After Pierson Middle School art instructor TJ Maher officially resigned in May, the Sag Harbor School Board broached the subject of evaluating the Pierson arts program at a board meeting two weeks ago instead of immediately filling the position.
At this meeting, many parents urged the board to find a replacement and not divide the workload among the two high school art educators.
At a board meeting on Monday, June 21, the discussion of the position was back on the table and Pierson principal Jeff Nichols announced the district will staff the post but will convert the job from full-time to a .8 position. As a .8 teacher, this employee will receive medical benefits and be a member of the teachers union but will be ineligible for a tenure track, school superintendent Dr. John Gratto explained in a later interview.
Nichols said he and Pierson art teachers Peter Solow and Joe Bartolotto have already interviewed nine candidates for the position. About five of these hopefuls conducted sample lessons and the finalists have been narrowed down to two. Nichols hopes to make an appointment by the Monday, July 12, board of education meeting.
Parent Tom Gleeson wondered if the school would be able to attract a quality educator by offering a .8 position. Nichols responded that each candidate was aware the job wasn’t full time. He added that the portfolio class was folded into the advanced placement art course, but all other art offerings would be maintained.
Dr. Gratto noted during a later interview that each class had roughly seven students signed up to attend. Portfolio is largely devoted to independent work, added Dr. Gratto. He mentioned that Solow was also consulted on this decision.
Gleeson, however, felt that the students should have been brought into the discussion of combining these classes.
The middle school art position wasn’t the only vacancy discussed on Monday evening as seven other educators announced their departure from the district. Nichols and elementary school principal Matt Malone noted they would follow the normal procedure of posting the positions, but said they would keep a keen eye towards hiring professionals with dual certification.
These openings, said school board president Walter Wilcoxen and board member Dan Hartnett, will allow the board to explore how these programs are delivered. They paid particular attention to a guidance position left open by Eileen Kochanasz’s resignation. Board members and administrators said this vacancy could be filled by an educator with a focus on the college admissions process.
During a later interview, Wilcoxen noted that the guidance, art, and library program haven’t undergone a full curriculum investigation like other areas of study.
“[In light of our] long term goals of pursuing IB [International Baccalaureate] as well as pre-k and understanding that we are in challenging economic times, I think we are going to really thoroughly vet every position as well as the job description around each position,” Hartnett remarked at Monday’s meeting.
Elementary school speech pathologist Anita Grille pointed out that the seven retiring teachers had 140 cumulative years of teaching experience. She worried these positions will be staffed by novice educators at step one.
“It is hard to replace 140 years of experience with five years of experience,” Grille said.
In addition, the board decided to table a few dozen resolutions that would have appointed coaches to different athletic teams for the upcoming school year.
Wilcoxen later noted that he is concerned by a lack of coherent policy when it comes to the hiring of coaches. At the meeting, he tasked the administration with drafting an equitable policy and returning to the board with it on Monday, July 12.
Teacher Frank Atkinson-Barnes believes this issue of policy halted the creation of summer sports programs for students. He added that the board doesn’t have a great deal of athletic experience or at least enough to adopt a coaching policy.
Wilcoxen countered that the administration will be in charge of creating the policy, and the board will simply review it. The board eventually tabled these sports appointments but appointed Lee Oldak as rowing coach to compensate him for services he rendered in 2009 and Ewa Szychowska as athletic equipment manager. Facilities supervisor Montgomery Granger lobbied for the latter appointment.