By Sabrina Artusa
During the Smithtown Central School District Board of Education meeting on June 13, the board was divided on the motion to amend Superintendent Mark Secaur’s contract.
The amendment’s immediate implications were unclear, but discussion suggests that the amendment would raise the superintendent’s salary. However, the specific conditions of the amendment were undisclosed.
“I think this moves him up toward the middle of the pack,” said Vice President Michael Saidens to board members. “Monetarily, I don’t think there is anything in there that is astronomical.” According to data released by the New York State Education Department in May, Secaur’s salary is $259,984 and he receives $62,806 in benefits.
Stacy Murphy, one of the trustees who opposed the motion, was uncomfortable with the amendment. “We are putting ourselves in a position where the superintendent’s contract ends in the middle of the school year,” she said. “What’s the rush?”
BOE President Mathew Gribbin supports the movement, although he declined to publicly answer Murphy’s question. Gribbin lauded Secaur’s performance as superintendent. Proponents of the movement, such as Gribbin and Saidens, made it clear that they want to ensure that Secaur stays in the position long-term.
“I hope Mark is here for 10 dozen years. I think he is the right man to do the work,” Saidens said.
Murphy and fellow trustee John Savoretti question the details of the contract. Gribbin said that the contract was distributed to the board a week before, but Savoretti said there was no opportunity for discussion prior to the meeting. Gribbin neglected to publicly reveal the motivation behind the amendment, stating “extenuated circumstances” influenced the motion and that he is “not at liberty to discuss.”
The argument led to one audience member, Andrea Elsky, to criticize the board’s disunity. Elsky told the board to have a “special meeting” beforehand and to remember that they are “one board.” “It’s a disgrace,” she said, a sentiment that was met with applause from the audience.
On a different issue, Kevin Simmons, the assistant superintendent for instruction and administration, presented a new approach to the Disabilities Education Act. Simmons talked of a data-driven approach to identify trouble areas, and thereby direct assistance to the students that need it. Simmons acknowledged the disparities among certain subgroups and mentioned potential fixes, such as counseling and course catalog revisions.
Bringing up another concern, Smithtown High School East senior Andrew Guidi, spoke to the board about their decision to arm security guards. The February decision has received both criticism and support from Smithtown residents. This was Guidi’s second time approaching the board asking them to reconsider.
“If it has been seen that armed guards do not help prevent violence, and it actively is making people feel unsafe as an effect, why would this decision be passed?” he asked the board. Guidi said many of his peers feel unsettled knowing that they are in such close proximity to a deadly weapon, “no matter who is in possession of such a weapon”.
Gribbin responded that there wasn’t a clear solution to the threat of mass shootings, but he hoped the fact that there is protection would “ease people’s minds.”