Tag Archive | "sag harbor school board"

Sag Harbor School Board Appoints New Member

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Sag Harbor school board members and new School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi watch as new board member Thomas J. Schiavoni is sworn in by District Clerk Mary Adamczyk Monday in the Pierson Middle/High School library. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

Thomas J. Schiavoni was sworn in as the Sag Harbor School District's newest board member by District Clerk Mary Adamczyk on Monday, August 18. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Thomas J. Schiavoni was sworn in as the Sag Harbor School District’s newest board member by District Clerk Mary Adamczyk on Monday, August 18. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

The Sag Harbor Board of Education appointed Thomas J. Schiavoni of North Haven as its newest member on Monday, following the resignation of Daniel Hartnett mid-term last month.

Mr. Schiavoni, who teaches middle and high school social studies in the Center Moriches School District, is active in volunteer and civil service groups throughout town. He is also the newest village trustee in North Haven Village, having been elected June 17. He is a former member of the village Zoning Board of Appeals, past president and treasurer of the Bay Haven Association and an active member of the Sag Harbor Fire Department.

A lifetime resident of the village known around town as Tommy John, Mr. Schiavoni is married to Southampton Town and Sag Harbor Village Justice Andrea Schiavoni. The couple has two children in the district, Anna and Thomas Jr.

After Mr. Hartnett, was required to leave the board due to residency issues, the board had several options on how to move forward.

At its July 28 meeting, the board, citing the advice of its attorney, Thomas Volz, outlined its options as follows: Holding a full interim election to allow the community to vote for the candidate; not filling the empty seat, which could allow the New York State Education Commissioner Roger King to fill the position for the board if he chose to do so; and screening applicants to choose a candidate who would serve until the next election, on May 18, 2015.

Following the precedent of similar situations in the past, both in Sag Harbor and at neighboring districts like East Hampton, the board chose to solicit the community for interested parties, screen applicants and appoint its newest member.

In a press release issued on July 30, the board announced it would accept applications and appoint a community member to fill the position. The deadline for applications was Monday, August 11, with the goal of presenting a candidate at the next scheduled meeting August 18, a deadline that was met today.

The school board said Monday that, after screening four interested candidates, its decision to appoint Mr. Schiavoni was unanimous.

“It was an unwelcome task to have to fill the vacancy of Dan Hartnett, whose insight and input was universally valued by this body and the community at large,” board member David Diskin, who was not in attendance, said in a statement read aloud by Theresa Samot, president of the board. “However, because of legal advice we were obligated to fill this spot.”

“Tommy John Schiavoni,” he continued, “is a man of character and integrity and has relevant and valuable experience for our school district. I am sure the board will be well-served by his presence as a trustee.”

Mr. Diskin added he is hopeful Mr. Schiavoni will seek re-election to a standard three-year term in the annual community-wide elections in May 2015.

Diana Kolhoff, a new board member who also did not attend Monday’s meeting, said in a statement she was pleased with the candidates who came forward. She said she hopes the candidates, who all “have a lot to offer to the school and to the board,” will be willing to serve on committees and find other ways to be involved.

Ms. Kolhoff added she is in “total agreement” with her fellow board members and that Mr. Schiavoni’s commitment to education is clear.

“We were very fortunate to have four people in the community that were so qualified to step up,” added Chris Tice, vice president of the board, who also reiterated Ms. Kolhoff’s sentiments on how she hoped the candidates who were not selected would seek other ways to be involved.

“I am delighted that you are going to be joining the board,” Ms. Tice told Mr. Schiavoni. She said the board really valued Mr. Hartnett’s participation as a colleague due to his experience working in the East Hampton School District and that she is “very confident that Tommy John will continue to help us with that as well.”

“It’s an honor to have you serve with us,” added board member Sandi Kruel, “to have you serve with us, to bring what you’re going to bring to the table—which is definitely an educational piece, which is what Dan [brought]. Those are really big shoes to fill, but I don’t think for one minute you’re going to have any problem filling those shoes.”

After the board unanimously passed the resolution to appoint Mr. Schiavoni, District Clerk Mary Adamczyk swore in the new trustee, who took his seat at the table behind a shiny new name plaque.

Sag Harbor School District’s New Business Administrator Excited About Small Town Possibilities

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Jennifer-Buscemi

Jennifer Buscemi.

By Tessa Raebeck

After managing a budget of just under $100 million, a staff of about 900 and seven separate school buildings, school business official Jennifer Buscemi is grateful to be coming to Sag Harbor.

The Sag Harbor Board of Education wasted little time in appointing Ms. Buscemi on July 28 to the school business administrator position vacated by John O’Keefe in early July. She comes to Sag Harbor from the West Babylon School District, where she served as executive director for finance and operations for nearly three years.

