Tag Archive | "Joan Frisicano"

A Farewell to Frisicano

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web Joan and Matt

A few months ago, Joan Frisicano informally announced her resignation as Sag Harbor Elementary school principal. Her decision, however, wasn’t made official until Monday night at a board of education meeting. Countless parents, administrators and board members thanked Frisicano for her role in shaping their children’s education and lives. After working for more than twenty years in the district, Frisicano is often recognized as a beloved educator in the community; but Matt Malone, a recognizable face to students and parents as the assistant principal of the elementary school, will fill her shoes in September at the start of the new school year.

At the meeting on Monday night, Frisicano highlighted her role as a mentor to Malone in a speech before the board and gathered public.

“I do believe it is a responsibility of this job to mentor others. For 12 years, I have worked with Matt Malone and he is proof of that success,” gushed Frisicano.

In his remarks, Malone said there is often a lack of close relationships between new teachers and administrators and senior educators in other school districts, but added that this isn’t the case in Sag Harbor. Malone started working in the village 14 years ago as a teaching assistant in Nina Landi’s fifth grade class. He slowly worked through the ranks of the school and has spent the past four years as assistant principal. Malone credits much of this success to Frisicano.

“Joan has been the absolute best. She has challenged me and corrected me when I am wrong,” noted Malone. “I think the Sag Harbor elementary school is the best place for children. I am excited about the future and all the great things we will do in the years to come.”

School Board President Walter Wilcoxen presented Frisicano with a clock on behalf of the district as a token of their appreciation for her work. Although Frisicano is closing the chapter on her life in the elementary school, she contends that she isn’t retiring.

In June, when Frisicano first announced her forthcoming resignation, she said, “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.”

Bond and Energy Contract
As early as next summer, Pierson science students may be able to study solar and wind power in an intimate setting. The school board is exploring purchasing solar panels and a wind turbine as part of an energy efficiency contract, which will most likely be implemented in the coming school year. On Monday evening, the board gave a short overview of the contract, which included replacing most of the windows in the elementary school building. Superintendent John Gratto believes that many of the windows haven’t been replaced since the 1940s.

In the next few months, the board will mull over which items will be included in the contract, although several of them have a cost benefit to the district.

Wilcoxen explained during a later interview that the company Honeywell will install many of the items in the contract, including the windows, and the district will pay them a fee based on how much the school is expected to receive in energy savings. He added that there are rebates available for the solar panels and the wind turbine.

The windows, panels and wind turbine could be installed next summer because Honeywell is overseeing the installation and the school doesn’t have to bid on these projects.

Previously, the board eyed replacing two boilers in the elementary school, both of which are nearing thirty years of use; but Wilcoxen, a local architect, contended that cast iron boilers could last up to fifty years. Frisicano added that the real issue at the school is heat distribution throughout the rooms. Wilcoxen said in an interview that a portion of the bond monies will be used for a temperature control project, but at the meeting he added that a consultant might be needed to see if the building in fact needs a new boiler system.

“We are trying to flesh it out and get a general sense first of what people want,” remarked Wilcoxen of the ideas in the bond and energy contract. “When we reach a point where people are satisfied with the amount [to spend on this contract and the bond] then we will get the plans drawn.”

In addition to the bond and energy contract, the district is using money from the capital improvement fund to install new carpeting, track lighting and a screen in the auditorium.

Wilcoxen also confirmed that the nearly $250,000 worth of maintenance projects needed in the district’s facilities will be bundled into the bond for next year.

“These things hadn’t been taken care of for so long,” explained Wilcoxen. “We hope in the future to create a maintenance line in the budget to give a realistic view of this expense.”

Joan Frisicano has handed over the reins of Sag Harbor Elementary School to Matt Malone, above.

Principal Will Retire, Says This Time She’s Sure

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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.”

