Letters to the Editor: 5/11/17


Need Experience and Knowledge

Dear Editor:

This year more than ever, experience and knowledge matter.

I want to thank the community for electing me to serve on the school board – it is an honor to work on behalf of the wonderful children in the Sag Harbor School District. Sandi Kruel and Theresa Samot have been my colleagues on the school board for several years, and while we don’t agree on every issue, I can personally attest that they are exceptional board trustees.

First and foremost, Sandi and Theresa are champions for children. They tirelessly advocate on behalf of all students, whether for educational excellence and opportunities, in support of extracurricular activities, on wellness initiatives, or ensuring we have the right facilities. Also during their tenure, they have helped to dramatically increase transparency and greatly improve the fiscal health of the district.

I have heard some people push for the importance of new, fresh perspectives on the school board. This will occur regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election, since a couple of remaining board members are still new and serving their first term. What is critical and highly encouraged by the New York State and National School Board Associations, is having tenured members who have institutional knowledge and experience to help lead the board’s efforts. This is particularly true in the work we do relating to contract negotiations with our unions. Both Sandi and Theresa have demonstrated a commitment to negotiating with a deep respect for the employees of Sag Harbor, while being cognizant of what is best for our children and sustainable for the taxpayers. With most of our union contracts currently up for negotiation, it is imperative to have our most experienced Trustees — Sandi and Theresa — remain to help get this and other important work accomplished.

This year more than ever, experience and knowledge matter. On Tuesday, May 16, I encourage you to join me in voting on the school budget, and voting for Sandi Kruel and Theresa Samot for school board trustees.


Chris Tice

Sag Harbor



To the Editor,

This year’s election for trustees of the board of education is a particularly important one. Sandi Kruel is one candidate who stands out in the crowd.

Our community needs the vision, stability, harmony and leadership that experience brings. There are three incumbents running for election, one of whom is a relative newcomer to the board; two others with no experience are candidates as well. Three members on the board whose terms are not due for re-election are also relative newcomers with no more than three years of service as trustees. Of course new ideas are imperative to explore; perspective balanced with experience is what makes an organization most effective.

When my late husband Bob Schneider was appointed as Pierson’s principal 24 years ago we immediately moved to Sag Harbor and made it our home. I was fortunate to be appointed principal of Westhampton Beach Elementary School at the same time. Together we brought experience from several organizations including Shoreham-Wading River, Riverhead, New York City, Diocese of Brooklyn, Nassau and Eastern Suffolk BOCES, Teacher Centers and the National Institute of Mental Health. I’ve served Sag Harbor as consultant on drug and alcohol prevention and art education as well as interim PPS director and assistant principal. I serve as a board member of the Sag Harbor Coalition. Bob and my combined professional experience exceeded 64 years. During those years we worked closely with superintendents, boards of education, teachers, parents and children — most importantly children.

We learned a lot about the traits and characteristics of effective leadership. Leaders listen, look, learn and lead at the same time. Leaders are passionate, committed, knowledgeable and loyal. Leaders express themselves strongly and cooperate with colleagues just as strongly. Leaders focus their efforts on what is most important — kids! Leaders bring experience and perspective. Leaders put their egos aside for the greater good. Leaders know how to put sound research into practice.

Sandi Kruel is such a leader. Her continuance on the board of education will keep us on the same trajectory we are on now. I ask that you join me in supporting her re-election.

Yours truly,

Marian Cassata

Sag Harbor


Need to Maintain Stability

To the Editor,

Thank you for moderating Meet the Candidates night last week. For those community members unable to attend that panel discussion, please permit me to tell a little about myself. Born and raised in Sag Harbor, I attended our schools, married, and raised three sons here. Our youngest son is a freshman at Pierson. Our family’s commitment to children extends beyond our own three sons. My husband Kevin and I have been appointed by NYS as foster parents.

After having served on the Sag Harbor Board of Education for two terms, I took six years off and was then re-elected for two terms. I am seeking another term. The perspective I bring includes parenting at all grade levels kindergarten through post-secondary education. My experience includes being a member of board of education, PTSA president and PTA president. Either as a board member or community member I have served on each and every committee. I advocate for children with special needs across Long Island.

Working side by side with fellow board members along with district and school administrators my record of accomplishments speaks for itself:

– Ours is the only district on the East End to come in under the tax cap without layoffs or reducing staff or programs. In fact, we have increased staff and added instructional, extracurricular and athletic programs.

– Building projects at both schools have added and renovated space:

*Pierson’s library, cafeteria, Middle School gym, three science labs, two art rooms, two music rooms, a dozen classrooms, computer labs, auditorium, dressing rooms and more.

*Elementary School’s green house, library, computer lab, music room, main office and a half dozen classrooms.

– Instructional programs include expanded AP course offerings, IB program, robotics, drama, Spanish as a second language from K to 5 and others.

These are the result of our cohesive team’s hard work, diligence and commitment; I am honored to be part of the effort. My passion for the success of all children is strong and leads me to ask the community for their vote on Tuesday, May 16.

At this particular point in time experience counts. I believe it is essential to have someone on the board who brings perspective, knowledge and collegiality to the table. Stella Maris’ redevelopment begins soon; I’ve seen construction projects through from start to finish.

Five of six union contracts are in negotiation; I’ve been on teams that have negotiated more than a dozen. In doing so, it is vitally important to me that we recognize the importance of all our employees who are the core of our children’s achievement, the backbone of our district.

It is vital that we maintain stability, continue fiscal responsibility, create a safe, healthy and green environment and commit to excellence for all children.

