidates running.

If you have questions about the position please contact Theresa Samot, President of the Board of Education at tsamot@sagharborschools.org or Katy Graves, Superintendent of Schools at kgraves@sagharborschools.org.

Sag Harbor School Board and Administrators Start the Goals Discussion

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By Tessa Raebeck

In the first brainstorming session of Sag Harbor Board of Education members and administrators led by the district’s new superintendent, Katy Graves, the group had a preliminary discussion on July 16 of goals for the upcoming school year.

With the standard concentration on people, buildings and equipment and programs, Ms. Graves stressed communication, accountability and “the Sag Harbor experience.”

From her observations, she said the district needs to focus on the strengths of Sag Harbor schools and communicating them clearly, measuring and monitoring those strengths and where the district needs support in terms of plant, program and people “to continue Sag Harbor schools’ outstanding trajectory,” and “that every child loves to come to school every day for the love of learning, the experiences in their day and the challenges they are provided.”

At the workshop, Ms. Graves told the administrators that her background in professional development supports brainstorming to get different perspectives. She had them split into small groups, counting off by three like school children, to discuss what they feel are the most significant steps to tackle in the upcoming year. The group then placed their ideas on sticky notes, after which they went around placing stickers on the ones they agreed with.

There were 60 answers as vague as “build an exciting and exceptional experience for students” and varied as “solar wind/alternate energy” and “volleyball at the elementary school.” The group then divided the ideas by people, program and plant and narrowed them down to the most popular responses.

In terms of “people,” later start times, accountability, staff development, adding a staff member to handle communications and adding faculty to teach course offerings in business and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) were the most popular answers.

The most frequent “program” responses called for teaching students coding, implementing the International Baccalaureate (IB) program into the middle years, enriching academic opportunities in the summer, adding business, computer science and programming courses, and having all teachers trained in special education.

Solar/wind/alternative energy, comprehensive and ongoing security training, exploring the Stella Maris building, instating healthier meals and adding a functional supervised room for athletic training after school were the most popular ideas for “plant.”

While the board will not be setting finite goals for the school year for some time, the meeting helped administrators and board members connect and articulate their concerns.

“The brainstorming session was just the beginning of the goal setting process,” Theresa Samot, president of the school board, said in an email Tuesday, July 22. “We will be having much more discussion at upcoming board meetings regarding goals.”

Sag Harbor’s John Jermain Memorial Library Presents 2015 Budget Draft

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John Jermain Memorial Library Director Catherine Creedon at the library during its renovation in October 2013. Photo by Michael Heller.

John Jermain Memorial Library Director Catherine Creedon at the library during its renovation in October 2013. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

With the much-anticipated move back to its renovated and expanded home at 201 Main Street on the horizon, the board of Sag Harbor’s John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) is presenting a budget draft that aims to cover the expenses of the building without exactly knowing what they will be.

“This budget was by far the most interesting budget for the board and I to put together in the years that I’ve worked at the library,” director Cathy Creedon said Monday, July 21, “because we’re almost back into the old, fresh, new building and we don’t have a real clear sense—because we’re not there yet—of what any of our operating expenses would be.”

The total of the 2015 draft budget, proposed at a library board meeting Wednesday, July 16, is $2,399,812. It includes operating expenses and debt service but is excluding capital expenses.

The budget represents an increase of $111,367 over the 2014 total budget, which was $2,288,445.

It would result in a 5.8-percent increase in the tax collected on the library’s behalf by the Sag Harbor School District, increasing that by $128,723 to $2,348,088. Those figures include funds for the library’s operating expenditures and the $905,000 in annual debt service approved at the time of the library’s 2009 renovation referendum.

Income designated for operating expenses (exclusive of funds raised through the capital campaign to improve the building) that the library generates itself through fundraisers, fines and other means is projected at $51,724 for 2015.

Ms. Creedon said the budget increase is due to moving into a bigger and better building, a move that has been stalled several times but should occur over the winter.