Pre-K May Bring Districts Closer

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Since 1998, elementary school principal Joan Frisicano has advocated opening a Sag Harbor pre-kindergarten program. Over the years, she saw neighboring school districts like Southampton, East Hampton and even Amagansett set up their own pre-k curriculums, but year after year the village functioned without a program. In Sag Harbor, it seems covering the initial costs for pre-k — priced roughly at $260,000 — was a hard sell to village taxpayers.

 In 2008, Frisicano believed some federal Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) funds would open up to the school district, but she faced another hurdle: finding room to accommodate the three and four-year-old students. With classroom space at a premium in the elementary school, Frisicano researched possible locations and seemed to find a perfect match at the Bridgehampton School.

 Sag Harbor School Superintendent Dr. John Gratto said in the past few months, the two school districts have been analyzing ways to share and economize services by working together. Running a joint pre-k program was one such idea Dr. Gratto discussed with Bridgehampton School’s superintendent Dr. Dianne Youngblood and principal Jack Pryor in the beginning of April.

 “Bridgehampton has the space and they currently have a program with a small number of students … They can accommodate more children,” said Frisicano during a presentation to the Sag Harbor School Board on Wednesday, April 22. Based on current kindergarten enrollment, Frisicano added that she believes Sag Harbor has roughly 65 children who would be eligible for a pre-k program in the next couple of years.

 “We found that the foundation of our pre-k curriculum was very similar to the curriculum at Sag Harbor,” said Bridgehampton School Principal Jack Pryor in an interview on Monday. “Joan [Frisicano] and I have a similar education philosophy.”

 Bridgehampton runs a half-day pre-k program for three-year-olds and a full day program for four-year-olds. There are currently 13 children enrolled in the program and Pryor said the school has the capacity to absorb 20 additional students. Pryor and Frisicano have discussed the idea of scheduling two sessions for a joint pre-k course. One class with eight students would be held in the morning, and the other session with 12 students would be held in the afternoon.

 Currently, the Bridgehampton school funds the pre-k program through the budget, but would be willing to apply for UPK monies jointly with the Sag Harbor School District.

 “We are allowed to file a joint application … UPK was very excited,” reported Pryor. “That is the kind of program they hope to get started — a collaborative program where the money is crossing district lines.”

 But state UPK representatives recently relayed word to Frisicano that resources for start-up pre-k programs have already dried up and UPK can’t provide adequate funding for the 2009-2010 school year. In the past, UPK offered the school district $2,700 per child, but capped the number of eligible students at 20.

 “UPK has a lottery program [for the 20 children]. So you are pulling names out of a hat,” said Frisicano. “Other districts have told me it’s quite a scene when they do that.”

 “That seems counterproductive,” said school board president Walter Wilcoxen at the meeting.

 Although the school district has previously balked at funding the pre-k program, PTA president Chris Tice asked at the meeting if the creation of such a program would end up saving the district money in the long term.

 “Research shows that the earlier we can get kids into the system, it will save us dollars as they go through the system … The earlier you can catch a [learning] difficulty the earlier you can remediate it,” said Frisicano.

 She added that children who enter kindergarten with learning or language difficulties often need academic intervention, at the expense of the school district, further down the road.

 Considering annual increases in operating costs, curtailing the budget is a pressing issue for school officials on the East End. As many local schools cover a small geographic area and support a modest student body, Dr. Gratto noted that sharing services is a viable way to maintain program value while reducing spending.

 “By sharing services with Bridgehampton we can offer high quality service at a lesser cost to the district,” said Dr. Gratto.

 So far Dr. Gratto, Dr. Youngblood and Pryor have discussed eight separate ideas for consolidating services, including creating a joint pre-k program, employing a technology coordinator and director of special education for both districts, and sharing fields and academic programs. In addition, Bridgehampton was looking into hiring Sag Harbor to prepare its food, as the school now contracts with an outside company to do so. Gratto admitted, however, that the school doesn’t currently have the capacity to provide meals for both schools.