With humility I ask our community for their support in this important election.

Sincerely yours,

Sandi Kruel

Sag Harbor


Promote Wellbeing

Dear Editor,

I am a mother of two young children in the Sag Harbor Elementary School with my older son heading into Pierson Middle School in September. As such, I have been interested in getting to know more about the board of education, its proceedings and its members. There are seven members on the board and next Tuesday, May 16, there are three seats up for reelection. While I want to express my gratitude for all the tireless work and efforts our members have put into trying to improve and expand upon the system for our children and community, I firmly believe that we need fresh, positive and collaborative people to build on the school’s success and help the district reach its full potential.

In the last eight years alone we have seen multiple resignations after fractured tenures amongst the school superintendents, athletic directors, business officials and board of education members. We must stop this revolving door of administrators if we expect to see any long-term progress or hope to see any policies come to fruition.

Having known Diana Kolhoff for a few years I am confident that she is an extremely capable, measured, well-informed and cooperative president and I hope to see her retain her position on the board. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with Alex Kriegsman and January Kerr and was impressed by their credentials, cognizance and compassion (both are lawyers as well as being parents of young children in the Sag Harbor Elementary School). All three of these individuals embody a thoughtful, thorough and well-versed perspective on multiple BOE policies and eschew any kind of narrow-minded management or petty infighting that runs contrary to the essential spirit of the board, namely to promote and protect the educational, physical, emotional, social and mental wellbeing of Sag Harbor’s school children, families and the community at large.

I believe re-electing Mrs. Kolhoff as well as voting for Mr. Kriegsman and Mrs. Kerr will better enable the board to help deliver world class education to Sag Harbor as well as implementing constructive change on the most important issues at hand.

Thank you for your consideration.


Deirdre Seltzer

North Haven


Put Experience to Work

Dear Editor:

My name is Alex Kriegsman and I am running for the Sag Harbor School Board. As a parent of three young children, there is nothing more important to me than our schools. I see a school district with enormous potential – a wealth of resources, committed parents and supportive community members. I would like to put my experience as an attorney and a former federal prosecutor to work for our kids and help us reach that potential.


The IB program at Pierson has been very successful. But it is still in the early stages. I would push to expand the program and make it available to middle school as well as high school students. I would also like to see an increased focus on vocational training. We live in a community with great business opportunities for carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other trades. Yet too many of these jobs are awarded to businesses in western Long Island.

We should give our kids the opportunity to begin learning these trades in school and have more employment opportunities upon graduation.


Our student athletics programs are one the pillars of our community. There is no better way for our kids to learn the rewards of hard work, integrity, sportsmanship, and interacting with others. It is also a great way for us to interact as a community and support our student athletes. We should be giving our coaches and athletic director the resources and support they need to do their jobs. I would also like to see us make it easier for parents, students and other community members to attend games – through better announcement of events and perhaps a shuttle from Pierson to Mashashimuet Park.

Ethics and Professionalism.

As a former federal prosecutor, I have worked on difficult cases and helped solve intractable problems. I also learned the importance of resolving differences through mutual respect and consideration. The school board should be a model to the community by conducting its business in an open, honest and professional manner, free of personal conflict.


Anyone who has attended a school board meeting is likely to have left in frustration. Meetings seem to drag on interminably, with many hours spent discussing materials that seemingly could have been reviewed in advance. It is not clear that the New York State Open Meetings Law is being followed. And it is much too difficult for members of the public to express their opinions. If elected, I will push to have an open public input at the outset of every meeting, and prepared board members who have read materials in advance and are ready to conduct business in a more open and efficient manner.

Although we are all running individually, I am also supporting Diana Kolhoff and January Kerr in this election. Diana is a hard-working parent and educator who has done a great job as board president. I would like to give her the support she needs to lead the school community forward. January is a parent of two young children, a smart and hard-working attorney who is dedicated to this community and committed to its success. She would be a great addition to the board.

Whoever you are supporting, please vote on May 16th. Our democracy works best with maximum participation. Thank you for your consideration.

Alex Kriegsman

North Haven


Stacked with Winners

Dear Editor:

Two weeks ago when Sandi Kruel said; “I am ready for a break,” and Theresa Samot said she is “…still contemplating running this year,” that was a clear message that they weren’t sure. They’ve been of service forever, so much heartfelt gratitude to them for a decade of community service. However, Stephanie and I heard those messages clearly so we went to Meet The Candidates to see what was going to happen next. Luckily we have a teacher’s teacher in Diana Kolhoff who still volunteers to continue for a second term, hopefully as board president, and two local attorneys have stepped up.

I know Alex Kriegsmann professionally, and January Kerr we met recently. Both new candidates, who are also parents, double as seasoned attorneys. They both have decades of conflict resolution experience. Heading into more contract negotiations, we would do well to stop the revolving door while we have a school administration currently stacked with winners. Both new candidates have elementary school kids, and the incumbent president refuses to make plastic signs or throwaway buttons. Three enthusiastic, qualified, seasoned, principled advocates for our kids and our teachers in Kerr, Kriegsman and Kolhoff. Let’s not ever take that luck for granted.

Sag Harbor schools have shared sports, and are important to our multi-sport family. We also remember the oil and vinegar contract negotiations that disrupted the whole district for years while we had a child in the elementary school. Connected to that is possibly a fast turnover in administration which should stop on a dime, in my opinion. Today is good. Our people running the schools can do that and we would do well to elect the board who backs them up with the most enthusiasm, even if they have to occasionally run interference with the noisy public. Myself included.

Simon Harrison

Sag Harbor