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Island school demonstrates heart

Shelter Island School has heart.

It was on display Monday night at the Board of Education when several appointments were announced to fill the shoes of beloved clerk Jacki Dunning who is on a leave of absence to undergo medical treatments. She is expected to be back in great form before Christmas.

But to maintain the work that must go on, District Treasurer Deborah Vecchio is picking up many responsibilities Ms. Dunning carried. Staffers Maryann Impastato and Meghan Lang are joining in the effort as district clerk pro tems.

Stacey Kehl has been hired as a leave replacement to serve as confidential secretary to Superintendent Brian Doelger.

Ana Campos was appointed as an office assistant/clerk typist and brings her abilities with Spanish to her job.

If it seems like a lot of personnel moves done practically overnight, it’s reflective of the many hats Ms. Dunning wears in serving the district.

It also explains why many school staffers have stepped up to bank sick days that can be used by Ms. Dunning during her medical leave.

Another heartwarming activity nowhere evident on the agenda opened the meeting as a large contingent of elementary school students and teachers arrived to thank the Board of Education members on Board Appreciation Day.

They brought pictures drawn of each of the Board members, and a special picture of a tree with the annotation, “Thank you for helping us grow,” they presented to Board President Kathleen Lynch.

There have been many such Board Appreciation celebrations through the year, but it’s likely future ones will have to step up their game after this most touching one.

School Safety Plan

Settling down to business, the Board reviewed its updated School Safety Plan.

The document is on the school’s website at www.shelterisland.k12.ny.us.

“We’re ahead of the curve,” thanks to the close alliance between the Shelter Island Police Department and the school, Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D., said.

He explained the plan is a “living document” that will be changed as circumstances reveal ways in which it can be improved.

Officer Anthony Rando, who was elected to the Board of Education in May, said he is reassured in having a solid plan that can provide student and staff safety in an emergency.

“It’s tough we have to talk about things like this,” Mr. Doelger said. Being proactive in today’s world makes it necessary, he said.

Math teacher James “Jimbo” Theinert called the plan “something we never want to do,” but said he feels good about the efforts of Officer Rando and Detective Andrew Graffagnino, who are involved with the students and staff.

With two Board members absent, Tracy McCarthy and Katherine Rossi-Snook — the plan was accepted by a vote of 5-0.


The district got a clean bill of health from Christopher Angotta, a CPA and partner at Nawrocki Smith in Melville. The audit of financials for the year ended on June 30 found there were “no material weaknesses or significant deficiencies in internal controls,” Mr. Angotta said.

The report noted that the district’s fund balance that is not supposed to exceed 4% of its budget, is at 4.5%. It has steadily declined since Shelter Island was faulted in the past for an unassigned fund balance that was much too high.

That’s something that afflicts many districts, especially those that are small.

Large districts with many millions of dollars in their budgets can usually cover unexpected occurrences that could crop up in any given year. But 4% of a relatively small budget for a district like the Island could be too little to tackle an unexpected need, Mr. Doelger said.

But the district has created some defined funds to handle specific needs to help assure money is available for unplanned construction or major purchases.

Externship program

While Mr. Theinert’s externship program got off to a slower start in September than he had hoped, it is doing well now with several companies signed on to give students an opportunity to learn about the real world of work, he told the Board.

As president of the Strongpoint Theinert Ranch organization, created by his family in memory of his brother 1st Lt. Joseph Theinert, who died in Afghanistan in 2010, he is creating an externship program to familiarize students with job opportunities in the nonprofit sector. The ranch provides a respite for veterans and active duty service members. As part of the program, three to five students will be selected to visit the ranch in New Mexico between Feb. 12 and 16, 2024, where they will be involved in the work being done there.

“There is nothing I’ve ever done that was more profound,” said Ms. Lynch, who has been to the ranch twice. The vote to support the trip was 5-0.