 “We have talked with Bridgehampton about sharing a number of services but we haven’t found a match yet,” reported Dr. Gratto. “None of the points we discussed will work out for various reasons — at least not in the near future.”

 In terms of forming a district partnership, Pryor seems to be on the same page as Dr. Gratto.

 “Districts on the East End need to work together,” said Pryor. “The economy is down … Taxes are up … We need to be more fiscally responsible. Rather than trying to be an all inclusive district [who offers everything], why don’t we share what we have?”

Sag Harbor Music Program Will Change

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Based on the recommendations of an outside consultant, the Sag Harbor School district will revamp their music program in the fall. Pierson principal Jeff Nichols unveiled the plans for future music classes to the school board on Wednesday, April 22. The high school and middle school will offer a general music class — starting in 8th grade — to accommodate students uninterested in band or choir. An orchestra program will be set-up — beginning in sixth grade. Students will have the opportunity to attend two music classes, selecting from band, choir or orchestra. They will alternate the days they attend each class. Currently the high school operates a music theory class, but this will be replaced with an Advanced Placement music theory class taught by the same teacher. The school plans to run a guitar club, tentatively scheduled to meet once a week after school. Nichols reported to the board the initial costs for the program will be spent on purchasing and leasing equipment.

The music consultant’s recommendations for the elementary school were focused on tweaking the current curriculum as opposed to offering additional programs.

“[The Music Consultant] made more methodology and instructional recommendations,” said elementary school principal Joan Frisicano.

The consultant advised the elementary school to emphasize note reading and ear training by using advanced teaching materials, such as CDs and sheet music. When the recommendations are implemented, Frisicano expects students to memorize the fundamental notes by third grade. 


Cafeteria night in the Sag Harbor School District – What’s for dinner?

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With the winter holidays quickly approaching, the Sag Harbor Elementary School took the initiative to host a special night where both parents and students could learn about nutritious and healthy ways to eat during a time of year when overeating is more likely than not.

Last Friday the school sponsored a “What’s for Dinner” workshop at Pierson High School, where elementary age kids cooked dinner in the cafeteria downstairs (with supervision of course), while their parents heard a presentation by a nutritionist upstairs. Approximately 64 students and their parents attended the event along with volunteers and guest chefs who helped the students create a meal for their parents. On the menu for the evening was pasta, and the kids were given all the ingredients to create their own version of the dish, with the stipulation that each portion would include a protein and at least two vegetables.

“It could not have been better,” said assistant principal Matt Malone. “We had such a good turnout.”

The evening started out smooth — all the kids were divided into small groups and were given a variety of different vegetables to cut. The youngsters sat at tables equipped with over-sized sanitary gloves and plastic knives and plates.

“The plates are biodegradable and made of corn, limestone and potato,” said elementary school guidance counselor Michelle Grant.

The children confidently chopped and cut the additional ingredients to put in their pasta with help from elementary school principal Joan Frisicano, Malone and Grant among others.

The children also learned about the different food groups. Some of the additional ingredients for the pasta dinner included chickpeas, turkey meatballs and chicken. As the children sat at their tables, they each chose a group leader to help choose which vegetables would be used in the pasta creation.

“I’ll be the cook,” a young boy said as he grabbed a piece of paper outlining the ingredients from the middle of the table, “Okay,” he said, “who likes broccoli?”

Two tiny hands shot up and answered with enthusiasm in unison, “I do.”



The kids each chose their own foods and worked well in their small groups as they also prepared a fresh salad and chose from broccoli, tomato, carrots or cranberries. For desert the students created a fruit cobbler with the option of blueberry, apple or pear. The beverage for the evening was water, served with a lemon, lime or orange for taste.

“It was great to see the kids enjoying it,” former school board president and volunteer for the evening, Sandi Kruel, said on Monday, “I am fortunate that we got to do that.”

Meanwhile, upstairs in the library parents were learning from

“You have the perfect babysitters tonight,” Silver told the group of about 60 parents.

