By Christine Sampson
The Sag Harbor School District on Monday welcomed Dr. Philip Kenter, who spent three decades in the private sector before entering the world of school finance, as its new business administrator.
He comes to Sag Harbor from the Tuckahoe Common School District, where he spent four years as its business official, and previously worked in the Kings Park, Miller Place and Riverhead school districts. He arrives in Sag Harbor at a critical time: The district is in the midst of multiple concurrent construction projects plus negotiations on a new teachers’ contract, and he will also have to begin building the district’s 2018-19 budget right away.
Following his appointment at Monday’s school board meeting, Dr. Kenter, a resident of Aquebogue, said he has always wanted to work in the Sag Harbor School District.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “I’m very familiar with doing capital projects. I actually did quite a bit of research on Sag Harbor and all of the many wonderful things going on here, and I wanted to be a part of all that action.”
The school board voted 4-0, with board president Diana Kolhoff and members Chris Tice and Susan Lamontagne absent, to appoint Dr. Kenter effective January 16, 2018. He received a four-year contract at a starting salary of $175,000.
The board also approved an agreement with its previous business administrator, Jennifer Buscemi, “to work on a per diem basis prior to the arrival of the new school business administrator and thereafter to assist” Dr. Kenter during a transition period, through February 9. Ms. Buscemi, whose last full-time day in the district was November 27, will earn $770 per day she spends with Sag Harbor. She accepted a position with the Merrick Union Free School District in October after spending about three-and-a-half years with Sag Harbor.
“With the loss of Jennifer Buscemi, with all her expertise and knowledge around the district, I had so many concerns about replacing her, but I really feel the district has had a tremendous win in Philip Kenter’s decision to apply here at Sag Harbor,” superintendent Katy Graves said Tuesday. “He not only is a true veteran in understanding finance, coming from the private sector and with his vast knowledge of school business, but he also knows the East End of Long Island, the vendors, and the beauty and challenges here on the East End.”
Dr. Kenter holds a doctorate and a Master’s in business administration from Dowling College, and degrees from C.W. Post and Southampton College.
He said he likes Ms. Graves and thinks they will get along “very, very well.” He also said he knows Ms. Buscemi, and called her “a wonderful individual and very, very strong business official.”
“I’ve got big shoes to fill,” Dr. Kenter said.
Ms. Graves said he will be coming into “a mountain of work.”
“He’s going to be on a very steep learning curve, learning the district, the culture,” she said. “… He and I will be putting in long hours over the next months together. But what better way to learn a district than to roll up your sleeves and burn the midnight oil?”