A little over five years after accepting the position of superintendent of the Sag Harbor School District, Katy Graves on Tuesday afternoon announced in a letter to staff that she will be retiring from the position. Her retirement will begin on January 6, 2020.
In an interview with The Sag Harbor Express on Tuesday, Ms. Graves said the decision was made out of a desire by family members to see her more, particularly in the wake of the death of her brother, Rob, who lost his battle with kidney cancer six months ago.
“It was really my family,” Ms. Graves said. “I do not know how to do this job without doing it with pure passion. Our greatest strengths are often our greatest weaknesses. I have a passion for education and for children. I want to always be available for parents, for children, for faculty and staff so they feel safe and valued and know that I am available. And I do not know how to go home and that comes into conflict with the desires of my family to be with me.”
Ms. Graves, 58, who lives in Sag Harbor with her husband, Glenn, a former newspaper editor turned chef, said she would be retiring completely from education administration, and had no immediate plans for what retirement looks like after January.
“I have worked since I was 11 years old,” she said. “It is part of my personality — I am a worker. I worked hard as a mom — I put 150 percent into parenting. I worked hard as a teacher and then as an educational leader. It is just who I am. I think I am going to be a little lost, but my family came to me and said, ‘We want time.’”
Ms. Graves added she is in good health but with the passing of her brother, her retirement became a family discussion. She has four children and a granddaughter.
“I don’t have a next step for the first time in my life,” she said. “I am just going to spend time with my family. My husband is a remarkable chef and he would like me to come home for dinner.”
Ms. Graves was named superintendent of the Sag Harbor School District in April of 2014. At the time, she was the superintendent of the Stamford Central School District near Albany. She was chosen out of 55 applicants from across the country in a search led by School Leadership — the firm hired by the board of education to conduct the district’s superintendent search. Her selection by the board out of six finalists was unanimous, said then board president Theresa Samot.
“During our interview process, it quickly became apparent that Katy was the clear choice as our next superintendent,” Ms. Samot said when Ms. Graves was hired. “Her professionalism, experience, engaging personality and enthusiasm to work with our administrators, staff, parents and community residents to ensure that all of our students reach their highest potential were important qualifications identified by our stakeholders.”
Prior to her position in Stamford, Ms. Graves was the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at the Windham-Ashland-Jewett Central School District. She was also principal of the Otego Elementary School, assistant principal and placement coordinator for ONC (Otsego Northern Catskills) BOCES and a home economics teacher for 12 years.
Ms. Graves has a certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in school leadership from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, a Master of Science degree in health education from Sage Graduate School, and a Bachelor of Science in home economics/clinical dietetics from the State University of New York at Oneonta.
“I send this note today with a heavy heart, to let each of you know that I have informed the board of education of the difficult choice to retire as your superintendent of Sag Harbor Schools in January of 2020,” Ms. Graves wrote in her letter to staff. “I am retiring to spend more time with my beautiful family. My retirement letter will be on the board meeting agenda on May 6, 2019.”
“I am so proud to have worked and will continue to work in the months ahead with such a caring, hardworking, and professional community of educators,” she continued. “From the first school bus driver that picks students up in the morning with a warm greeting and a steady eye on safety to the school monitors who dress to delight our children, to the coaches that stay that extra hour to help that athlete reach their potential, to the professionals in the district who work to keep the district beautiful and running smoothly for children and their families, to the educational professionals that strive every day to support students learning, questioning, creating and wanting to come to school every day are just a few reasons I know Sag Harbor Schools to be such a special place.”
“Let us all make the months ahead the best months for our students, their families, our school family and our Sag Harbor community,” wrote Ms. Graves. “The board of education has already begun the process of searching for the next Sag Harbor Schools’ superintendent.”
“Since 2014, when Katy Graves became our superintendent, she has consistently based her leadership decisions on what is best for children, fair for adults, and what the community can sustain,” board president Diana Kolhoff said in a press release issued Tuesday. “On behalf of the entire Sag Harbor Board of Education, we express our sincere gratitude to our superintendent of schools for her years of diligent service and unwavering dedication to our students, our staff and our entire community.
“Throughout her years of service to our district, she has effectively identified the needs of our school district, guided our staff to expand their skills through ongoing professional development, and created a more challenging and supportive curriculum for our students,” Ms. Kolhoff continued. “While her successes are long, those that stand out include the successful implementation of the district’s bond project, which included numerous safety and security measures; updated playing fields at our elementary and middle/high schools; a renovated multipurpose court and a rebuild of the Pierson auditorium; the launch and expansion of many STEAM classes and clubs throughout the district, including computer science classes and K-12 robotics clubs; the successful passing of a bond and purchase of Stella Maris, with construction currently taking place to open the Sag Harbor Learning Center for the 2019-20 school year; the expansion of shared services with surrounding school districts, including partnerships with Wainscott and Sagaponack; and the increase in wellness initiatives throughout the district in partnership with various community organizations. Each success has been a stepping stone toward a better future for our students and the reputation of our school district and our community.
“While we will all miss her quick smile and warm personality, we wish Katy all the best as she embarks on the next chapter of her life and enjoys her retirement with her family to its fullest,” Ms. Kolhoff added.
Ms. Graves said Sag Harbor is a place where she hopes to “spend at least part of the year” after her retirement. “I love Sag Harbor,” she said. “It has been wonderful. This is a place where people really cherish connections.”
Ms. Graves thanked the administrative team and staff in the Sag Harbor School District. “I think we have built on a culture of feeling safe and valued and so people feel like they can take risks and try new things,” she said.
Ms. Graves said contractually she was obligated to give the board of education six months’ notice before departing the district, but that it was also the right thing to do and that she has recommended the board hire a search firm in its process of finding a new superintendent. “I want to give the board of education time to search for the very best next superintendent because leadership is very important,” she said. “We have an outstanding leadership team in place, and we want that to continue.”