“At a minimum, we expect to see increases in electricity,” the director said. “We’ve been seeing our electric bills go up month after month even here in our temporary space, as we have people use our facility as a resource to support information searching of a digital nature. People are charging their laptops here or their iPad—they’re interfacing those devices with our collection to try to bring their research into the 21st century, which has been a great thing.”

Ms. Creedon said she has met with PSEG Island representatives to try to determine how much electricity the new building will need. In the proposed budget, electric expenses would increase by $8,439 for a total projected cost of $36,439.

The other major anticipated increase in expenses is due to staffing.

The building is four times larger than the library’s temporary space at 34 West Water Street, so custodial hours will need to be added.

The library moved into its temporary space around the same time as Governor Andrew Cuomo enacted the 2-percent tax cap on school districts. As a result of being in a smaller building and under a smaller budget, three employees left without being replaced. A desk clerk will not be replaced, but Ms. Creedon hopes to reinstate the adult programming coordinator and local history library positions.

“I really want to bring that building to light, be able to celebrate our local history holdings and the programming that we have,” Ms. Creedon said, adding that the number of people visiting the library for programs is increasing monthly.

“I think that kind of face-to-face instruction is something the community is really hungry for in terms of how they gather their information,” she added.

Ms. Creedon is hopeful the proposed budget for 2015 will enable the library to stay below the tax cap next year—and that JJML and the community will be enjoying the new library before the spring.

“I can see the staff, I can see the public computers, I can see the reading room full of people and it’s really wonderful,” the director said.

The terms of three current board members—Jackie Brody, Ann Lieber and Toby Spitz—will expire on December 31, 2014. They are all eligible for re-election.

A budget hearing and trustee forum will be held at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, September 17, preceding the regular monthly meeting. The library trustee election and budget vote is Monday, September 29, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Update: Sag Harbor School Board Member Daniel Hartnett Resigns

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Sag Harbor School Board member Daniel Hartnett resigned Monday.

Sag Harbor School Board member Daniel Hartnett resigned Monday.

Originally published July 14, 2014 8:47 p.m.

By Tessa Raebeck 

Daniel Hartnett resigned from the Sag Harbor School District Board of Education Monday, July 14, after selling his house in the district two weeks ago.

Elected in May 2013, Mr. Hartnett entered the second year of his three-year term this month. He also served two terms on the board from 2005 to 2011.

Mr. Hartnett, a social worker and counselor at East Hampton High School, was the frontrunner in the school board in 2013, receiving the most votes from among a group of six candidates. The only educator on the board, he is one of its most vocal members.

“I have come tonight to very painfully, with enormous regret, ask you to accept my resignation from the board of education,” Mr. Hartnett told the board at Monday’s meeting. “I sold my house two weeks ago and have been unable to find affordable or appropriate housing in the district that would allow me to stay on the board. So, I’ve moved out of the district. I’ve signed a lease and need to resign.”

After listing his house in March, Mr. Hartnett said the sale went through much faster than he had anticipated. He was unable to find suitable housing in Sag Harbor and has rented a house in Springs. New York State Law requires all school board members to live in the district and the duration of Mr. Hartnett’s lease in Springs required that he resign.

While waiting for Monday’s meeting to start, Mr. Hartnett told several parents he was saddened by his unplanned resignation and had been looking forward to working with the district’s new superintendent, Katy Graves, who he helped to recruit.

“There’s not a lot of joy being on the school board,” Mr. Hartnett said from the podium during public input Monday. “Except for the fact that you know you’re doing something really amazing for the children of the district.”

“I would walk out of the house at night and say, ‘I’m going out tonight for you and if I can bring some of your friends with me, I will.’ And that’s really what it’s about: it’s about doing what’s best for the kids and it has been a privilege for me to bring whatever knowledge and experience I have to this table,” he added.

Mr. Hartnett thanked his fellow school board members and the administrators, superintendents and principals he has worked with “for the collegial relationships and collaboration that we’ve shared together on behalf of the children of this district” and thanked the community for giving him the opportunity to serve.

Mr. Hartnett also offered his services and said he was more than willing to continue to help and serve in whatever way he could. His son, who lives part-time with his mother in Sag Harbor, will continue to attend school in the district.

