Sag Harbor School Board Awards Tenure, Continues Search For New Superintendent

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By Brandon B. QuinnThe first half of Monday’s Sag Harbor School Board meeting was “meant to be a night of celebration,” according to Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso.

The second half of the meeting was all business, with board members hashing out the specifics to find Dr. Bonuso’s permanent replacement.

Dr. Charles Fowler, the president of School Leadership LLC., the Malverne company hired by the district to assist the board in its superintendent search, explained where they stood in the process, provided a tentative timeline and answered questions from concerned community members.

A request by some parents who spoke at Monday’s meeting was for more community involvement in the search process. This led Dr. Fowler to explain why he believes it is important to have a consultant company such as his to lead such a search.

He explained that if a search is not conducted in private and the confidentiality of candidates cannot be ensured, the best candidates could refuse to apply for fear of retribution from their current employers once word spreads that they applied elsewhere.

“You want the largest possible funnel to get the best candidate, so if the best possible candidates don’t apply, the likelihood of hiring the right fit decreases greatly,” said Dr. Fowler, whose company is being paid $18,750 for its services.

School Leadership LLC has already interviewed 174 community residents, asking them what they want in their next superintendent. Dr. Fowler said that based on those responses, residents want someone who can budget and communicate well, and also possesses strong curriculum-setting skills.

The schedule laid out by Dr. Fowler showed the next step is to advertise the position and begin recruiting candidates. He hopes to have his firm screen all the applications and conduct the first round of interviews by February 2014. His company then plans to present the best candidates to the School Board by March 2014, so they can hand out a new three- to five-year contract by the end of April 2014.

Dr. Bonuso replaced Dr. John Gratto following his retirement in August 2012, when he became the clinical assistant professor of education at Virginia Tech. Originally hired on a one-year contract, Dr. Bonuso was awarded a second one-year contract by the board earlier this year.

The evening started with the presentation of a plaque to outgoing School Board member Edward Drohan, who lost his reelection bid last month, for his service over the past three years. Mr. Drohan—whom Dr. Bonuso said “is always looking to learn,” before praising him for his hard work and honesty—has accepted an internship in New York City at the age of 78 to learn about the commercial real estate industry.

Next came the recommendations for tenure of five district employees, all receiving unanimous approval from the board.

Lacey Price, who previously worked as a special education teacher before switching to second grade full-time, was granted tenure in the area of childhood education. Jonathan Schwartz, a computer lab instructor who is also the advisor to the Robotics Club and coach of the middle school baseball team, was granted tenure in the same field.

Anthony Chase Mallia, a mathematics and special education teacher, was tenured in the area of students with disabilities. Margaret Motto, a school guidance counselor who helped overhaul the school’s college search program for students, was tenured as a school counselor. Lastly, Anita Lagrassa, a former special education teacher and current teaching assistant, was granted tenure as a teaching assistant.

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