By Christine Sampson
The Sag Harbor School Board, on January 22, administered the oath of office to Susan Schaefer, one of the eight candidates who submitted their names in consideration for an appointment to a vacant seat. Ms. Schaefer is assistant vice president at Bridgehampton National Bank and manager of its Bridgehampton branch, and has previously served on the boards of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, Sag Harbor Little League and Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt.
What inspired you to throw your name into the mix of potential appointees to the school board?
I love Pierson and I care about the community we live in. Given almost over three decades of my experience in bank management, I felt I had a lot to contribute. My two children, Paige, 17, and Peter, 15, currently attend the high school and have attended Sag Harbor’s public schools since kindergarten. I’m an involved parent who attends sporting events, school conferences, concert, plays and board meetings. For the past three years I’ve served on Pierson’s Athletic Liaison Committee, representing parents’ and the community’s interest in decisions made about sports. Getting more involved with the school was a natural progression.
Do you feel the public interview process was balanced and fair?
Do you agree with the decision to hold it in public rather than the previous practice of executive session?
Yes. The more transparent the board is, the better. Having the interview process held publicly set the tone for the board and the community for future meetings and issues.
What are you looking forward to about working with the other board members, superintendent and administration?
My kids have attended Sag Harbor schools since kindergarten and I’ve lived here Sag Harbor for 19 years, so I’m familiar with the school, many of the administrators and some of the board members for awhile. It will be interesting and challenging to see the school from the inside out.
What do you think are the most pressing issues or important priorities in the school district right now?
I know Pierson is a tremendous academic school and we are constantly looking for ways to improve the already acknowledged academic programs and introduce new academic programs. We’ve also really done a good job building our Athletic Department and boosting up our sports teams. I’d like to see those trends continue. In addition, it’s also really important to set realistic budgets that are sensitive to taxpayers’ interests but also ones that meet the school’s needs and have our kids’ best interests at heart.
What ideas do you have for tackling these issues or addressing these priorities as soon as possible?
At least initially, the best approach I can take is to have an open mind and listen. As time goes on, I believe I’ll be able to apply many of my skills gleaned from managing a bank to serving on the board. I’m used to dealing with large and small issues and I’m used to dealing with the community at large. I hope to be able to offer my financial skills to the board. I also hope to work closer with the community, not just parents. I’d like to be a consensus builder.
We are just about to head into the budget season. How would you describe your feelings on past Sag Harbor budgeting practices and the current fiscal state of the district, and your own approach to budgeting?
The Sag Harbor Union Free School District has always been fiscally conservative knowing that sustainability is the key. My current employment position puts me in a position where I understand numbers and financial planning. I have excellent problem-solving skills, marketing knowledge and sales experience. I’m betting these skills will be an asset to the board and will help its decision-making processes.
Will you run for an open seat in May, or is it too early to tell?
I’m anticipating that I will but it’s too early to tell!