Articles by

Elizabeth Laytin

10/22/11 10:00am

ELIZABETH LAYTIN PHOTO | At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, from left, members Mark Kanarvogel, Kim Reilly, Linda Eklund, Elizabeth Melichar and Alfred Brigham Sr.

The Board of Education of Shelter Island approved an agreement at its monthly meeting on Monday, October 17 to pay Sam Schneider, who was the school district business leader until June 30, $600 a day, or up to $7,200 for the school year, to consult as the new business leader, Wayne Vitale, transitions into the post. Mr. Vitale was hired October 5 to replace Jessica Mack, who left after only four months for reasons that were no disclosed.

Also at the meeting, Dr. Gessner congratulated special education teacher Rachel Brigham for her hard work after the board granted her tenure at his recommendation beginning November 15.

Board member Kim Reilly tendered her resignation, saying her job at the Nature Conservancy needed her focus. She promised to “heckle” from the audience at future meetings. “We thank you for your service,” Dr. Gessner said. “We’ll miss you.”

From the audience, resident Gail Draper asked for job descriptions for three co-curricular positions listed for approval. She asked if “Landmark Books” referred to a brand of the Scholastic publishing company. Janine Mahoney, a special education teacher, who was in the audience, said no, it is the” Book Craft Club.” Ms. Mahoney is the teacher receiving $1,358 for the job and described it as a self-publishing program for elementary school students.

School Superintendent Michael Hynes provided information about the literacy program coordinator and the literary magazine, the other two items on Ms. Draper’s list.

William Rowland said from the audience that his wife Cathy had been told a district job was hers when it wasn’t. “In May of 2011, Mike Dunning,” he said, referring to the school maintenance crew leader, “and Sam Schneider came to Cathy and asked her if she wanted a full-time custodian job.” When she was interviewed in September, she was told, “They’re going in a different direction,” he said, asking the board, “What direction?” No one can explain what happened, he said.

Dr. Gessner said he could not comment on personnel issues at a public board meeting but he could say the job was not filled.

“It was rude on the part of the person telling her she doesn’t have a job if a decision has not been made,” Mr. Rowland said.

Board member Mark Karnavogel updated the board about a recent field trip and Ms. Mahoney said there would be a MSG Varsity Challenge day in early November. Dr. Hynes reminded the group that field trips need to be approved in advance at board meetings.

A teacher asked the board to keep December 2 at 6:30 p.m. open for the Science Fair.

Board member Elizabeth Melichar announced that she, Dr. Hynes and Dr. Gessner would attend a school board convention the weekend of October 27-30 and apologized for not being able to resist using the phrase “shuffling off to Buffalo” to describe the meeting location.

Dr. Gessner read a list of goals for 2011-2012, including: reach agreement on the two union contracts in a way that meets the board’s financial responsibilities and is fair to the employees; submit a responsible budget to the voters in the spring; support the new superintendent; receive evidence of student achievement improvement; revise student conduct and athletics codes; complete a review of board and school policies; clarify the decision-making processes for employment and student discipline; clarify the responsibilities of board committees, merging, eliminating or confirming them; and creating a “Board Room” for research and meetings, where the minutes can be stored. The board currently meets in the home ec room.

Several teachers and employees were hired for after-school programs, and a complete list, with stipends, can be found on the school’s website. They include:

• Christine Gallagher as a permanent substitute teacher, at a rate of $150 per day;

• Peter Miedema and Richard Osmer Jr., intramural student weight training coaches, at $545.84 each;

• Jack Reardon, media club advisor, at $2,530;

• Donna Clark, detention supervisor, at $1,688;

• Audrey Pedersen, high school city trip coordinator, at $671;

• Jessica Bosak, ninth grade advisor, at $671;

• Teri Piccozzi, Spanish Club, at $1,358;

• John Kaasik, play director/producer, at $4,396;

• Roberta Garris, literacy program coordinator, at $4,396; and

• Devon Treharne, literary magazine, at $1,358.

10/21/11 1:00pm

JIM COLLIGAN PHOTO | A deer feeding at 4-poster station.

The Town Board would like to boost the 4-poster deer tick program so that it has the best results, said Councilwoman Christine Lewis at at a budget planning session last Thursday. But she told Patricia Shillingburg, chair of the Deer and Tick Committee, that there was a caveat: the board could not do everything it would like to do.

“I’m sure we’re going to be cutting this week and next,” she said, referring to the 2012 budget plan.

“Shelter Island needs to be deer tick free,” Mrs. Shillingburg said. The current $68,000 budget line for 2012 is far too low, she said, “if we want to keep the Island safe.” She urged the town to approve either $300,000 for 60 4-poster units in the “North” and “South” areas every other year or $150,000 for 30 units every year — in the north in 2012 and the south in 2013. The $150,000 would include $40,600 for corn and $98,800 for maintenance.

She told the board that raising funds privately to fund the program was not a possibility, in part because the Deer and Tick Management Foundation’s position is that “maintaining health and welfare of the community is the government’s role.”

Ms. Shillingburg said, “Every person I’ve approached, even to lift an envelope, has said no” to requests for donations. Those who made donations for the town’s 2008-2010 state-sanctioned 4-poster study, under which 60 units were deployed townwide, had told her that controlling deer ticks was a health issue, she said.