“I was basically looking for a change,” Ms. Buscemi said in a phone interview on Tuesday, August 5.

With about 4,200 students, a $99.3 million budget and a payroll of about 900 full- and part-time employees, West Babylon is a “fairly large school district,” she said—and monstrous when compared to those on the East End.

Sag Harbor, in turn, has about 1,000 students and, at $36.8 million, this year’s operating budget is slightly over a third of the size of West Babylon’s.

“There were many projects and many things that I wanted to accomplish over the years at my other school district that I just couldn’t move forward on, because there was just so much to do… I spent a lot of time constantly putting out fires,” Ms. Buscemi said of her previous position. “So, I was really looking for something on a smaller scale, so that I would be able to go ahead and move forward on those projects that I’ve always been thinking of doing.”

Once settled in Sag Harbor, Ms. Buscemi hopes to spend time looking at programs and doing “a lot of cost-benefit analysis,” as well as finding new sources of revenue.

“These are all the things that I want to sort of delve into, but I could never do that in such a large school district. So, I’m hoping to be able to get to do that here in Sag Harbor,” she said.

Attracted to the village’s “small town feel” and the options it affords her professionally, she plans on moving to the East End once her husband, Frank, retires, which he’s planning on doing sometime in the next one to three years.

Ms. Buscemi received her bachelor’s degree, with a major in accounting and a minor in economics, from Queens College in Flushing. She went on to Dowling College in Oakdale, where she earned a master of business administration degree in Public Management, and advanced certificates in Human Resource Management and School District Business Administration.

Prior to joining the West Babylon School District in 2011, she worked as an intern in the business office of the Commack Union Free School District for a year in order to fulfill advanced certificate requirements.

This past May in West Babylon, the district attempted to pierce the state-mandated 2-percent tax levy cap.

“We tried to pierce the tax cap because we didn’t want to make drastic cuts to programs and that’s what we were faced with,” Ms. Buscemi said of the decision. “The board wanted to move forward with trying to pierce it, but because of the property tax rate this year, I think a lot of voters came out and, unfortunately, the budget got voted down.”

With 51.3-percent voter approval, the district was shy of the 60-percent supermajority required to pierce the cap.

“So, what we did,” she explained, “was we revised the budget. We did end up reducing some programs, but from out of nowhere [State Senator Phil Boyle] was able to find $125,000 for us to restore those programs. So, we were able to go into the June 17 vote with a reduced budget that was within the cap and everyone was eligible for their property tax rebate check at that point.

On its second go-round, West Babylon’s budget passed with over 70-percent voter approval.

Although Sag Harbor has not yet had to ask voters to pierce the cap, Ms. Buscemi believes the tax cap will continue to be a challenge for all of New York’s school districts.

“I think every district is just going to have to rethink the way they’re providing programs at this point. [Governor Andrew Cuomo] wants us to find efficiencies and cost savings and be able to share services. So, eventually…we’re going to have to move in that direction,” she said.

Aside from size, another significant difference between Sag Harbor and West Babylon is the extent of state aid given to the districts.

“In my previous district, we relied very heavily on state aid, so whenever the governor’s budget came out, whenever the governor’s proposal came out, it was a real defining moment for us during the budget process, because if we did not get a decent increase in state aid, we were done,” Ms. Buscemi said.

“So, I have to say,” she continued, “in Sag Harbor, what is unique is that we don’t rely on state aid as much; I think less than 5 percent of our budget is funded through state aid… It’s a real community school, because the funding comes 100 percent pretty much—95 percent—from the tax levy.”

Unlike most school districts, especially those up-island (East End school districts have historically received less state aid than others on Long Island because of their high property values), Sag Harbor taxpayers bear most of the financial burden. Although this can be tough on residents, it means the district doesn’t have to deal with the unpredictability of being supported primarily by the state.

“They have to deal with fluctuations in state aid and when state aid does go down, that could mean drastic reductions,” explained Ms. Buscemi.

A self-described “numbers person,” Ms. Buscemi first gained administrative and financial management experience in state government. She was part of the management team at the New York State Comptroller’s Office and worked as a tax auditor for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

“I’m very, very analytical, so I love the fact that I’m doing something that is very rewarding,” she said. “Because, ultimately, we’re benefitting students; we’re providing really great educational opportunities and programs, and I know that whatever I do in all of my work on a daily basis is contributing to that.”

“When I worked as a state auditor,” she continued, “the job just was not as rewarding as [working in schools]. It was sort of like a thankless job. No one ever liked us coming in, no one ever liked us leaving, no one was happy to hear from us.”

“But when you work for a school district as a business official,” she continued, “every single thing you do is contributing to the benefit of the students, which is really great. So, at the end of the day, you feel like you actually did something wonderful and accomplished something.”

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.”

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 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.”

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.

