Southold, Greenport boards meet to review Gamberg arrangement

The Southold and Greenport school boards held a joint work session Wednesday. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)
The Southold and Greenport school boards held a joint work session at Greenport High School on Wednesday. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

Lots of praise. Few concerns. No complaints.

And, the difficulty of shopping for a red-and-purple striped tie.

Those were some of the topics discussed at Southold and Greenport’s first-ever joint school board work session with a shared superintendent Wednesday night at Greenport High School.

The meeting’s main purpose was to allow board members from both districts the opportunity to jointly discuss how David Gamberg has handled working as superintendent for both school districts — an arrangement that began in September after Michael Comanda retired from serving as Greenport’s superintendent last summer.

Mr. Gamberg, whose been Southold’s superintendent for over six years, smiled during the meeting as he talked about splitting his time at Tuesday’s Settlers-Porters basketball game by walking across the court between quarters.

He also enjoyed sporting a new necktie his wife found that represents both districts.

“It’s really hard to find a red and purple tie,” Mr. Gamberg said, referring to Southold’s school color of red and Greenport’s school color of purple. “I got more compliments on that tie last night than all of the ties in my closet combined.”

In addition to ties, Mr. Gamberg is using red and purple to color coordinate his Google Calendar so that each main office knows where to reach him at a moment’s notice.

Mr. Gamberg said one of the biggest concerns expressed after the shared-superintendent agreement was reached was his availability, particularly in Southold.

“Some people may say, ‘I haven’t seen him as much,’ but I hope they feel me as much,” Mr. Gamberg said. “I know the ‘seeing’ is part of that, but if I’m communicating effectively, regularly exchanging thoughts and ideas, and responsive to thoughts and questions on a regular basis, then I think I am felt in a way that captures my presence at any given time.”

Southold school board member Scott Latham said although there was some “belly aching” from the community when the shared-superintendent agreement was first announced, he said he hasn’t heard anything negative about it since.

Mr. Latham said he believes the use of email is one of the reasons the joint arrangement works, because Mr. Gamberg can address parental concerns remotely and immediately.

Greenport school board member Heather Wolf also praised Mr. Gamberg’s accessibility.

“David has bent over backwards to attend [school events],” she said. “I know it’s with a purpose: to meet and greet and become familiar. It’s been a treat and can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and said ‘Boy, that Mr. Gamberg is one nice man.’ I think your investment is paying dividends already.”

While none of the school board members had any complaints about Mr. Gamberg’s performance, some expressed concerns about his well-being, especially with budget season getting underway.

The superintendent agreed preparing spending plans for both districts will be the “true test” of the new arrangement.

His contract is the third shared agreement between Southold and Greenport in recent years. Both districts are sharing a technology director and facilities director.

Mr. Gamberg said these types of cost-saving measures will help maintain and enhance student programing.

While the superintendent has only been at it for five months, Mr. Gamberg said after the meeting that he’s interested in staying in his dual role if the arrangement continues to result in “greater accomplishments for students in both districts.”

“I would like to see this sustainable,” he said. “I want to see students be successful. If I see this continues to bear fruit like that, I want to continue.”

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From right, David Gamberg, superintendent for both Southold and Greenport school districts, with Greenport school board president Dan Creedon and Southold school board member John Crean. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)