Mattituck school board to stay at five members after second resignation

09/18/2015 1:50 PM |

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A second Mattituck-Cutchogue school board member has resigned, about two months after the former board president announced he would be leaving.

At Tuesday’s meeting,Jeffery Smith said he is giving up his position after 18 years on the board. Mr. Smith recently sold his house, which had been on the market for about a year, and is moving out of the district.

“It’s bittersweet,” Mr. Smith said. “I graduated from this school, my wife graduated from this school, our six children graduated from this school. It’s going to be very rough leaving.”

Mr. Smith also served on the Eastern Suffolk BOCES board and was the liaison for Mattituck-Cutchogue school district, as well as a few others. In his absence, Eastern Suffolk BOCES board president Lisa Israel will become the liaison for the Mattituck-Cutchogue district.

The school board ultimately decided to remain at five members rather than appoint two people to fill the vacant positions.

Mr. Smith’s resignation comes after longtime school board president Jeffrey Diffley, a 16-year veteran of the board, announced he was leaving at the board’s July 10 meeting. Mr. Diffley said he chose to leave the board after it became difficult to commute home from his work in Garden City.

After Mr. Diffley’s resignation the board asked for resumes from district residents interested in filling the position, receiving around six. 

Now with two open spots the school board, board members were intially divided over whether or not it would be beneficial to add two new members.

“We’ve always been a board of seven and I think with two people leaving, bringing two people on, and the board retreat and all the additional work that we’re doing, I think those two new individuals would be extremely overwhelmed with the amount of work,” said board member William Gatz.

He said other East End school districts have five member boards, adding the Mattituck-Cutchogue board originally had only five members. Mr. Gatz said he feels confident the current five members on the board could handle the work until next May, when elections would be held to fill the open positions.

Barbara Wheaton, who was elected to the board in May, initially disagreed.

“I like the idea of the new blood and getting people up and running,” she said. “In the interview process we could basically tell them if you want to do this, this is the amount of time it takes.”

Mr. Smith recommended staying at five, saying he thought it would be “a disservice to both the two new people and the other four [sic] of you to throw them into the mix at this point.”

Mr. Smith said waiting until May to hold a vote would let interested people talk to past and present board members, attend meetings and begin to fully understand if the joining the board is something they have time for.

After further discussion the board unanimously voted 5-0 against bringing in new members. Board member Charles Anderson was absent Tuesday.

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Photo Caption: Mattituck-Cutchogue school board members Jeffrey Smith, William Gatz, Laura Jens-Smith, superintendent Dr. Ann Smith, Barbara Wheaton and Douglas Cooper at Tuesday’s meeting (Credit: Nicole Smith). 

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