Sag Harbor School Board Approves Teachers Contract

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web student Portraits for Parrish_5117

Sag Harbor Elementary School art teacher Lauri DeVito in her classroom. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

At its annual organizational meeting Monday night, the Sag Harbor Board of Education approved a new teachers contract with the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH).

The contract was settled before the current one expires for the first time in recent memory.

“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, a new agreement was not approved by both the union and the school district until December 2010.

The details of the new contract are forthcoming.

Pierson Parents and School at Odds Over Recognizing Sag Harbor’s Salutatorians

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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

The parents of a Pierson High School senior say their daughter was unjustly denied recognition for her academic performance and that the Sag Harbor School District is doing nothing about it.

Kristin and Paul Davey maintain their daughter deserves to be recognized as a co-salutatorian of the graduating class of 2014 because the district uses faulty guidelines and does not have a clear policy for how valedictorians and salutatorians are named.

Pierson administrators, however, say the district is using the same guidelines it has used for decades and, although they may enact a board-level policy in the future, that change will not happen in the days leading up to graduation.

After taking the complaints to Facebook, Kristin Davey said in a phone interview Wednesday, June 25, that her daughter was in third place by 7/100ths of a point when the grade point average rankings were calculated in January. When the grades were recalculated in April, Ms. Davey said, her daughter had pulled into second by a full point.

Dr. Paul Davey in a statement to the board on June 18 said their daughter was then “invited by State Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s office to a luncheon honoring Long Island’s valedictorians and salutatorians.”

Ms. Davey said on Wednesday, June 25, that several days after they received the invitation, Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols informed her that her daughter had been invited in error.

She was told, she said, that “they were not using those grades, they were using the grades in January, as has been their tradition, and that [my daughter] was not the salutatorian.”

“We asked several times for the school to recognize [our daughter] as co-salutatorian and not to take anything away from the other student, but to recognize them both,” she said.

“I feel that we were misled and it’s gotten kind of worse from there,” said Ms. Davey, adding that she has sent many letters and made many phone calls to administrators that have gone unanswered.

“We’ve had very, very clear guidelines with regard to that, my understanding is certainly for the 17 years I’ve been here and for decades preceding that,” Mr. Nichols said when the issue was brought up at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, June 24.

The guidelines are on page 17 of the student handbook, which is given to every student and available on the district website.

Mr. Nichols read from the policy Tuesday, which states: “To validate who has earned the highest (valedictorian) and the second highest (salutatorian) ranks in a graduating class, students’ grades are re-averaged at the end of the first semester of the year in which the class graduates. Such determination is final and no adjustment thereafter will take place.”

In a phone conversation Wednesday, June 25, Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the district, said, “There was something where I believe some temporary word was passed along that [Ms. Davey’s] daughter was ranked second in the class, but when we checked it was an error.”

“While at the time of the ranking—that is at the end of the seventh semester in the middle of the year that they’re graduating, which is what Jeff read last night [at the school board meeting]—in fact, it was not her daughter,” he said.

“I’d rather not discuss a specific case or a specific child,” he added, “so I can only say that Mr. Nichols clarified it as much as possible additionally last night and no further comment.”

In his statement read on June 18, Dr. Davey questioned the lack of “a formal policy” and asked the board to vote that evening to recognize co-salutatorians for the class of 2014.

“The only thing they keep reciting in this refusal is traditionally they have never done that before and I don’t find that a good enough answer,” Ms. Davey said.

“Because they are lacking this formal policy,” she said, “I just don’t understand why they will not recognize both students…I just really hope that moving forward, the district writes a clear, comprehensive and specific policy so this does not happen in the future to any student graduating from Pierson. I will say that [my daughter] is beyond devastated that her school will not recognize her academic achievement.”

“There has been some discussion about having a more formal policy, there are districts that have board-level policies on it,” BOE Vice President Chris Tice said. “I would suggest at a future board meeting, we discuss whether we want to have that sort of policy on it.”

Later Start Times?

In other school board news, the board agreed to appoint a task force to examine the plausibility of starting school at later times, a move that is gaining traction across the country.

“There’s research that has come out that says if you could do one thing to help your kids do better in school—one thing—it would be to get our kids to school later,” said Ms. Tice.

Board member Susan Kinsella also brought up the idea of allowing varsity athletes to have study hall instead of gym class while in season.

“They certainly don’t need the gym class if they’re playing a varsity sport. Let them have that time to do homework,” she said.

“I think this makes a lot of sense,” agreed Ms. Tice, adding the district could see more athletes participating in International Baccalaureate (IB) and other challenging classes “if they knew they’d have more time to get the work done.”

The board will start its trial of videotaping meetings in July. The first meeting of the month will be taped but not broadcast to figure out some sound and technical kinks and the second meeting will be fully broadcast on LTV and SEA-TV.