Editorial: Farewell, Thomas Graffagnino and Mark Kanarvogel

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The Shelter Island School District is about to undergo a major transformation with the loss of two of its long-term Board of Education members — Thomas Graffagnino and Mark Kanarvogel — who both chose not to seek re-election last month.

Mr. Graffagnino smoothly took the reins as chairman of the board when Stephen Gessner stepped down in 2015. He has provided the same strong leadership Mr. Gessner brought to the post, while Mr. Kanarvogel has continued to be a thoughtful voice on issues of policy and budgeting. Both have contributed to ensuring that a seven-member Board of Ed could work effectively and respectfully with one another in reaching decisions.

That is no easy task, since a board that size could easily become unwieldy and bogged down. We credit Mr. Graffagnino’s leadership for managing a board that worked together toward achievable goals.

Mr. Graffagnino and Mr. Kanarvogel have served during what might have been a tumultuous time for many school boards challenged with major changes in administration. But their efforts have contributed to keeping the district on a sure footing.

This July, a School Board with two newly elected members — John Klupka Sr. and Katharine Rossi-Snook — will be challenged by yet another major transition as Superintendent Christine Finn departs at the end of this school year.

She has built a strong administrative infrastructure, but in today’s world, where the state has imposed so much more reporting work on local boards, an effective team is critical to keeping the district on an even keel.

How effectively the new board will work together will rapidly be revealed by the way in which it approaches this first major responsibility of finding a superintendent of schools.

Much of their work in selecting a replacement for Ms. Finn will happen in executive sessions. But how members interact with one another in open sessions will be a strong indication of whether they’re meshing with one another when they’re behind closed doors.

That doesn’t mean they have to speak with a single voice and avoid differences of opinion. But it requires they listen to one another with respect and open minds.

We wish the newly constituted board success in both the immediate challenge and future efforts to guide the district with wisdom and professionalism.

And again, we thank Thomas Graffagnino and Mark Kanarvogel for their service to the youth of our community.

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