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Sag Harbor School Board: No More Virtual Comments

Thu, 08/10/2023 - 09:48
The Sag Harbor School Board met on Aug. 8, 2023.
Sag Harbor School District

Beginning with its Aug. 28 meeting, the Sag Harbor School Board will no longer take comments from online participants during its public-comment sessions. The meetings will continue to be live-streamed online.

The decision was made Tuesday based on a recommendation from Jeff Nichols, the district superintendent, in what he said is an effort to return to pre-Covid-pandemic procedures. He said he contacted 12 districts — he did not publicly identify them — and found that only one is still allowing online meeting attendees to comment virtually.

"I checked with a lot of other districts," Mr. Nichols said. "At this point, Sag Harbor is one of the few districts who still have some of these Covid modifications in place."

Locally, both the East Hampton and Springs School Districts still allow community members to share comments virtually, through a conference-call system that is patched into the Zoom service. The system was engineered by LTV, East Hampton Town's public-access television station, which contracts with schools and municipalities to broadcast meetings and continues to facilitate incoming calls from viewers for both districts.

During the 2022-23 school year, which saw the failure of a bond proposition to buy land adjacent to Pierson Middle and High School, the Sag Harbor School Board often found itself dealing with heated criticism from community members who were participating via Zoom.

"It certainly seems like we're operating back to normal" in other ways, said Grainne Coen, a board member, "so that seems to make sense."

Jordana Sobey, the board's vice president, pointed out that many online participants were asking questions rather than making straight-up comments, which often had the effect of spurring lengthy back-and-forth discussions that delayed the board's ability to address its agenda items.

Mr. Nichols said people can still ask questions of the board and the administration by phone and email.

"We'll still welcome public input in person," Ms. Sobey said.

Sandi Kruel, the board president, said she agreed "wholeheartedly" with Mr. Nichols's suggestion.
Daniel Marsili, a newly elected board member, said he is "100 percent on board with getting back to pre-Covid protocols."


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