School Board wants to be prepared for emergency

The school shouldn’t wait for an emergency to repair the septic system, were the sentiments expressed by superintendent Brian Doelger, Ph.D. and Facilities Manager Mike Dunning at Monday night’s meeting of the Board of Education.

The nitrates in the water near the school are the highest on the Island because the school is the most high-use building and the situation must be corrected soon, was the message that came through loud and clear to the board and the audience attending. The superintendent explained that the school will go ahead in its own direction now.

Mr. Doelger and Mr. Dunning recently visited Springs School, which had an emergency situation that is costing $1.5 million to remediate. It was reported that an Island system would cost more like $500,000. Photos were shown that indicated effluent going through filters composed of wood chips. Board member Katherine Rossi-Snook said that all the technologies available should be looked at in a feasibility study.

“I would be able to water the school garden with the cleaned water,” she said.

“This will probably be a bond issue,” Mr. Doelger said.

Meanwhile, Christopher Angotta of the Melville accounting firm Nawrocki Smith, reported that the finances were fairly presented and that the district is in “good financial health.” He added that the fund balance was higher than the state’s mandate, and is there to take care of the contingencies that can come up in a small school.

Guidance Counselor Martha Tuthill reported that the state board of regents now demands that all students in K-12 have access to certified guidance counselors.

“They’re stressing the whole child approach with guidance in college and career, which we’re already doing here,” Ms. Tuthill said.

She also noted that an advisory council will be created for all stakeholders and the children to review individual progress.

Mr. Doelger said that the recent “conference day” was a success, including Island history lessons at the History Center for new teachers to get to know the Island better. They also had sexual harassment training. Mr. Doelger said he wants to build community, create core values as a district, increase enrollment and work to improve the school on all levels.

“We want tangible results,” he said.

In other matters, the boys cross country team received a county championship plaque for being Class D champs. Kal Lewis received the plaque from Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio. Mr. Lewis is a three-time state champion and is set to go to the University of Iowa.

Mr. Gulluscio also said that Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) presented the school with the highest scholar-athlete award and named Shelter Island a school of distinction.

Maria Carbajal, the student liaison to the board, reported that the students would like to have vending machines placed in the school that “would have affordable prices.”

Ms. Carbajal said that a winter dance is planned for January 11 and the students would like to invite other schools.

It was made clear that the other schools would bring their own chaperones.

Mr. Dunning extended thanks to Liberty Landscaping for all their help and he also thanked Fr. Peter DeSanctis for room dividers.

The board accepted Christopher Geehreng to replace Kerri Knifing from Dec. 2 through February 21, 2020; a childcare leave of absence for James Thienert from Jan. 17, 2020 through Feb. 4, 2020; additional substitute teacher Andrei Oraseanu for the school year at $110 per day; additional volunteer basketball coach Michael Mundy for the year; appointed Maria Katolis as permanent substitute at $175 per day; appointed Allen Gerstenlauer as mentor to the superintendent at a rate of $400 per meeting one day a week, not to exceed 47 meetings for the school year; and approved music teacher Lauren Farkas as music teacher for a four-year probationary period.

The board also approved Mr. Doelger and Mr. Gerstenlauer as lead evaluators of teachers and principals for the school year. Mr. Gerstenlauer was the interim Island superintendent before Mr. Doelger’s arrival.