School Business Administrator John O’Keefe, who will leave the district this summer, at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday, June 24. Photo by Tessa Raebeck
By Tessa Raebeck
Although school’s out for summer, the Sag Harbor Board of Education will have its hands full with interviewing and hiring new personnel in time for students’ return in September.
In addition to the seven retiring members of the faculty, six of whom have positions that will be filled (one special education teaching position was abolished), interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso, business administrator John O’Keefe, and Todd Gulluscio, director of Athletics, Physical Education, Health, Wellness and Personnel, are leaving the district.
The board on Tuesday, June 24, accepted the resignations of Mr. O’Keefe and Mr. Gulluscio and appointed Dr. Bonuso as temporary assistant to the district’s new superintendent Katy Graves.
Dr. Bonuso will help Ms. Graves settle into her new position for 14 days between July 1 and July 31. He is being paid at a daily rate of $950 for a total of $13,300.
At Tuesday’s board meeting, community member and frequent meeting attendee Elena Loreto questioned the appointment of Dr. Bonuso to the temporary position.
“When you hired Katy Graves, everyone was high on her,” Ms. Loreto told the board. “We were ecstatic we found someone who was so neat, she was even better than sliced bread or ballpoint pens—then why does she need a mentor?”
“Carl, I love you, but we gotta say goodbye,” she added. “Katy is fully capable. Don’t spend the money.”
“Katy requested that Carl remain for some transition planning with her,” replied Theresa Samot, president of the school board. “We did, through our attorney, do a review of best practices, and he reported to us that it’s not unusual when a superintendent is coming from out of the district or out of the immediate area to actually have a transition for them.”
The board pointed to the extent of issues the new superintendent will have to deal with immediately, including capital projects from the bond referendum, for which the bulk of construction will start this summer, and the hiring of new personnel in many important positions. Ms. Samot added that the district budgeted for the transition in the 2014-15 budget.
“The board really carefully considered this issue,” said member David Diskin. “The request is really coming from Ms. Graves. This is a need that she feels is critical to make a great transition.”
“There’s just a lot of stuff happening,” added board member Daniel Hartnett, “and it just kind of struck me as Katy spoke that the reason that she asked for some transition is because she’s experienced…that I think is a sign of professionalism and I think it’s money well spent on our part.”
The board also recognized the contributions of Dr. Bonuso, Mr. O’Keefe and Mr. Gulluscio during their time in the district, as well as Mary Anne Miller, a school board member of six years who chose not to pursue another term.
“Mary Anne leads with her heart,” said Mr. Hartnett. “Mary Anne leads with her heart, but thank goodness, she’s got a great brain to follow. She’s a passionate advocate for public education.”
“I don’t know of many people that spend as much time focused on education that actually aren’t being paid to do so,” added Chris Tice, vice president of the board.
“Her willingness to be unafraid to turn over rocks and to challenge things and ask questions is unique,” said Mr. Diskin.
Dr. Bonuso initially came on as an interim for a few months, but was quickly asked to stay for longer and ultimately served two full years as superintendent.
“He’s been an amazing force not only in the school, but in the community,” said Ms. Samot.
“I think that you brought a new level of heart to this school family,” added Ms. Tice. “That is going to be your legacy when you leave, so thank you for that.”
“I have to say,” added Sandi Kruel, a board member, “that the senior class, you know every one of them by name, how to pronounce their last name…and when you showed up at [the New York State baseball finals] the seniors were like, ‘He’s the man,” and that’s all I can say, you the man. So thank you for being a part of so many of our students’ lives.”
Acknowledging the “100 people to [my] left and right,” Dr. Bonuso spoke of his love for Sag Harbor.
“I’ve been in the business a long time—maybe close to 40 years—I thought I was going to come by for a few months, turns out a couple years because I fell in love with the place and the projects we were working with,” he said, adding that he came out of retirement because, “I think God whispered in my ear, ‘Before you go, you have to see this place.’ It’s just a remarkable experience.”
Mr. O’Keefe has been the business administrator since 2012. He will be leaving the district for a position as assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations in the West Hempstead School District. His resignation is effective July 16. Mr. O’Keefe was instrumental in passing the bond referendum last fall and in getting the district’s Moody’s bond rating upgraded this spring.
“You’ve put us in the best financial shape we’ve been in since I’ve been in the district,” Ms. Kruel said to Mr. O’Keefe.
Mr. Gulluscio’s term ends June 30. A native of Shelter Island, he will be returning home to serve as director of Physical Education and District Operations in that district, where his wife also works. During his time in Sag Harbor, he oversaw several trips to state championship for the Pierson Whalers.
“You would be hard-pressed to ever find anybody as good at what they do than the two gentlemen who are in the room right now,” said Dr. Bonuso, adding, “It’s been a privilege to have them at the left and right side these past couple years.”
“You both leave the district in much better shape than when you got here, so thank you,” added Ms. Tice.