Chris Tice, vice president of the board, thanked Mr. Harnett for giving the board a heads-up when he first realized he might have to resign. As a real estate agent, she said she understood the challenge of finding suitable year-round housing in Sag Harbor. Ms. Tice said the board consulted with school attorney Thomas Volz to see if there was any way Mr. Hartnett could legally remain on the board “because everyone on the board was hoping you could stay on the board because you’re such an asset.”

Board President Theresa Samot recalled being first elected to the board the same year as Mr. Hartnett in 2005.

“We went through many great times and, as you said, some difficult times, and it made it much easier for me knowing that you were a colleague and that we were there working through these issues together,” she said.

“The great thing about a board,” said David Diskin, who was elected last year alongside Mr. Hartnett, “is that you have diversity of opinion and diversity of expertise and you add a huge piece of both of those to us and it’s going to be tough not having you there to share your mind.”

“I’m going to miss you as my friend,” said Sandi Kruel, a board member who has known Mr. Hartnett personally for many years. “But I have to tell you that having an educator on the board with such immense passion for children was just amazing to have next to me.”

“I’ve served with you quite often as well,” added board member Susan Kinsella, “and I have to say—although I don’t always agree with you—your knowledge as an administrator, a social worker, your willingness to advocate for the children of this district and for improvements in education—it’s going to be sorely missed, because you come with a welcomed knowledge that’s going to be hard to replace.”

In the wake of Mr. Hartnett’s resignation, the school board has several options: It can appoint someone immediately to fill the remainder of Mr. Hartnett’s term, which expires June 30, 2016; it can appoint someone to fill the position for this school year until the elections in May 2015; it can hold a special election for a new board member immediately; or it can continue with just six board members until the elections in May 2015. No decision was made Monday.

Sag Harbor Elementary School Teacher Travels to Malawi to Visit School for Orphans

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Students at the Jacaranda School for Orphans in Malawi. Photo courtesy Jacaranda School.

Students at the Jacaranda School for Orphans in Malawi. Photo courtesy Jacaranda School.

By Tessa Raebeck

Hundreds of art supplies, dozens of books and one Sag Harbor Elementary School teacher are on their way to a school for orphans in Malawi Thursday, July 17.

Science teacher Kryn Olson will spend three weeks at the Jacaranda School for Orphans in the village of Che Mboma, near the city of Limbe in the south of Malawi, a small, landlocked country in southeast Africa.

Sag Harbor Elementary School science teacher Kryn Olson.

Sag Harbor Elementary School science teacher Kryn Olson.

Ms. Olson, who pioneered the outdoor gardening program at the elementary school, is visiting Jacaranda to work with the children there on a gardening program they’ve started. She’s been researching the types of greens that would be successful in Malawi’s tropical climate and could flourish in African soil.

“It’s going to be an experiment, but exciting,” Ms. Olson said in a recent interview. “They have a very successful program they’ve been working with on gardening and so, they want to have me come and just see how we can join forces and work together on learning and developing what they have.”

The family of a young girl Ms. Olson has been mentoring over the last several years is friends with the owner and developer of the Jacaranda School, Marie Da Silva.

“They invited her to come out and see what I do here,” Ms. Olson said. After Ms. Da Silva visited Sag Harbor, she and Ms. Olson decided to work together in expanding Jacaranda’s garden—and uniting their students as pen pals.

Ms. Olson said Sag Harbor children wrote letters to the kids in Malawi she will carry with her on her trip, and then she will bring the Jacaranda students’ letters back to Sag Harbor. After the first exchange, the students will begin emailing back and forth regularly.

“They can’t stand it, they’re so excited,” Ms. Olson said of her students in Sag Harbor. “It’s really a beautiful thing. There was such a level of humility, but smart humility.”

“They were very excited about being able to write somebody in another country,” she added. “They realize that they live another life, so they were just curious. It was just kids talking to kids; it was beautiful. It wasn’t about depth, it was: Tell me what your country looks like. What animals live there? Do you have a brother or sister?”