She explained later in a phone interview, “I approached the Deer and Tick Management Foundation about the need to raise $150,000.” When she “started rounding up a team,” she found out that those who gave before believe the 2011 study is a proven study. “When it was an experiment, and it was a charitable event,” she said, “they were willing to go into their pockets.” But now they say it should be a public expense.

Councilman Glenn Waddington, who is running for town supervisor, said he thought hunters would prefer having 60 4-posters in the field in 2012 and none in 2013, a plan that would allow them to hunt without any 4-posters anywhere in the down year. Supervisor Jim Dougherty, who is running for re-election, said, “We’re all learning this thing … It looks like the 4-posters work.” But “we’re broke, so we have to compromise.” He thanked Ms. Shillingburg for five years of hard work through the tick study and the first year of the town’s 15-unit program.

“We’ve proven we can do what we have to do,” Ms. Shillingburg said. “I know it’s tough, Glenn,” she said, finding the funding.

“Doing something is better than doing nothing,” Ms. Lewis said of Ms. Shillingburg’s assertion that a 15-unit 4-poster program would not kill enough ticks to keep the population suppressed.

Richard Kelly, a member of the audience who has questioned the 4-poster program, said that the data on which a 2011 final report on the 4-poster study was based — the report indicates the program was highly effective at killing ticks — should be verified. “You have to have three independent labs test it,” he said. He and Ms. Shillingburg argued about whether the budget meeting was the proper forum for a criticism of the 2011 report.

Ms. Lewis raised the issue of the pending decision from New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation. The 2011 report was to have been the deciding factor in a DEC decision to authorize the use of the chemical permethrin in 4-posters statewide. Mr. Dougherty said approval was forthcoming. “They’ll say yes,” he said.

10/20/11 10:00pm

Residents who want to vote later this month on the Shelter Island Library‘s request for a raise in taxpayer support for its 2012 budget may register today, Thursday, October 20 from 3 to 7 p.m. at the library. Residents who are already registered to vote do not need to register again.

The library held a hearing on its budget at the library on Tuesday night. No one from the public attended.

Absentee ballots are available from the school district clerk, Deborah Vecchio, by mail or online. Call 749-0302, extension 403 for information.

The vote will take place Saturday, October 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the school library, not the public library. The voting location is switched for that vote because of renovations on the lower level of the library.

Voters will be asked to approve a 4.5 percent increase in tax revenues for the Shelter Island Public Library even as the library trims spending by $5,409 or .9 percent from $583,100 to $577.691, according to the 2012 budget proposal.

Facing an anticipated drop of 26 percent in non-tax revenues as insurance, payroll and other costs rise, the library board will ask voters to increase the amount the library receives through taxation by $20,941 from $460,500 to $481,441.

If voters reject the proposal, the library would receive the same amount in tax revenue that it received this year.

If voters approve the increase, library officials said, the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed valuation would be $0.1576, an increase of .6 percent from $0.1518 in 2011, based on a median Shelter Island property assessment of $640,000. The library tax bill for that property would be $100.86, up $4.47 from the last bill.

10/15/11 11:05pm

PETER BOODY PHOTO | Justice Court Clerk Beverly Pelletier and Justice Helen Rosenblum at a recent Town Board work session.

Co-workers who wanted to give their own sick days to town employee Teresa Montant will now be able to do so.

The Town Board on Thursday, October 6 convened a special meeting and voted to allow town workers to transfer sick days to her under the terms of an agreement between the town, Ms. Montant, the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA). the Highway Benevolent Association and the Shelter Island Police Benevolent Association.

The Highway Department and public works secretary, Ms. Montant has been fighting breast cancer and is a leader in local breast-cancer awareness campaigns.

At the same meeting, the board hired Cara Cass as a part-time clerical assistant until the end of the year to help Justice Court Clerk Beverly Pelletier with what she and Town Justice Helen Rosenblum called a “crushing workload” at last week’s Town Board work session. Ms. Cass will be paid $4,200 at a rate of $16.50 an hour for 20 hours. The funds are available in the court’s budget, according to Ms. Pelletier and Justice Rosenblum.

“I’m asking for this to see me through this season,” Ms. Pelletier said earlier at the work session last week. New laws, DWI processing, probation cases, “interlocking jurisdictions, [and] cases to the county,” she said, were swamping her. If the town instead paid her to work overtime to keep up with all the tasks, she said, “My brain would be dead the next morning.”

Justice Rosenblum told the board that Ms. Pelletier was meticulous, hard working, and never complained, and if she said she needed help, the board should consider it a valid request.

10/14/11 11:00pm

The Board of Education accepted the resignation of School District Business Leader Jessica Mack at a special meeting at the school on October 5 and hired Wayne Vitale to the position for a three-year probationary period.

Mr. Vitale, 46, was previously an accountant for the Town of Southampton and lives in Center Moriches, he said by phone this week. His salary is $87,000 a year, prorated for the school year, effective October 11.

Ms. Mack was hired July 1 at a salary of $95,000 to replace Business Leader Sam Schneider, who took a job in the Riverhead School District. Board President Stephen Gessner said at the October 5 meeting the reason she left was “a personnel matter we can’t discuss.”

“I’m very pleased to be here,” said Mr. Vitale. “It’s a wonderful place to work. I look forward to being here for a long time.” He mentioned that his wife graduated from Pierson High in Sag Harbor and is from “old Sag Harbor people.”