Wolf apologizes, defends special Greenport BOE meeting

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07/08/2014 8:00 AM |
Greenport school boards member Heather Wolf, center, and Dan Creedon disagreed Monday over scheduling a June 25 special meeting. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson, file)

Greenport school boards member Heather Wolf, center, and Dan Creedon, left, are in disagreement over the scheduling of a June 25 special meeting. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson, file)

Heather Wolf is apologizing for any misconceptions residents may have about the Greenport school board scheduling a 7:30 a.m. special meeting on June 25 to approve two employee contracts.

She’s also defending the decision to hold that meeting with short notice because she said both agreements — a contract to share a plant facilities manager with the Southold School District, and appointing a pre-K principal — were timely.

During the school board’s regular monthly meeting Monday night, Ms. Wolf said she wanted to “apologize for any sense of mystery” surrounding the special meeting after reading Greenport resident Greg Wallace’s opinion piece published in The Suffolk Times last Thursday that was critical of the scheduling.

Ms. Wolf, along with Tina Volinski and Lisa Murray, attended the June 25 special meeting and unanimously approved both contracts, which were the only items listed on the agenda. Dan Creedon and Babette Cornine were absent from the meeting.

The first item approved during the special meeting was to appoint Greenport’s current director of operations Marcus DaSilva to a new joint-position as Plant Facility Manager with Southold at a salary of $115,000, effective July 1. He will now be responsible for groundskeeping and building maintenance at both Southold and Greenport schools, since the Southold groundskeeper is retiring.

Ms. Wolf said the Southold school board and district administration had asked Greenport to approve the shared agreement before the contract was to go into effect. The Southold school board held its own regular meeting in the evening of June 25 — the same day as Greenport’s special meeting — and unanimously approved Mr. DaSilva’s shared contract.

“We did that more as a courtesy to Marcus himself and the Southold folks so they felt that all i’s were dotted and all t’s were crossed before they put him into this new and very exciting opportunity — an opportunity that’s a very nice cost savings to our district, as well as Southold,” she said. “He’s proved to be an absolutely marvelous director here and I’m sure he’ll do us extremely proud in Southold.”

As for appointing Greenport Elementary School principal Joseph Tsaveras to the newly created pre-K principal position during the special meeting, Ms. Wolf said the contract needed to be approved before the school board’s regular July meeting in order for the district to “apply for timely grant money.”

Ms. Wolf said the school board could have held off on Mr. Tsaversas’s appointment — which includes an $8,000 stipend to over the see the district’s new pre-K program — and had Superintendent Michael Comanda sign the grant applications instead. It decided not to since Mr. Comanda is retiring and wouldn’t be able to see the application process to fruition, she said.

“We didn’t want to put [Mr. Comanda’s] name on it and then have him disappear,” Ms. Wolf said. “[Mr. Tsaversas has] worked so hard on this for the better part of the year without a cent of extra compensation, so now at least he has the role formally and the extra compensation.”

“[The appointment] could have waited until today,” she added. “The thing we were concerned about not letting slip is the opportunity for quite a generous grant to help us pay for our staff for the preschool.”

Ms. Wolf also said the board has held 7:30 a.m. special meetings a dozen times over the last five years because it has been a convenient time to hold interim board meetings when timely or urgent matters need to be addressed.

“There’s been a lot of precedent for that, but I’m sorry that it appeared to be a surprise to some in the community,” she said.

Mr. Creedon — who replaced Ms. Wolf as board president after the board unanimously approved his uncontested appointment during the annual reorganizational portion of Monday night’s meeting — said he opposed the special meeting for personal reasons since he couldn’t attend due to his work schedule and didn’t receive copies of the contracts to review prior to the meeting.

“It was within the law, but [the law] does suggest that special meetings should not be used for the regular business of the board,” he said. “It sounded to me like it was within the letter of the law, but not the spirit.”

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