Pysher pitches for town social worker

JULIE LANE PHOTO Communities That Care leader Marilynn Pysher made a pitch to the Town Board last week for Shelter Island School’s part-time social worker Jennifer Olsen to provide part-time townwide services.

Communities That Care leader Marilynn Pysher made a pitch to the Town Board last week for Shelter Island School’s part-time social worker Jennifer Olsen to provide part-time townwide services.

Calling it an “exciting, needed, progressive, practical opportunity,” Communities That Care leader and Shelter Island Board of Education member Marilynn Pysher appealed to the Town Board last week to hire the school’s part-time social worker for additional part-time hours.Jennifer Olsen, who works the equivalent of 3.5 days a week for the school could give another 12 hours a month to Island families if the town would pick up the hourly tab for her service, Ms. Pysher said.

She put the cost at $9,648 for the year, but said there is money left in the CTC budget to allocate $2,000 of that tab.
Supervisor Jim Dougherty embraced the concept, if not the full price.

“I’m quite willing to give this a try” for nine to 10 hours a month, Mr. Dougherty said. He has budgeted $5,000 toward the cost, leaving it to the rest of the board to either increase the spending or cut back Ms. Olsen’s hours.

“Let’s crawl before we walk,” Mr. Dougherty said about the cutback he suggested.

Because Ms. Olsen already has office space and a benefits package from the school, the town would be paying $67 per hour for Ms. Olsen’s services.

The advantage, Ms. Pysher said, is that it would enable Ms. Olsen to work with the entire family and not just the child at school.

Police Chief Jim Read echoed that sentiment saying that it would be an advantage to the entire community since problems that students bring to school often start in the home where there may be a problem with alcoholism or a domestic abuse situation.

He called such a hire “another tool in our tool box” that would aid police in dealing with such situations.

Other communities have hired social workers while school districts hired a different social worker requiring all kinds of red tape in allowing the two professionals to share information that applies to the entire family, Ms. Pysher said.

“She’s the person who would know it all,” said School Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik.

If the Town Board funds the line, Ms. Olsen would be able to reach out to seniors, families, people through church groups and anyone in the community who might benefit from her services, Ms. Pysher said.

Besides rendering services directly, Ms. Olsen would be in a position to refer people to other services from which they could benefit, Ms. Pysher said.

“There are a lot of issues on this Island,” Ms. Pysher said, telling the Town Board she hopes it will make an investment in families here.

As for the future of CTC itself, plans call for the organization to cease to exist as of the end of the year. That had been previously anticipated as Ms. Pysher has been unable to find others who would take over many of her responsibilities with the organization.

However, she and remaining members still plan to offer the Guiding Good Choices to assist parents in dealing with issues they encounter with their children. And Ms. Pysher said if the social worker does get funded by the town, she wold be willing to continue as a liaison between the town and school in overseeing Ms. Olsen’s work for the town.

She also said that while CTC won’t exist, she would be willing to help raise money similar to the $2,000 CTC is investing in the social worker this year in order to assure that it’s not just a one-year offset to what the town is being asked to pay.


Justice Court judges Mary Faith Westervelt and Helen Rosenblum and their clerk, Nancy Kotula, made a brief presentation of their  $141,066 budget that would include $11,000 instead of $9.,000 for a stenographer’s services should there be a trial — something they acknowledged doesn’t happen often here, but did happen in the past year.

The request  would also provide $3,000 for interpreter’s services, instead of the $2,500 in the current budget. There are small raises in line with those going to other non-union town personnel. The only change, and it’s modest in terms of cost, is Ms. Rosenblum’s request to sometimes run an extra session of her court. In the past, she and Ms. Westervelt have alternated on the bench week to week. But at times, Ms. Rosenblum said it would better serve the public if she could schedule court activities closer together. Ms. Westervelt said she wasn’t currently asking for more sessions, but would do so if she saw a need. She said the lawyers with whom she tends to deal seem to appreciate having longer preparation time.


Karin Bennett told the Town Board she thinks senior services are “in pretty good shape” and only asked for a part-timer who has been working 10 hours a week to be allowed to work 19 in order to do some of the heavier work she can’t handle. Mr. Dougherty had offered to expand the worker’s hours to 15. It will fall to the rest of the Town Board to weigh the request and decide how to proceed.


The West Neck Water District may look flush with money, but that’s because there are repairs to be done for which the district is saving money in a second account and it will only be used when there are sufficient funds to move forward with projects. She noted that in 2013, there were repairs to leaks in a line running from the end of Stearns Point Road to Sunset Beach. Rather than simply plugging leaks on the old line, the decision was made to replace it.


The Town Board made quick work of three other budgets for the tax receiver’s office, proposed at $49,824; attorney at $78,163; and the Green Options Committee for $650. That money is essentially for advertising related to the annual Green Expo, committee chairman Tim Purtell told the Town Board.

The Shelter Island Association has, in the past, sprung for that cost and may do so again, he said. At the same time, he said he didn’t want to assume that would be the case and needed to know there would be money in the budget in case SIA should decide not to foot that bill.

The Town Board will continue budget discussions Tuesday afternoon following the 1 p.m. work session. Other budget sessions are currently slated for Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon.

[email protected]