Sag Harbor School Board Lays Out Plan to Fill Vacant Seat

The main entrance to Pierson Middle-High School.

In its effort to fill a vacant seat as soon as possible, the Sag Harbor School Board is seeking applications from community members interested in serving a 17-week term on the board. They are due Friday, January 11, at 11:59 p.m. The board first issued the call for applications on January 2, after the deadline for last week’s print edition of the Express.

As of press time Wednesday, school board president Diana Kolhoff said the board had received three applications. Former school board member Stephanie Bitis said by email she was considering submitting an application, but had not done so yet.

The School Board will hold interviews with the candidates at 6 p.m. on Monday, January 14, just before its regularly scheduled meeting, in the Pierson Middle-High School library. A second session of interviews is tentatively scheduled for the following day at 6 p.m., if needed. Candidates will be told some of the questions prior to the interviews, while other questions will not be released ahead of time, the board has decided.

The board is expected to hold an executive session to discuss the candidates’ responses following the interviews, and is expected to appoint its preferred candidate during its regular meeting on January 28, earlier than its initial target date of February 11. The candidate will be sworn in on January 28 to begin serving immediately — a term that will run until the night of annual district elections, May 21.

To retain a seat on the board, whoever is appointed to fill the vacancy will have to be at least the third-highest vote-getter in the May 21 annual school district election because there will be two more seats at stake then because their occupants’ terms will be expiring.

The vacancy was created when board president January Kerr resigned on December 13. During its meeting on December 17, the board decided to fill her seat by appointment rather leaving it vacant until the May election or holding a special election before that.

This is the second year in a row that a board member has resigned mid-year; in the 2017-18 school year, Tommy John Schiavoni resigned after he was elected to the Southampton Town Board.

Candidates seeking appointment must be a United States citizen at least 18 years old, must not be employed by the Sag Harbor School District and may not hold an incompatible public office or job. They must be a registered voter in the Sag Harbor School District, and must also be a resident of the district for at least a year leading up to the date of the anticipated appointment. Interested candidates cannot reside in the same household as another sitting board member as a part of the same family.

Also on Monday, board members Chris Tice and Susan Lamontagne said they did not plan to seek another term, meaning there could potentially be three new faces on the seven-member board next year.

Ms. Tice, who has already served almost nine years on the board, later clarified she was not sure about her decision yet.

Reached by phone Tuesday, she said, “Nine years is a long time, so I am weighing the decision heavily.”

Ms. Lamontagne on Wednesday said she was not planning to run again because she had achieved the primary goals she set out to work on when she initially ran for election. Those goals, she said, included moving the schools’ start time later, pushing for a natural grass field instead of artificial turf and making sure there was an increased emphasis on wellness. She said she now wants to continue advocating in a different capacity.

“I got some things done that I hope will improve kids’ lives,” she said. “There’s more that I would like to do, but I think I want to look more holistically. When you’re on the board you’re actually constrained in many ways, and I think I’d be more effective working on those issues while not being on the board. I want to work from a system-wide perspective.”