Silver noted that her presentation was a simple way for parents and kids to remember portion size. She explained that each person has a different size fist, in proportion to his or her body size, and this is a good indication of how much a person should be eating. Silver explained that for children, the fists are smaller, so the portion size should be smaller.

“Anyone can just look at their hands and see what the portion size should be,” said Silver.

In a handout for parents, Silver explained that every person — adult or child — can choose one fist of starch, protein, milk or dairy and two fists sizes of fruit or vegetables in putting together a meal. The thumb, she explained, can be used to gauge fat intake — the thumb tip, for example, is a good measure for an olive oil serving and the entire thumb for fatty foods like avocados and nuts.

One parent asked what kinds of juice children should drink. Silver responded that children should not be drinking a lot of juice, and recommended limiting it.

“Juice displaces other calories and fills them up,” she said, “it may give them vitamin C with the calories but they are missing out on other foods.”

When the parents went down to join their children in the cafeteria, Silver said she noticed how happy and proud the kids were with what they had created.

“Sense the children’s enthusiasm,” Silver said to parents, “look at what they made and try to incorporate it at home.”

Volunteers helped prep some of the ingredients ahead of time, including pre-cooking pasta, meatballs and other items on the menu. Kruel, said it would not have been possible without all the help from the other volunteers. Pierson High School lunch program, head chef, Lisa Becker helped prepare alongside Kevin Kruel and Kevin Major. Peter and Pam Miller, parents and former restaurant owners, also provided help on Friday, backed by Lauren Chapman, author of several cookbooks. Lesley Yardley, Jodi Crowley, Kathleen Mulcahy were also a part of the production.



Principal Back Before She Left

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One week ago, the community learned that in January, Sag Harbor Elementary School would lose one of its most valuable assets — an administrator, a teacher, a guidance counselor, a mother and a grandmother — principal Joan Frisicano.

This week there were tears in the office of the elementary school – but they were tears of joy as news spread that Frisicano has reconsidered her decision to retire.

“I felt like my world was off kilter,” said Frisicano’s secretary Karen Mullen, with tears in her eyes.

Frisicano has been the principal and guiding force of the elementary school for 19 years and among many things, has developed the morning school program, which helped to turn the Sag Harbor Elementary into a Blue Ribbon school, an annual national school recognition program.


After announcing her decision to the board of education last Monday, and after telling her staff last Wednesday afternoon, Frisicano said she thought it might become easier to accept the fact that she would be leaving.

“None of that seemed to come together,” said Frisicano in an interview Wednesday.

Frisicano met with superintendent Dr. John Gratto in his office this past Monday and informed him that she would not be retiring after all. After the board of education’s executive session Tuesday night, Gratto announced to board members that Frisicano would not be stepping down.

On Wednesday, around 12:30 p.m. Frisicano told her staff during a lunchtime meeting that she had decided to renege on her original decision and would continue to stay on as principal of the elementary school.

Frisicano said on Wednesday that the decision to retire weighed very heavily on her heart, and added that she loves what she is doing. Frisicano explained that she imagined the decision would be easier — once she made the announcement she thought it would be easy to accept her retirement as reality but she added after it was all done she wasn’t able to cross over into that mindset.

“I had a feeling of emptiness,” Frisicano said on Wednesday. “I thought about all the work I’ve done and I thought about all the responses I got from the kids and staff,” and that, she said, helped her realize she wasn’t ready.

Frisicano said a feeling of “you’re not done” came over her and she felt she needed to keep moving forward with the job.

It is well known in the elementary school that Frisicano loves ladybugs. In her absence on Friday the students and staff members helped adorn the building, particularly her office, with red and black ladybugs, recognizing the hard work and dedication Frisicano has put into the school and also as a good-bye and thank you.

Frisicano said that helped her make the decision.

“We are a family,” she said, “I just thought, what can I do that I can’t do in Sag Harbor? You expect a reaction, but not the reaction that I had,” she added. 

