Oysterponds school board hires interim principal

The Oysterponds Board of Education took the next step in its transition to a new administration Tuesday night, hiring Joan Frisicano, a former Sag Harbor educator, to serve as interim principal beginning Jan. 1. Last month, the board completed negotiations with Superintendent Stuart Rachlin, putting him on the path to early retirement.

Board president Deborah Dumont characterized Ms. Frisicano as a “veteran administrator” who is “very child-centered.” The selection process involved interviews with board members, faculty and parents, and finalists were required to write essays explaining how they would handle a specific disciplinary problem.

Ms. Frisicano is being hired as a per diem employee and will be paid $600 a day to function as both principal and special education director, receiving no benefits, until the board can select a new principal and a part-time superintendent. Dr. Rachlin has functioned as both superintendent and principal.

Dr. Rachlin will continue to work full time for the rest of December and then put in 20 hours a week, working Tuesdays and Thursdays and attending board meetings as necessary, through June 2011. His contract was originally due to expire at the end of June 2012.


Oysterponds is accepting Southold’s invitation to participate in discussions about school consolidation. The agreement doesn’t commit any board to a decision, but opens the way to begin a conversation and, possibly, a study on the pros and cons of some or all North Fork districts to consolidate in a number of possible scenarios.

One of those could include a consolidation of the Southold, Greenport and Oysterponds districts. Another could involve efforts already under way under the auspices of North Fork United Schools to consolidate some services. A third idea that could be discussed is the formation of a regional high school, while retaining current elementary schools.

Southold Superintendent David Gamberg sent letters to each of the other four school districts in the area on behalf of his Board of Education to determine if others were interested in talking about a study.

New Suffolk Board of Education members responded Tuesday night, saying they would be willing to discuss shared services, but not to pay for any study, and they aren’t interested in full consolidation.

New York State Education Department officials have been vocal about wanting to see consolidations of smaller districts and Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) has been a proponent of consolidation on the North Fork. That’s why Southold hopes the state might fund a study of consolidation.

Board members agreed to explore changing the pace of the school year by shortening the summer break and adding some two-week breaks during the term. Students would likely put in the same number of days in school. The aim would be to avoid a loss of learning momentum over a three-month summer break. The idea raises teacher contract issues and commitments they may have to summer jobs, board member Kathy Syron said. It also could pose “not insurmountable” problems of coordination with other districts, Dr. Rachlin said. With Oysterponds secondary students attending classes in Greenport, that could mean a family with children in each school could see a calendar for their elementary school children that differs greatly from the calendars for their junior and senior high school students.

Greenport isn’t interested in sharing an elementary school program with Oysterponds that would involve one school educating students from both districts in a multi-age classroom and the other district educating students from both districts in traditional single-grade classrooms.

Oysterponds board member Thom Gray introduced the possibility of shared programs at last month’s Greenport Board of Education meeting. But Greenport Superintendent Michael Comanda told him after the meeting that Greenport was satisfied with its present approach to elementary education and had no interest in pursuing multi-age classrooms.

Oysterponds is exploring the concept, but board members are concerned about having to impose that approach on all students, pointing out that in other districts where it’s an option, parents can keep their children in traditional classrooms. Because Oysterponds has only one school, it would be all or nothing for the district’s students.

Who is choosing books and other materials for Oysterponds students? That’s what board member Walter Strohmeyer and Orient resident Jay McKasty want to know.

Mr. Strohmeyer questioned the book, “There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom” by Louis Sachlar, which deals with a child with serious behavioral problems and how to deal with them. He said the book is too explicit for elementary school children.

Mr. McKasty questioned whether some images on VHS tapes about various artists are appropriate for the students.

As in most school districts, books and materials are chosen by classroom teachers in conjunction with the superintendent. It was unclear whether that will change at Oysterponds.

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