Born and raised in Malawi, Ms. Da Silva, who has lost 15 members of her family to the AIDS pandemic, including her father and two of her brothers, came to the United States to work as a nanny and lived in New York City for 19 years. In 2002, she returned to Malawi and, after seeing how many children in her hometown were left out of school, she founded the Jacaranda School for Orphans, operating out of her family home. She used the money she earned working as a nanny to scrape together supplies and teachers’ salaries.

“When she nannied,” Ms. Olson said of Ms. Da Silva, “she really researched the schools and watched how the children were being raised here. She felt that education here was profoundly different. She wanted to expose the children to things she learned here. So she took those concepts back to Malawi with her.”

Twelve years later, the school has 400 students, its own campus and is the only entirely free primary and secondary school in the country. It provides the orphans with a free education, scholarships to high school graduates, uniforms and school supplies, clothes and shoes, daily nutrition, medical care and counseling, AIDS awareness activities, arts programs, agriculture activities and home support in the form of renovation of students’ houses, monthly financial support to the most impoverished children and construction of boarding houses for students in child-headed families.

Ms. Da Silva was recognized as a Top Ten Hero by CNN in 2008.

“It’s really an incredible thing that she did,” Ms. Olson said. “She not only feeds them, but she gives them medicine and funds their education. She has also now sent six kids to college, which is unheard of.”

In addition to bringing the pen pal letters and her school gardening expertise to Malawi, Ms. Olson is also bringing boxes of gifts to the Jacaranda School.

Sag Harbor students raised funds to donate two cases filled with art supplies—hundreds of water color tablets, reams of paper, colored markers and other materials—and “an enormous amount of books,” which will be shipped over on a boat.

“We’re trying to double the size of their library,” Ms. Olson said.

In addition to the books donated by students and their families, Ms. Olson is bringing a suitcase with all her favorites, including Eric Carl classics and “Goodnight Moon.”

Ms. Olson will also help the Jacaranda School enhance its garden, which currently grows carrots, tea and other vegetables.

“What they raise they sell to help support the orphanage,” she said. “And they also really are working at making sure the kids understand that it’s about learning how to be sustainable and how to take care of themselves and not taking things for granted.”

The produce that isn’t sold is used to feed the children.

“She wanted to teach them how to survive in the world,” Ms. Olson said of Ms. Da Silva.

Sag Harbor Teachers Accept Minimal Salary Increases in New Contract

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Art teacher Laurie DeVito in her classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Photo by Michael Heller.

Art teacher Laurie DeVito in her classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

In a surprise announcement last week, released with little fanfare, the Sag Harbor Board of Education and the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) said they had agreed on new contract.

Besides minimal fanfare, the three-year agreement also carries minimal increases. It was approved at a board meeting on Monday, July 7, and is effective from July 1 through June 30, 2017. It gives teachers salary increase of 0.7 percent for the 2013-14 school year and increases of 0.75 percent for both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.

The last contract negotiations between the district and the teachers union, which concluded in December 2010, took over two years and were marked by acrimony.

The union, led by then-president Eileen Kochanasz, had initially asked for salary increases of 3.9 percent, which were comparative to those in neighboring districts. After much back and forth, they agreed on increases of 2.5, 2.65, 2.7 and 2.6 percent for the respective school years from  July 1, 2008, through July 1, 2013.

During those negotiations, teachers eventually started wearing black t-shirts to school to protest their lack of a contract.

This time around, the bargaining was “much, much easier,” Jim Kinnier, the union’s current president who was involved in both processes, said Thursday, July 10.

“I think, in general,” Mr. Kinnier said, “both the board of [education] and the teachers wanted to have a more cooperative negotiation session and we kept negotiations out of the public. That was a priority for both sides.”

The process was eased by an early, private start in the fall that gave the groups plenty of time to go back and forth, in addition to “a much more cooperative environment than was around the last time,” said Mr. Kinnier, who is a math teacher at Pierson Middle-High School.