“I have always had interests, I have my fun and still work, I thought I can continue to do this and still be the principal.”

Frisicano also said after speaking with her daughter over the weekend, who agreed that this job is what Frisicano loves, she decided to stay.

After she announced her resignation, many in the community raised questions about why she was leaving and why her retirement would go into effect in the middle of the school year.

“People thought I was being pushed out, but that was not the case,” Frisicano said on Wednesday. “I hope the community understands that the decision to retire was my decision, and the decision to change was my decision.”

Frisicano said that part of her reason for leaving was that she wanted a new challenge in her life.

“And a new challenge looked attractive to me,” although she said she had no plans for what that would be, she said she just thought she would be able to find it.

“But then,” Frisicano said, “I realized that this job can still be a challenge.”


“Welcome back,” school board president, Walter Wilcoxen said on Wednesday, “Here’s a woman that has worked hard in this district and made the elementary school what it is now, she has been a great asset to our district.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, where Gratto told the board of education about Frisicano’s decision to stay, the group was discussing the next and final steps for confirming Frisicano’s retirement. Close friend and former school board president, Sandi Kruel, said that Frisicano was supposed to have submitted a letter of resignation, which would’ve made her decision final, but Frisicano did not submit the letter.

“I am so happy,” Kruel said. “She is just not done with our district, and I’m thrilled she is staying.”

“I was ready to petition or sit out, whatever it took – we were hoping that she would realize that this was not the right decision,” said Kruel, who believes as the week progressed Frisicano could not go through with it. “Her family is here, her roots are here.”

Kruel also said that she feels this is a good decision, “Kudos to Joan, the board and Gratto – it’s now a team again.”

Last year, Sag Harbor’s board of education considered adding an assistant superintendent position, which has not been created. When asked if the administrative structure of the district faces any changes, Gratto said when he began working in the district people were asking him that question. He replied that he needs a sufficient amount of time to determine any changes and will be able to report and recommend any changes in December. It will then be up to the board of education to decide whether to follow those recommendations.

“Joan is a very talented person who has done a great job of administrating that school and I’m sure she will continue to do a great job,” Gratto said on Wednesday. “I would be happy to have her stay for as long as she wants.”

When asked what her long and short-term goals for the district would be Frisicano said she would need to give it some more thought but added she thinks that Gratto has been positive about the school district and hopes together they can work on accomplishing more in grades K-12 with a continued articulation between both schools.

Frisicano explained that with Gratto, she hopes to accomplish both state and national recognition for the schools where she can focus on getting the elementary school back to a Blue Ribbon school.

While Frisicano said on Wednesday that it is possible she will retire within the next 10 years, she isn’t thinking about going anywhere for at least the next five years.

“I still haven’t finished with this,” she said.




Frisicano to Resign

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After almost two decades as principal of Sag Harbor Elementary School, Joan Frisicano has announced she will retire. The news came during a meeting with co-workers and staff after school on Wednesday, November 12 when Frisicano announced that she will be stepping down as principal of the school as of January 1, 2009.

“I have been holding back the tears,” close friend Sandra Kruel, former school board president, said when she learned the news on Wednesday night. “She was the epitome of an amazing leader — I don’t think the district has any idea what they are losing.”
“She is so dedicated,” said board of education president Walter Wilcoxen. “I think a lot of people will be sad to see her go.” When asked who will take over, Wilcoxen said, “I think [assistant principal] Matt [Malone] is perfectly capable – wonderfully capable.”
Kruel said that Frisicano took only five short years to turn the elementary school into a Blue Ribbon school. She has touched the lives of thousands of kids, said Kruel adding that there are not many people who can say they have done that. Kruel added that Frisicano has created a great foundation for whoever takes over her role.

The Sag Harbor Express would love to hear your thoughts on the impact Joan Frisicano has had on our community and what her departure means for Sag Harbor School District. Please comment below.