New President Sees Trust as a Priority

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The new president of the Sag Harbor Board of Education, Walter Wilcoxen, sees rebuilding the community’s trust in the board as a top priority. When asked why the trust needs to be rebuilt, he said, “The immediate answer is as a result of the hiring process [of the new superintendent Dr. John Gratto], but there may be a deeper issue that hasn’t surfaced yet.”

Wilcoxen was unanimously elected president at a special board meeting on Tuesday night. Former president Theresa Samot was unanimously elected vice-president. The newest board member, Mary Anne Miller, was also sworn in, as was Dr. Gratto.

The top priority however, according to Wilcoxen, will be getting the superintendent settled in and helping him “get a lay of the land.”

Jokingly he said another priority in his view would be getting the air conditioning fixed in Pierson’s library so he doesn’t freeze during board meetings.

As for the “new direction” of the board mentioned in their settlement with former superintendent Kathryn Holden, the new president said it comes down to accountability.

“It’s accountability for all of us,” he said. “The board’s accountability, the superintendent’s accountability, the teachers’ accountability and the public’s accountability. It’s about all of us being accountable for the actions we take. If I’m being held accountable, then [the public] can vote for or against me [in the next election].”

He said he wasn’t sure where the phrase “new direction” came from as it related to Holden’s departure from the district. He said the new direction has been ongoing for the past two years and that it involves “trying to enhance the operation of the school, to be fiscally responsible and to heighten the level of education for our kids to succeed in the world.”

Wilcoxen was careful to stress, though, that what he thought the top priorities of the district should be, is not the issue. Instead he said it was what the board thought as a whole.

“That’s why we have these transparency issues,” he said.

He continued, “The transparency process happens in that room, when as board members we can agree or disagree.”

Wilcoxen said he did not see the recent process of picking a new superintendent, and the public’s disapproval, so much as a transparency issue as a communication issue.

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