According to his understanding, this is only the second time in 40 years that a teachers contract in Sag Harbor has been settled on time.

“This is the third contract I have done,” board member Sandi Kruel said Thursday, “and this was one of the best experiences I have had. I feel that it was a wonderful team effort between the board and the teachers.”

Having asked for a 3.9-percent increase in 2008, when the economy first crashed, accepting an increase of less than 1 percent six years into the recovery is a seemingly surprising move on the part of teachers, but Mr. Kinnier attributed their willingness to compromise to the tight financial burdens felt in schools since the 2-percent tax cap was enacted by New York State in 2011.

“There’s only so much room that the district has and that’s the major reason why the increases are a lot less than they were,” Mr. Kinnier said, adding that teachers in many districts on Long Island have had to take salary freezes and give up step increases.

For the three-year term of this contract, the teachers’ contributions to active employee medical health insurance will remain at 17.5 percent. When the contract expires on June 30, 2017, however, that contribution will go up to 20 percent.

“Actually, the healthcare costs have leveled off a little bit, but the district wanted us to contribute more,” Mr. Kinnier said. “Our argument was that we contribute more than any district on the South Fork and we have done so for a long period of time,” he said, adding that Sag Harbor was among the first in which teachers contributed to healthcare costs at all.

“So, the compromise was that there will be an increase, but not until these three years are up,” he said.

“We have what I think is a fair deal, and they think it’s a fair deal” he added. “And as a result, we get to concentrate on what it is we do best and that’s public education.”

Bridgehampton Board of Education Looks Forward

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BHSchoolStockImage

By Tessa Raebeck

The Bridgehampton Board of Education reappointed Ron White as president and Lillian Tyree-Johnson as vice president at its annual reorganizational meeting Wednesday, July 2.

“I appreciate the district and the board reelected me,” Mr. White said Wednesday, July 9. “It certainly has been a pleasure to learn and understand the operations of the district; it makes me understand why things are the way that they are.”

Mr. White said the challenge of the upcoming year will be to continue the drive to educate the community about the significance and benefits of Bridgehampton having its own small school. The Bridgehampton School District almost failed to pass a budget this spring, as its first draft—which would have pierced the state-mandated tax cap with a tax levy increase of 8.8-percent—was voted down. After a grassroots get out the vote effort by board members, administrators and school supporters, an identical proposal passed by a slim margin June 17.

“We need to continue the momentum of educating our overall community of this special establishment we have here in our own district,” said Mr. White. “We need to educate, we have to go to all corners of our community and just really educate them on the finances and also how beneficial it is to have a school in your district.

“We need to find a way to invite them in, we’ll have open houses, we’ll have meet the school days where they come on in and see us and even folks that don’t have kids here or [have] kids who are elsewhere, they need to know what their school really entails. I think that’s our challenge as a school district and as a board to try to get these folks in and to see how special and unique our place really is,” he added.

Ms. Tyree-Johnson is optimistic about the coming year now that the budget has passed.

“I’m actually looking forward to this year,” she said Wednesday, July 9. “We’re hoping to continue the good things that are going on there.”

“Because the budget passed, we’re able to continue with the programming that I there and that’s why I’m pretty excited about this year coming up and continuing doing what we do at Bridgehampton,” she added.

Ms. Tyree-Johnson said she is also looking forward to Dr. Lois Favre’s second year as both superintendent and principal.

“I think that she’s done a great job in that dual role,” Ms. Tyree-Johnson said of Dr. Favre. “So, I think that now that she has one year under her belt, things are going to look even better this year.”

Update: Sag Harbor School Board Approves New Teachers Contract

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Art teacher Laurie DeVito in her classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Photo by Michael Heller.

Art teacher Laurie DeVito in her classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Sag Harbor Board of Education announced at its annual reorganizational meeting on Monday that it had reached a contract agreement with the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH).

With unanimous approval from the board, the contract was settled before the current one expires for the first time in recent memory and only the second time in the district’s history.

“It was a sign of all of us working together collaboratively and we’re proud to have all of you in the district teaching our children,” Theresa Samot, president of the school board, said Monday.

