Sudden administration changes within the Eastport South Manor School District—namely, the swapping of school principals as of earlier this week—sent some parents attending last week’s Board of Education meeting into a tizzy.
Joseph Steimel, who oversaw the district’s junior-senior high school in Manorville since its opening a decade ago, is now the principal of the Eastport Elementary School. Meanwhile, Salvatore Alaimo, who ran the Montauk Highway elementary school for the past three years, is now in charge of day-to-day operations at the combined high school.
“This is the perfect time to make administrative changes,” said ESM Schools Superintendent Mark Nocero in announcing the swap at the meeting, held on October 8.
Openings for the district’s department chairs at the end of last year prompted officials to rethink the structure at the junior-senior high school staffing, according to Mr. Nocero. He said while he and his staff were brainstorming ideas, the conversation about switching principals came up.
“The whole idea just evolved,” he said this week, noting that the deans who discipline students at the high school will also be moving into more of an administration role.
But many parents and other members of the school community, some of whom said they had no idea the change was coming, questioned the timing of the announcement.
“I understand you have the right to do anything you want,” parent Marianne Deena of Manorville told school administrators, “but this doesn’t make sense for the kids in either [school].”
She said she also wanted to know why parents, as well as the ESM community, only found out about the changes after it was posted on the district’s website on Tuesday, September 30. Last Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting, which drew about a dozen concerned parents, was the first meeting since the announcement was posted on the board.
Mr. Steimel, who earns $177,547 per year, will not receive a pay increase with his new position, according to Mr. Nocero. Mr. Alaimo, who earned $139,602 as an elementary school principal, will receive a raise that will be determined and approved by the Board of Education at their next meeting on Wednesday, October 22.
Other parents in attendance last week, meanwhile, took issue with the timing of the change, suggesting that it should have taken place before the new school year got under way.
“If any move like this is about to take place, it should take place before the kids will be affected by any means,” said parent Stevenson Petit, who lives in Manorville.
Mr. Nocero retorted that the switch, which took effect this past Monday, will not impact students or the efficiency of the two schools.
“I believe, wholeheartedly, that this is not only for the good of the students, but also the least disruptive time of the year to make changes,” the superintendent added.
Members of the Board of Education appeared similarly surprised about the change at first.
“I sit on the board as a member of this community,” Nicholas Vero said. “There are things we don’t really have a vote on. I think I had the same reaction, but, as it was explained again, everything seems to be in place. We’re relying on the experts of the administration.”
Kevin Gleason, another member of the board, asked community members to give the administration the benefit of the doubt. “What I would ask all of you, please, is to let the process play out,” Mr. Gleason said. “I think we’ll all see the fruits of the labor in the near future.”
In addition to the principal swap, the district hired two new department chairs for the junior-senior high school.
Ethan Wivietsky, who worked in the district’s alternative high school, has been appointed as the new chairman of the English and Social Studies Department. He replaced Maureen Avionne, who accepted the role of director of special education in September. Mr. Wivietsky is contracted at $115,000 per year and Ms. Avionne will receive $142,090 annually.
Meanwhile, Tom Dick, a newcomer to the district, took over as chairman of the Math and Science Department. Mr. Dick earns a salary of $122,000.
But it was the swapping of school principals that prompted additional questions last week from parents, including those who asked if the changes would affect the district’s $92.6 million budget for the 2014-15 school year. Mr. Nocero said the spending plan will not go up due to the restructuring, noting that the personnel budget is more than $10,000 in the black.
Still, at least one parent wanted administrators to know that the change has upset two important people in her life. Stacie Colon, who has two children enrolled in the Eastport Elementary School, told the board that both are upset to learn that Mr. Alaimo was reassigned to the junior-senior high school.
“He has made such a difference,” Ms. Colon said. “I love being in this district with Mr. Alaimo as a principal because he went above and beyond, and really cared about all the students.
“As a parent,” she continued, “it was amazing to see a principal bring such a great dynamic to a school. The high school is lucky and we will miss him very much.”
The superintendent, however, stood firm on the decision to switch positions, adding that the time is ideal to do so as the students and teachers in both schools have settled into their routines for the 2014-15 school year, and administrators will soon begin making plans for the 2015-16 school year.
“The more we thought about it, the more we thought this would be the best time for a change,” Mr. Nocero said.