I’m writing this letter to you as an open letter to our school board and to our community, in light of the recent events and the meetings, editorials, conversations and conflicts that have resulted.Â I’ve been planning to write this ever since the end of Tuesday’s meeting because I was very charged and invigorated from the experience. Although I left that meeting feeling frustrated that we didn’t really get the apology from the Board that I had hoped for or a sense that they realized that they should have done things differently, the emotion I felt most strongly was this:Â I am SO proud of my community.Â People were articulate, took risks, showed sensitivity, called for unity, expressed emotions, had obviously spent time doing research, supported education and our educators, questioned authority, gave their time, and left no question that Sag Harbor is a place where people care about issues and want to be involved.Â How wonderful!Â
I have a feeling that good things will come of the renewed involvement on the part of our community—I believe the Board will act with more care in the future, individuals and groups will be more aware and involved in the future, Dr. Gratto will work even harder than he might have in order to do right by our district, and that our schools will benefit from this renewed interest.
Those sentiments were the things that I truly believed and that I wanted to convey when I left Tuesday’s meeting.Â However, there is something that I’m feeling equally strongly right now and that I feel I must express:Â our school board means well.Â Even those members whom I suspect have an excessive interest in cutting costs want to do right by our community:Â save taxpayers’ money and help keep life somewhat affordable.Â These are decent people who have done good things and have given of their time and effort on our behalf.Â So I am choosing to trust them—to let them start fresh.
Welcome to Sag Harbor
As a long time resident of Sag Harbor, a Pierson graduate and now a father with two children attending the elementary school I felt it necessary to attend the school board meeting on June 17th to learn more about the newly appointed superintendent, Dr. John Gratto. Rumors had been swirling throughout the community about Dr. Gratto’s hiring and background and he gave the public the chance to meet him and ask questions regarding his career. In an effort to address these rumors, Dr. Gratto made himself available and was open with his answers and provided the audience with any and all information they requested. I found him to be sincere, honest and intelligent. Dr. Gratto had to listen to a number of people speak out against his hiring, about the process the Board took in interviewing/hiring, and whether or not he was the right man for the job (as another name was often dropped as a better candidate). The Board admitted, on more than one occasion, the hiring process may not have been what was expected, but they did believe they hired the right person.
Although it was reasonable to have an open forum to discuss public concern, here is what I find insulting and a slap in the face to Dr. Gratto. He is moving here to become the Superintendent at the Sag Harbor School District. Sag Harbor and its residence have been a family as far back as I can remember. People come together in the good times and the bad; in Sag Harbor that is how we are raised and what we teach to our kids. That’s one thing a small community has taught me, you help out and support those in your community, you never know when you will be the one in need! It is these qualities which make our town special to those who live here. While sitting at that meeting, I did not hear one teacher, board member, PTA member or community member (myself included) say congratulations and welcome to our family Dr. Gratto. Instead, Dr. Gratto had to listen to the flawed hiring process, his employment background and numerous opinions of another candidate some felt more worthy of the position. I found it quite insulting that our community would treat a new member as an outcast without knowing the facts and not welcome him and wish him luck. Dr. Gratto will be leading our children and the least we, as parents, community, Board and faculty members could do, is welcome him to our home and want nothing but the best for him. I can’t say I saw much, if any, of this at the June 17th meeting. Would anyone at that meeting take a job where they felt they weren’t wanted before the position started, not to mention the unnecessary negativity surrounding you due to lack of information? As Mr. Alnwick (he was my teacher, I can’t call him Doug!) said, it doesn’t matter what his resume says, what the hiring process was or how the board decided, rather that Dr. Gratto is here and he will have to prove his worth, which, after listening to him, I believe he will. So, Dr. Gratto, congratulations on your new position and welcome to Sag Harbor. I wish you the best of luck and hope you will succeed as the new superintendent.
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to express my regret at the way in whichÂ the Sag Harbor Board of EducationÂ handled the hiring of Dr. John Gratto. I currently teach in the Brittonkill Central School District (whereÂ Dr. GrattoÂ was the Superintendent from 1998-2002). The real commonality we have with your district, however, is not simply having hadÂ the same superintendent. It is that we have endured a similar situation recently in which the Board of Education short-sightedly and arrogantly hired a new superintendent without a proper search. The result was disastrous.
