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04/23/16 9:00am

David Gamberg Southold School District

After announcing in November that David Gamberg would continue as the shared superintendent of both Southold and Greenport school districts after his initial contract ends this June, a three-year contract was approved by the Greenport Board of Education on Tuesday and the Southold Board of Education the following night.

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11/22/13 1:30pm
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Southold Superintendent David Gamberg listens on as residents share their concerns over a plan to share a superintendent with Southold schools.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Southold Superintendent David Gamberg listens on as residents share their concerns over a plan to share a superintendent with Southold schools.

At first, no one in the small classroom at Greenport High School wanted to speak, as if the announcement had stunned them into silence.

Then, one by one, the roughly dozen residents at Greenport’s school board meeting began to weigh in on a plan to share a superintendent with their neighbors in Southold — and old wounds reopened.

In the late 90s, one resident said, Greenport was the “step-child” in a shared-services agreement with Southold.

They were treated like an “outsider,” some at the meeting claimed. Residents detailed how academically challenged students were offered classes at Greenport while gifted students had higher level offerings at Southold.

No one wanted to associate with Greenport then, so why would it work now?

But as Southold Superintendent David Gamberg — who would also run Greenport schools under the plan — detailed how students are already sharing services and are being treated equally, some said now may be the time to move on from old slights.

“I have my doubts, I have my concerns, but … the time is now to break down those cultural barriers,” said Chris Golden, a coach and teacher at Greenport. “If this is the opportunity, I’m on board 100 percent.”

The meeting came a day after Southold’s school board heard from two concerned parents in their district about the potential for a shared superintendent. The Southold moms that spoke at Wednesday’s meeting were focused on how Mr. Gamberg would divide his time at the schools and whether the districts might eventually be merged.

But Greenport’s residents were more concerned with the history between the two districts, and how not to repeat it.

Residents also discussed the “elephant in the room,” the potential consolidation with the Oysterponds School district. Members of the Oysterponds school board who attended the meeting said the two boards would get a “fresh start” on the talks soon.

Mr. Gamberg said he was aware of what had happened previously between Greenport and Southold.

“I don’t discount that history,” Mr. Gamberg told the audience, but added that students are treated fairly in the shared programs that already exist, like NJROTC and traveling soccer programs.

Board members Tina Volinski and Heather Wolf also described the equal treatment of their children by coaches and advisers in both schools.

Mr. Gamberg said it was “essential” as the new superintendent that he build trust between the schools.

Mr. Gamberg said he would plan to spend half-days in both schools on some days, while other days would be spent all at one building or all at the other.

But his commitment  to students from both schools would be unwavering, he said.

“It’s not a light switch that goes on and off; it has to be on all the time,” Mr. Gamberg said.

Current Greenport superintendent Michael Comanda said he was aware of concerns about the plan, but believed that the strength of the school’s faculty could make it a success.

“There’s a seasoned group of folks here,” he said, adding that Mr. Gamberg was “well respected by his peers.”

Southold board president Paulette Ofrias sat in the middle of the classroom and said the Greenport parents’ comments had opened her eyes.

“I can’t promise you this is going to work … all I can say is you learn from [the past] and move on,” she said.

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11/21/13 2:28pm
11/21/2013 2:28 PM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | David Gamberg talks to Greenport school officials after Wednesday night's meeting.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Greenport school board president Heather Wolf (left) and member Lisa Murray speaking with Southold Superintendent David Gamberg (right) after Tuesday night’s meeting.

Two concerned moms took to the podium at Wednesday night’s Southold school board meeting to question plans by the Southold and Greenport school districts to share a superintendent starting next year.

Amy Doering, the parent of a third grader in Southold, asked what the benefit to Southold would be in sharing the current, Southold-only superintendent David Gamberg — particularly when making difficult decisions.

“When there comes an issue that could affect this district over the other, which hat do you wear at that point?” Ms. Doering asked.

Erin Kaelin, parent of a second-grade student approached the microphone to say she has “a ton of questions about” the move.

Among them: “Is this the first step on consolidating the two schools?”

No other residents spoke on the matter.

Both Mr. Gamberg and school board president Paulette Ofrias assured the arrangement would not lead to merging the two North Fork districts.

“This is actually an opportunity to allow each school to maintain its identity,” Ms. Ofrias said. “I think it will prevent that.”

Ms. Ofrias said discussions of the shared superintendent position started in August – when Greenport school board members approached Mr. Gamberg about the position.

Between August and November, Southold and Greenport school boards met four times to discuss the position, Ms. Ofrias said, adding there were “reservations among both boards,” but that the decision ultimately “rested on Mr. Gamberg and his family’s shoulders.”

Mr. Gamberg took time to reflect on the decision.

“l continue every single night to think about the potential, all of the good that can come of this, but I am not unaware of all of the challenges that come with that,” Mr. Gamberg said.

“In my mind I do envision down the road there will be greater savings both financially and programmatically,” he continued. “And I think it will work to our advantage for both Southold students and Greenport students.

“I think that it’s something that the times we live in may have given rise to this… we wouldn’t be the very first.”

Board member Scott Latham said “this was an education-first idea.”

“Yes, there is going to be great saving; but the whole thought process from the get-go was to enhance the student experience here and in Greenport,” Mr. Latham said.

That chance to enhance education opportunities is worth trying something new, said board vice president Judi Fouchet.

“Without risk you don’t know what will happen,” Ms. Fouchet said. “If it doesn’t work, I also know that we are a board of people that have no problem saying, ‘This is not working; this is not something that should be moved forward.’ If that’s the case.”

Scott DeSimone was the only Southold board member to say outright he was not in favor of the decision, but that “if it was the will of the board, I am going to give it my full support. We’ve got to make it work and I’ll do what I need to make it a success.”

Ms. Doering said after the meeting that she was still opposed to the idea of sharing a superintendent.

“My biggest reservation as a parent is that it’s going to be to the detriment of the students here,” Ms. Doering said. “A person can’t possibly have enough time to devote to a group of students that large. I don’t see why the residents, we the district, would want this.”

Ms. Ofrias said there will be many challenges and questions that come up, but added, “I don’t see a downside for doing it for two years. If it doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean it’s a failure. That just means it didn’t work right for us here.”

Mr. Gamberg said he would need the help of both districts to make the move a success.

“I have a lot of confidence in what I know of both boards of education and I have a lot of confidence in the staff members of both districts and that’s really where much of this is going to be successful,” he said, “in the trust I have in people and building their capacity because I think that’s how any organization advances.”

Greenport school board members and Greenport Superintendent Michael Comanda, attended Wednesday night’s meeting as well.

Ms. Ofrias said a few Southold board members will be also attending tonight’s meeting in Greenport.

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