Resignations Call For Answers In Sag Harbor School District

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Fallout from the resignation earlier this month of the second Sag Harbor School Board member to quit in a year was felt this week, as parents and board members continued to search for answers about the abrupt departure.

At a School Board meeting last Thursday, March 21—the first since Gregg Schiavoni’s departure was announced at a meeting on March 6—several parents questioned the board’s behavior, and member Ed Drohan took the podium himself to speak on what he called the board’s “unfair and tarnished reputation” and to suggest a public airing of the accusations as a way forward.

Mr. Schiavoni’s decision was preceded eight months earlier by Walter Wilcoxen’s resignation. Both offered parting comments harshly criticizing the board, with Mr. Wilcoxen accusing it of “grandstanding, blindsiding and micromanaging,” and Mr. Schiavoni accusing members of disrespecting one another and violating the Sunshine Law governing what can be discussed behind closed doors.

Mr. Drohan, reading from prepared remarks, said that where issues remain unresolved, history repeats itself, as evidenced by Mr. Schiavoni’s “virtual mirror image” of Mr. Wilcoxen’s exit in July. Mr. Drohan said he wanted to speak out after the first resignation but let himself be talked out of it. Now, he has asked the Noyac Civic Council to schedule a debate on the issue.

“Unfortunately, this board has been attacked from within and suffers from the community’s erroneous interpretation of its efforts, based on irresponsible and undocumented criticism from its internal detractors,” Mr. Drohan said.

During a public comment portion of the meeting held hours later Larry Baum, a father of four children in the district, expressed his displeasure with what he saw as a “dysfunctional” board. “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” he said later. “The elephant in the room is that they’re not working well together or not communicating as well as they say they are.”

Mr. Baum said that Mr. Schiavoni was the board’s highest vote-getter in years, and that for him to be so frustrated to resign should send a message to all parents and board members that something was wrong.

He also questioned the board’s decision to hold off on its search for a permanent superintendent until next fall. The board replied that it was following its consultant’s recommendation based on when the most candidates will be available.

Budget Talk Resumes

The Sag Harbor School District’s latest proposed budget for the 2013-14 school year is $35.4 million, an approximately 3.59-percent increase over this year’s spending plan.

The proposed tax levy increase is 3.83 percent. The maximum tax levy increase Sag Harbor is allowed under the state tax cap is 4.06 percent, because of exceptions to and exclusions from the 2-percent cap. This means that the district is considered within the cap.

PPS Director Leaving

Sag Harbor’s director of pupil personnel services since December 2006, Dr. Lisa Scheffer, is resigning. The board accepted her resignation last Thursday, March 21. Her last day will be May 31.

Dr. Scheffer said she has accepted a job in the same position in Port Jefferson, a district nearer her home.

District officials last week did not respond to a request seeking the amount of her salary.

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