Last year,Â the members of ourÂ Board of Education hired a superintendent against the advice and desperate pleas of the teachers and the community. Many people expressed grave concerns before this man was hired, and the board chose to ignore all of them. The subsequent uproar was similar to what has been occurring at your board meetings, as well asÂ what is certain to continue throughout the next school year.
The superintendent wasÂ fired, althoughÂ the taxpayersÂ continued to pay his $135,000 a year salary and his health insurance. It took more than a year with a competentÂ interim superintendent to clean up the messes and restore some sort of order and integrity to the leadership of our district.Â
Some members of the board have felt genuine remorse. Some haveÂ resigned, and the board president was voted out of office.Â We appear to have competentÂ BOE leadership for the first time in many, many years. It is simply tragic that we had toÂ experience such hardship in order to get where weÂ are headed today.Â
Next week,Â Brittonkill will have a new superintendent once again. This time, the board hired a search consultant.Â They formed focus groups.Â There wasÂ a committeeÂ of teachers, support staff, administrators, and community membersÂ assigned toÂ interview some of the candidates and visitÂ the superintendent’sÂ current school district.Â We are so very cautious in our optimism, but we firmly believe that this process works. Even if at some point we decide that our new superintendent is not a good fit, we all take responsibilityÂ for his hiring. We had a voice.Â We willÂ work together to welcome this person into our school and our community. We sincerely want him to succeed because we all benefit from stability, a stabilityÂ that has been sorely lacking.
How didÂ Sag Harbor’s searchÂ take place? Did focus groups simply compile a list of specific qualities desired in a superintendent?Â Most peopleÂ couldÂ develop a similar list on their own (intelligence, integrity, responsible fiscal management, commitment to academic achievement,Â etc.).Â Did the focus groupsÂ have the opportunity to review the criteria of those who applied? Were theyÂ able to network within the educational community toÂ verify the accomplishments or uncover the shortcomings of any of the candidates? Was there anÂ opportunity for the people of the Sag Harbor community or staff to interview or even meet with any of the candidates?Â Did anyone on the committees have a chance to speakÂ with or meet people fromÂ the candidates’ previous districts?Â
Was thisÂ simply a process to make people believe they had some input when, in fact, they did not?Â
Why does your board not realize that the success of a superintendent isÂ directly related to his/her ability to earn the respect of the community and the teachers in his/her charge? How is itÂ that board membersÂ feel qualified to hire an educational leader without consulting those trained professionals who areÂ responsible for teachingÂ the children of their district? When a process is followed, the stakeholders buy in. When a process is disregarded, anger and resentment result. The lack of common sense displayed by your board is astounding.
I do not mean to malignÂ John Gratto, nor would I everÂ consider comparing himÂ or his leadership to the man we disposed of last year.Â I actually had a pleasant professional relationship with him. Unfortunately, I feel that yourÂ Board of Education, in its arrogance and disrespect for the teachers and the community, has set upÂ Dr. GrattoÂ to fail.Â How sad it is that he may have even been the chosen candidateÂ if there had been a proper search. What an easier transition it would have been for Dr. Gratto, his family, and the Sag HarborÂ community.
It is my sincereÂ wish that your board will learn from this serious mistake and that you will be able to heal and move forward. Hopefully, enduring this difficult situation will strengthen all of you.Â Good luck.
2nd Vice President
Brittonkill Teachers’ Association
Dear Friends and Neighbors:
Please accept this very heartfelt thank you! Eastern Long Island Hospital, Peconic Bay Medical Center and Southampton Hospital successfully completed very complex and important negotiations with the region’s two largest health insurance companies, Oxford/United and Wellcare (Empire Blue Cross). Our goal throughout the negotiations was to ensure that your community hospitals and providers are reimbursed fairly. We cannot continue to improve and build needed services if we are underpaid. This was a major step in the right direction for your hospitals and the entire East End health system.
