Renovations to the new Sag Harbor Learning Center, formerly the Stella Maris School, will be substantially complete by Dec. 31, but Sag Harbor School District officials have announced that prekindergarten students and staff will not move into the building right away.
That is primarily because a crumbling retaining wall behind the building remains to be addressed, said Jeff Nichols, the Pierson High School principal. Mr. Nichols, who briefly served as acting superintendent of the district, told the school board on Monday that the earliest a new retaining wall could be completed is April 2020, “and perhaps later.”
“The type of construction that needs to happen . . . is pretty invasive,” he said. “Some pretty big machines” will be needed. “I wouldn’t want prekindergarten students or even any of our employees there until that’s completed.”
Further complicating reconstruction of the retaining wall is that the matter may be tied up in a conflict with neighbors. Jordana Sobey, the school board president, declined to comment.
The Learning Center was initially slated for completion this past August, but construction delays threw off the initial timeline. “I think everyone’s frustrated on how long this has taken and how expensive it’s been, so I appreciate Mr. Nichols looking into that and bringing that to everyone’s attention as soon as possible,” said Alex Kriegsman, vice president of the school board.
Also on Monday, the board appointed a new business administrator, a position that had been vacant since the end of summer. Laurie Baum, who previously held the title of assistant to the business administrator, was appointed on a 6-1 vote, with Yorgos Tsibiridis voting no.
Ms. Baum holds an internship certificate from New York State to serve as school business administrator. Ms. Sobey noted that Ms. Baum has completed the necessary coursework for the full certificate, which is expected to arrive in January. “She has proven herself to really provide excellent quality work,” Ms. Sobey said.
The board appointed Rascheda Wallace to fill the assistant position voting 5 to 2 in favor. Mr. Tsibiridis and Chris Tice dissented. Ms. Tice clarified that her no vote had nothing to do with Ms. Wallace’s qualifications. Rather, she said, it was because the assistant position had only been posted for three days — from Wednesday to Friday last week — and that Monday’s meeting agenda was posted very late last Thursday night with Ms. Wallace’s name already listed for the appointment.
“Typically if we’re going to be posting for a job like this . . . it would be posted for at least one to two weeks,” Ms. Tice said. “I don’t feel like the process afforded us to have the proper search. . . . I think it was a very broken process.”
Mr. Nichols replied that both Ms. Baum and Ms. Wallace had emerged as the strongest candidates for their respective jobs after several interviews.
Ms. Sobey said the school board was happy to finally have a new business administrator and assistant in place. “There is relief and excitement,” she said yesterday. “I’m just glad we have some view into what the next six months is going to look like, between having the new interim superintendent, the business administrator position filled, and the assistant to the business administrator position filled.”
Also at the meeting, Ms. Sobey introduced Eleanor Tritt, the district’s new interim superintendent, who will be with Sag Harbor until a permanent successor to Katy Graves can be hired. Ms. Graves left in mid-November, ahead of what was to be a Jan. 6 retirement date, for medical reasons.
Ms. Tritt, who recently retired as superintendent of the Amagansett School, is “a hard worker, and she really put a lot of time into getting up to speed so that she could be prepared and ready to roll for Monday’s meeting,” Ms. Sobey said yesterday. For her part, Ms. Tritt told the Sag Harbor board she was thrilled to be on board.
“Sag Harbor is an exceptional community and an exceptional school district,” she said. “After being here just two days, the most striking feature is how well the staff works together. It’s an amazing team. . . . There is a blend of traditions and history and at the same time [the district] is at the cutting edge of arts and technology — the best of all possible worlds.”