Dr. Carleen Meers, who was recently appointed as the Sag Harbor School District’s new pupil personnel services director, is no stranger to the village. She grew up here, attending the St. Andrew School, later Stella Maris Regional School, and developing a strong bond with Sag Harbor. Dr. Meers has an undergraduate degree in elementary and special education, a master’s degree in special education with a focus on students with learning disabilities and a doctorate in educational leadership, thought and policy. Employed most recently in a mid-Hudson Valley school district, and now having returned “home,” Dr. Meers sat down for a conversation with The Sag Harbor Express.
Why do you want to work in the Sag Harbor School District?
It’s the opportunity to kind of bring back everything I’ve learned to the place where I grew up and the place that’s in my heart. I went out, learned and experienced, and I’m able to bring that back in order to support the stakeholders of the community. It’s kind of exciting.
What is your educational philosophy?
It’s a philosophy of education for all students. We all learn in different ways. I really believe in students realizing their potential to achieve and sometimes when students act out, behavior is a form of communication that we should seek to understand. I believe in all people and their ability to achieve.
Do you consider yourself to have a particular specialty?
I bring a really broad foundation to the position. I have a background in proactive and positive behavior support. I also have a background in general curriculum and instruction, in teaching and learning. Working in a large urban district has given me the opportunity to serve in a variety of roles, and that helps me be able to look at patterns. Really my specialty is listening for understanding.
Prior to your arrival at Sag Harbor Schools, some parents here chose to publicly air concerns and urge the district to make improvements in the special education program. Are you aware of this, and how do you plan to address them or engage with community members who have concerns?
I am aware of the concerns and challenges that folks are putting forward. The critical feature for someone coming into this role is to take the time to listen for understanding with all the stakeholders. I’ve been doing the work. The key thing will be opportunities for community members, teachers and parents to talk to me and work collaboratively. I think there is great opportunity here to do amazing work. The key feature is being well-matched, matching resources to student needs. That would be for all students. We’re not just singling out students. Understanding that sets us up for success. I’m seeking first to understand and then lay out some ideas. I’ve already had some exciting conversations with parents and staff. I’m very energized with this position, and talking with the parents, I’m even more so. We have some talented people who can do a lot, and we already are doing a lot. I’d like the community to know that I’m here to give 110 percent, and also that I want the community to feel like they are heard, and that they can reach out. I do believe they are heard.
What are your goals for your position in Sag Harbor?
New ideas are going to grow from a collaborative approach with input from all stakeholders. It goes back to the idea of having matched services. It sounds redundant, but I think it’s important. I’m always full of ideas, but what I’m trying to convey is that the more powerful and creative ideas come from collaboration and understanding and integrating the ideas of many people, not just one. That’s what I’m looking forward to. Especially growing up here, my heart is here and my passion is for the work. You can have degree after degree, but you have to have passion for the work. I really enjoy working with students and their families.