We achieved a significant and positive result in a very tough negotiating climate with the insurers for one reason: teamwork. The hospitals were coordinated and our communities, physicians, employees, volunteers, employers and elected officials all worked with us to make sure the insurance companies knew that our health needs on the East End require the same level of support and funding as in other parts of the region. Your support was vital and we should all be proud of this team effort. For our part we will continue to do everything we can to bring you the highest quality healthcare services.
Thank you and have a safe and healthy summer.
Bob Chaloner, President/CEO Southampton Hospital
Paul Conner, President/CEO Eastern Long Island Hospital
Andy Mitchell, President/CEO Peconic Bay Medical Center
Democratic republics never engage in war willingly. Wars are never popular for long. More often than not their wars are the result of a direct provocation or threat.
Tyrannies, by contrast, wage war to obfuscate the misery of their exploited citizenry.
So it was with G.W.’s War.
War, by definition, is a large scale, expensive and violent conflict. Whereby two sides of the conflict spend their available resources killing people and breaking the civilian’s will to fight. It is never pretty. Although, the end result of a war can be glorious.
There are times when wars are justified and need to be waged. Someone needs to lead the nation and the military.
So it was with G.W.’s War.
About one-third of the citizenry thought G.W.’s War needed to be waged, one-third did not think the war was necessary and were in fact vehemently against it, the other third were indifferent to the whole concept.
G.W. was a lousy speaker and had trouble rallying the citizenry. Few nations supported G.W.’s War as allies. Some in Congress, who had voted for the war, later changed their minds. As G.W.’s War dragged on, they began to withhold funding. Because of this, American soldiers suffered through incredible hardships, very cold winters, and a constant lack of food and proper military equipment.
G.W. lost many more battles than he won. In fact on a win / loss basis, he is the worst commander in American history. Yet, he is fondly remembered because he stood resolute and defeated the finest military machine on the planet.
G.W. won by attrition, the longest declared war in American history.
G.W.’s War started with a Declaration of War, so noble and so well written that few see it for what it is:
“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
The Declaration of Independence (War) ends with the following sentence:
Â “-And for the support of this Declaration, with firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Signed………
There were 56 signers, who by that act, declared war on the most powerful country in their world, the British Empire. They committed treason against King George III. The penalty, if caught, was death by hanging or worse.
Â The most famous of these men were John Hancock, Ben Franklin, Samuel and John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Roger Sherman of Connecticut was the only signer of all four of our founding Documents.
Those of you not familiar with this document might not realize that Patrick Henry, George Washington, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were not among the signers.
The demographics of the signers were as follows: Benjamin Franklin was the oldest at seventy, 18 were under forty and three were in their twenties. John Hancock was the richest. Of the 56, 24 were lawyers and judges. Almost all were men of substantial property. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers. The remaining 12 were ministers, doctors and politicians. These were sober men. They were not wild-eyed fanatics nor dreamy elitist “intellectuals.”Â They sought taxation with representation. Honor and principal drove these men. Two went on to become Presidents and both died on the 50th anniversary of the signing.
What happened to the less famous signers? All became the objects of a vicious manhunt by the British. George Clymer, of Pennsylvania and William Ellery, of Rhode Island had their homes burned and their property totally destroyed. William Floyd, of Long Island escaped to Connecticut and lived with his family as refugees for seven years. Their property was destroyed.
John Hart, of New Jersey, risked his life to see his wife, as she lay on her deathbed. He narrowly escaped capture by the Hessians, and likewise lost everything, including his 13 children. Hart died a broken man in 1779, without ever seeing any of his family again.
Francis Lewis, of New York saw his home and property completely destroyed. His wife was captured by the British and abused by them while held captive. She died from the effects of that abuse.
Philips Livingstone of New York had his property confiscated and his family driven off. Livingstone died in 1778 still working for the cause.
Thomas Lynch, Jr. of South Carolina, whose health was broken by exposure while acting as a company commander and privateer, drowned at sea.
