This week in Shelter Island history

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Members of the Shelter Island School Drama Club at a rehearsal in 2003 of Clare Booth Luce’s “The Women” had no clue when this picture was taken that their play would close after a single performance because two parents pulled their daughters from the cast.


School stage goes dark — temporarily
After a protest from parents that “The Women” was an inappropriate play for the Shelter Island School drama club, weekend performances were cancelled back in 2003. Parents of two cast members pulled them from the cast with one father saying he wasn’t going to allow his daughter to appear in the play that he saw the previous night. He wouldn’t comment further. But with the two cast members out, the school had no choice but to cancel the final two performances. But then-School Superintendent Ken Lanier said the decision wasn’t one made by the district. He declared the Friday night performance “excellent and quite well received” and said he hoped to be able to reschedule the cancelled performances. Alternative cast members were slotted into the two roles and the final two performances were rescheduled for May.

Acting coach Susan Cincotta said the 1936 Clare Booth Luce play was a classic comedy about high society women and was not inappropriate as a school production.

POSTSCRIPT: Audiences who attended last week’s Shelter Island School productions of “Legally Blonde” had nothing but positive words for the performers and the play.


Dr. Berman resigns as superintendent
After seven years at the helm of the Shelter Island School District, Dr. Marlene Berman tendered her resignation at this time 20 years ago. In her letter of resignation, she said she was proud of what she and the board had accomplished in terms of both building improvements and the educational program.

“Throughout the seven years, I have enjoyed a good, open working relationship with the Board of Education” while some “hard decisions” had to be made. She called her tenure “rich, challenging and sometimes tumultuous,” saying it was time to make a change. She planned to move on to a larger school district where she could work with a team of administrators. Then-Board Member Cliff Clark praised Dr. Berman, saying she was the most professional person with whom he had ever worked. The board accepted the resignation with regret.

POSTSCRIPT: Superintendent Michael Hynes now leads the Shelter Island District and certainly understands the challenges superintendents and boards face to provide a good educational experience for students at a price taxpayers can afford. He and the board are in the midst of a tough budgeting season, trying to maintain current programs and fund new educational initiatives.


Unemployment rate still high
In April 1983, the Shelter Island unemployment rate was 13.1 percent while the state average was 9.1 percent. The Labor Department predicted that unemployment would begin to drop within the next few months, but could climb again by summer. While the percentage rate was high, the actual numbers were low, according to the Labor Department. The total civilian workforce on the Island was 936 and the unemployment rate represented 123 people who sought, but lacked jobs. Surrounding East End towns at the time had unemployment rates of about 9.1 percent. Then-Supervisor Mal Nevel was calling for a Labor Department investigation to determine why Shelter Island unemployment was higher than in surrounding communities.

POSTSCRIPT: Today, the Labor Department shows Island unemployment at 7.3 percent, below the national 7.6 percent figure.


Four seek school board posts
In April 1963, there were four candidates vying for two open seats on the Shelter Island Board of Education. One board member was retiring after nine years of service and one incumbent was seeking re-election.

POSTSCRIPT: As of today, only one incumbent has stepped forward to seek another three-year term, while a second incumbent and any opponents have until 5 p.m. Monday to file petitions to run for a board seat.