Communication Model to Change in Sag Harbor Schools

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Pierson Middle-High School as seen on March 27, 2019. Christine Sampson photo

The Sag Harbor School Board of Education has begun looking at how it communicates with the public and how to improve on that process.

During its Monday night meeting, board president Diana Kolhoff and Superintendent Katy Graves walked the board through the current model where District Clerk Victoria Handy serves as the communications coordinator working with communication building representatives as well as the communications support firm, Syntax. Ms. Handy took on the role in February 2018 when the school board added 11 hours per week to her workload in order for her to take on the position.

However, according to Ms. Graves, the number of Freedom of Information Act requests to the district — the fulfillment of which falls to Ms. Handy — has made it challenging for her to continue in that role.

Moving forward, Ms. Graves recommended hiring a communication person — with less than the 17 hours a week of work to avoid hiring off the Suffolk County Civil Service List. Building communication representatives may no longer be necessary, which would save the district $12,000 annual. Ms. Graves said the district should look to involve the community in this discussion before charting a course forward.

Board member Chris Tice said the communications committee made a recommendation for this kind of position five years ago and the job description was created that the board could also take a second look at. Ms. Lamontagne suggested the district needed to take into account the different ways people consume information, including social media. She mentioned social media groups — Sag Harbor School District Parents Connect and Sag Harbor Education Best Practices are two found on Facebook — founded by a group of parents, including former board member Mary Anne Miller.

“That for many parents has been the best way to get information,” said Ms. Lamontagne, a communications specialist herself. She encouraged the board to resurrect its communications committee and reaching out to people like Ms. Miller. “I think if there is a solution it would be nice if it came from within our school community,” she said.

Ms. Kolhoff suggested the board put the topic on an agenda for a later meeting.

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