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Springs Superintendent Retires and Returns

Wed, 07/26/2023 - 18:08
Debra Winter
Craig Macnaughton

In a move expected to save the Springs School District at least $90,000, the school board has reached an agreement with Debra Winter, school superintendent, to “retire early.”

Ms. Winter previously announced she would retire in June 2024, at the end of the next school year. But in the cost-saving measure, she submitted a retirement letter, took one day off, and was then hired back on a per-diem basis.

Now, not only will Springs not be responsible for paying the superintendent the 31 vacation days and 15 sick days that were in her previous contract, but it will also not be on the hook for her health insurance premiums. Instead, the Longwood School District, where Ms. Winter worked for 16 years and was therefore a “vested” employee, will pay for her health insurance.

The move, which is allowed under a new state law, means Ms. Winter has begun collecting her educator’s pension; she is not yet collecting Social Security, which is not permitted because the state would consider it double-dipping.

The savings, at least $90,000, comes at a critical time for Springs, which is in a tight financial situation. In May, the community approved an over-the-tax-cap budget that maintains programs and services.

“People think I have a motive, but what I wanted to do was help the district have a cushion,” Ms. Winter said by phone this week.

On July 10, the day before it approved the new agreement with Ms. Winter, the Springs School Board issued a statement explaining the change. “Ms. Winter has assured us of her commitment to Springs for the next year. . . . We will begin the search process for the next superintendent of schools in October 2023.”

In other news of the school, the board held a special meeting on July 18 to approve a consultant agreement with Strategic Educational Analytics. As of press time this week, that contract had not yet been posted on the district’s website; however, Ms. Winter explained that it is for a soup-to-nuts evaluation of the district’s business office in light of a few recent personnel changes.

The district recently hired a new business administrator and is also looking for a successor to Julie Bistrian, a longtime business office employee who recently resigned to take a similar position with the East Hampton School District.

The consultants, who Ms. Winter said came highly recommended from the Bridgehampton School District, will be paid at the rate of $200 per hour, up to a maximum of $10,000, over the next several weeks.

“We’re doing a mini-audit,” she said. “They’ll assess the business office — where do we go from here? I need to make sure the office has what it needs to be successful.”


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