John Martin, of Pennsylvania was a loyalist prior to this debate. Martin lived in a particularly loyalist area. When he came out for independence his neighbors and relatives ostracized him. When he died in 1777, his last words to his tormenters were: “Tell them they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it to have been the most glorious service that I have rendered to my country.” I don’t know if his tormentors acknowledged his “glorious service” but I hope most of us do.
Â Louis Morris, a New York delegate was barred from his home and family for seven years.
Robert Morris, of Philadelphia, was a wealthy merchant. Morris raised money for arms and provisions at the request of George Washington. He made his escape across the Delaware possible. Robert Morris lost his merchant fleet of 150 ships.
Judge Richard Stockton, of New Jersey and his family’s whereabouts were betrayed by a loyalist. Judge Stockton was thrown into jail and deliberately starved by the British until his health was ruined. He was released as an invalid and did not live to see the triumph of the revolution.
Dr. John Witherspoon, was president of the College of New Jersey, later renamed Princeton. Because of Witherspoon’s participation, the British burned the finest library in the country and billeted troops at the college.
Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton and Thomas Heyward, Jr., all of South Carolina were captured at the siege of Charleston and spent the war as prisoners of war. They were exchanged at the end of the revolution. All their property was destroyed by the British in their absence.
Thomas Nelson, of Virginia, commanded the Virginia Militia. During the battle of Yorktown, British General Charles Cornwallis commandeered Nelson’s palatial home as his headquarters. Nelson seized control of a cannon and personally destroyed his own home, blowing it to bits.Â Nelson further sacrificed all of his property by pledging it against a two million dollar loan for our Revolutionary Cause. He was never reimbursed and forfeited his property. He died penniless a few years later at age fifty.
The final obscure signer, the man who epitomizes American courage, was Abraham Clark of New Jersey. The British captured two of his sons holding them captive on the infamous prison hulks in New York Harbor. The British offered to release his sons if he recanted his signing of the Declaration of Independence. His answer: “No.”(*)
As you can see the signers made no idle boast when they signed the most magnificent document of its kind in world history.
Commander in Chief, General G.W. ended his public career with the following paragraphs from his farewell address:
“Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.
Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever-favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.
– Geo. Washington. “
On the 232nd Anniversary of our founding we would do well to remember that we do not honor G.W. and the Founding Fathers because they achieved personal perfection.
We honor them because of their steadfast belief that Free Men with the guidance of a Supreme Being could achieve Humanity’s best form of governance.
We should also recognize that we are still trying to achieve the profound standard of humanity that Thomas Jefferson set forth in his second paragraph:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident:
That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”
G.W. and The Founding Fathers recognized that personal perfection is for another venue.
(*) Many of the anecdotes concerning the signers that I have mentioned were from a speech by Rush Limbaugh Sr. The full version of his text is available at his son’s website: http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/folder/american_who_risked_everything_1.member.html
Otis Glazebrook, IV
Couldn’t Have Done it Without You
Every June an event takes place that represents the very essence of family life here in Sag Harbor … graduation on the hill at Pierson HS. Among the caps tossed by the Class of 2008 this past Saturday was that of our second, and last, child to graduate. For us, this year’s celebration was mixed with considerable reflection as we mark the bittersweet end of our children’s school years.Â
What jumps out from our collection of mixed emotions is this: we feel blessed to have had our kids in the Sag Harbor school community. They received a solid education and strong sense of self from teachers, aides, administrators and fellow school parents whom we have come to consider as friends and extended family. Many an extra mile has been traveled in the service of one or more Hess kids over the past 17 years and we want to express our deepest gratitude and love for the many folks that did the “driving”.
From that first weepy drop off at Stella Maris Pre-K, through Morning Program, the “MA’s” and SHAEP at SHE, to the steady hands of the entire staff at Pierson Middle/High School who collectively helped to shepherd our kids (and us) through adolescence, academics, dramatic and artistic expression, college angst and acceptance, four proms and two graduations. We’re tempted to name names but are afraid we will miss someone who was always there at exactly the right place and time for our children.Â Â
So, to all of you in the education community; thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
We literally could not have done Kirsten and Dave Hess without you.
Rob and Mary Lynne Hess