Resignation Of Popular Gym Teacher Is Bittersweet Note At Sag Harbor Board Of Education Meeting

Jon Tortorella, center in black shirt during a game. FILE PHOTO

At a short and efficient Sag Harbor Board of Education business meeting on Monday night, there was mostly good news to report early in the school year, with just one announcement that was more of the bittersweet variety.

Superintendent Jeff Nichols was pleased to report that every one of the district’s 62 employees was in compliance with state regulations related to COVID, either because they had been vaccinated or were fulfilling testing requirements as outlined by Suffolk County Department of Health guidance. Mr. Nichols said that 22 employees are not currently vaccinated, but said some are in the process of being vaccinated.

There was also an update on the district’s new one-year agreement with Mashashimuet Park, which is the home for many Pierson interscholastic sports teams. A major feature of the deal that the district hammered out with the park board over the summer was an agreement to commit to meet on a regular basis to discuss and collectively agree upon capital improvements, so the district can go out for a bond in the near future and pay for much needed facility upgrades.

“We’ve had our first meeting, and it was one of several that are scheduled,” Mr. Nichols said. He added that the meeting was “productive,” and said the parties will continue to meet throughout the fall.

Board member Chris Tice asked if the district and board had discussed setting up any public discussions about their progress, something the district had said in previous meetings it would do. Mr. Nichols said that while nothing was set in stone yet, the two sides were “committed to being on the same page.”

Elementary School Principal Matt Malone reported that the first days of school have been a success so far for students and staff, with COVID safety procedures going smoothly. He added that the school has done a good job of taking students outside for frequent mask breaks and for lunch, saying the outdoor classroom areas allow for plenty of space and that there are plenty of tables set up that make it possible for students. He commended Assistant Principal Betty Reynoso for being instrumental in helping that come together.

One item of note that stood out was the board’s acceptance of the resignation of physical education teacher Jon Tortorella. Mr. Tortorella, 40, was hired by the district as a high school phys ed teacher in 2005, and eventually moved over to the middle school. He also coached varsity baseball for several years before stepping down from that role in 2016. When reached on Tuesday morning, Mr. Tortorella said, via text message, only that he was stepping down for personal reasons. At the board meeting, Ms. Tice praised him for his service to the district, saying her own children had enjoyed having him as their teacher.

Mr. Nichols said that Athletic Director Eric Bramoff, who is tenured and certified to teach physical education, will fill the void created by Mr. Tortorella’s departure for the foreseeable future.