The last contract negotiations took over two years and became quite heated, with teachers protesting the lack of a settlement by wearing black t-shirts to school for months. After the contracts expired in August 2008, the union and the school district did not decide on a new agreement until December 2010.

The new three-year contract is in effect from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2017. The agreement between the district and the union will increase the 2013-14 salary schedule by 0.7 percent. For each of 2014-15 and 2015-16, salaries will be increased by 0.75 percent.

During the term of the three-year contract, TASH members will contribute 17.5 percent of the premium costs for employee health and dental insurance, the same amount they’ve been paying since July 1, 2010. Starting June 30, 2017, members of TASH will have to contribute 20 percent of those costs.

“I just want to say thank you and how happy we are that we have settled this contract and approved it tonight,” said Ms. Samot.

Chris Tice, vice president of the school board, added the contract is “respectable both to the needs of the district and of the employee.”

The increases are significantly lower than those in the previous contract, which retroactively gave teachers a 2.5-percent salary increase for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, a 2.65-percent increase for the 2010-11 school year, a 2.7-percent increase for 2011-12 and a 2.6-percent increase for 2012-13.

“Finalizing the contract agreement through 2017 is a very good way to begin the new school year,” the district’s new Superintendent Katy Graves, who was sworn in at the meeting Monday, said in a press release. “It clearly shows the strong relationship and common goals shared between the board, administration and teachers union.”

Also at Monday’s meeting, Ms. Graves and new school board member Diana Kolhoff took the oath of office.

Having just finished her ninth year on the board, Ms. Samot was again elected president on a motion brought by Ms. Tice and seconded by Susan Kinsella.

“I just want to thank Theresa because most people don’t realize how much time it takes to be president,” said Ms. Tice, adding, “Your dedication is very appreciated and you’ve done a great job.”

Board member David Diskin said how important it is in this period of transition—with a new superintendent and several administrative positions to fill—to have Ms. Samot return to her leadership position.

Ms. Kinsella nominated Ms. Tice to again be vice president, a motion that was seconded by Mr. Diskin.

The board meeting Monday was the first one to be filmed, although not broadcast, in the trial period of the district’s new videotaping of board meetings policy, which aims to increase transparency and public access to the goings-on of the school board. Future meetings will also be broadcast live on LTV and SEA-TV.

Ms. Graves told the small crowd gathered in the Pierson Middle/High School library that, having worked in the district for only four days, she was unable to share her entry plan just yet, but would provide a detailed plan of action at the July 28 board meeting.

The board appointed J. Wayne Shiernat as interim athletic director, filling the position left vacant by Todd Gulluscio’s resignation last month. Mr. Shiernat worked part time in the district prior to the hiring of Mr. Gulluscio two years ago.

“He’s going to be part time and he’ll be starting immediately tomorrow, because we are working without an athletic director at this time and a lot of very important scheduling items happen at this time,” Ms. Graves said.

Mr. Shiernat will work for four hours a day, five days a week at a daily rate of $325, with a maximum pay of $35,750. He will act as interim for up to 110 days from Tuesday, July 8, through December 19.

The board debated whether it is financially pertinent and necessary to have a full-time athletic director. Ms. Kolhoff suggested looking at sharing services with the Bridgehampton School District, but Ms. Graves said they had already reached out to that district but had not heard back yet.

“We have to proof sharing, we have to,” added Ms. Graves, “and maybe this is the part where we start.”

Board member Daniel Hartnett worried that having a full-time athletic director would require funds that could be used to keep the district’s 62 teams strong and intact and benefit the children more directly.

Former board member Mary Anne Miller, on the audience side of the meeting for the first time in years, and community member John Battle stressed the importance of addressing the health and wellness portion of the position.

In the end, the district decided to move forward with the applications it has received using a similar job description to that under which Mr. Gulluscio was hired, as director of Athletics, Physical Education, Health, Wellness and Personnel.

“My recommendation with my four days here is to do what’s best for kids and that is to provide as much leadership as possible,” said Ms. Graves.