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Long IslandSuffolk

Sag Harbor school district


7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Pierson High School.


The district proposes a $37,552,566 budget for 2015-16, a 1.85 percent increase from the current $36,869,503. The local tax levy would rise 2.49 percent, from $33,223,918 to $34,050,000. The increase is within the state's tax-cap limit of 2.53 percent, so a simple majority vote will be required to approve the budget. School taxes on the average single-family home would increase 2.28 percent, from $5,221 to $5,340.

Teachers would receive a 0.75 percent contractual salary increase and step increases ranging from 0.75 percent to 5.79 percent. A new special-education program would add two teachers, six teaching assistants and two therapists. A ballot proposition asks voters to authorize creating a reserve fund of up to $2.5 million for repairs to district facilities.

District website:


Five candidates are running for three at-large seats: Stephanie Bitis, James Ding, James Sanford and incumbents Thomas Schiavoni and Chris Tice. David Diskin is not seeking re-election. The candidate who receives the third-highest vote total will complete the last year of the unexpired term of Daniel Hartnett, who resigned and whose seat is currently held by Schiavoni. The other terms are three years.

Stephanie Bitis

BACKGROUND: Bitis, 52, is a real estate salesperson for Sotheby's International Realty's Bridgehampton brokerage. She was general sales manager for WFAN-AM radio from 2007 to 2014. Bitis has owned a house in the district for 20 years. She has a bachelor of business administration degree in management from Baruch College in Manhattan and a master of business administration in marketing from St. John's University. Bitis is vice president of the parish council at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons in Southampton. Her two children attend a district public school. This is her first run for the school board.

ISSUES: Bitis said that she recently changed from a weekend-only to a full-time resident of the community so her children could attend Sag Harbor schools. "With both children in middle school and a career change that allows me to work in the Hamptons, I now have the time to volunteer," she said. Bitis said she would be "a new voice, a clear communicator" and "a leader with a tremendous background in business." She said parents whose children opt out of state testing in what she said is a show of support for the district's teaching staff "ultimately will lead to a potential budget strain."

James Ding

BACKGROUND: Ding, 64, has lived in the district for 15 years, and previously lived for 22 years in Southampton. Ding previously ran a uniform-manufacturing business in Southampton and is a general business consultant for a Manhattan manufacturing company. Ding has a bachelor of science degree in education from SUNY Oneonta. This is his first run for the school board.

ISSUES: "I don't have children, so I don't have an agenda," Ding said, adding that he's running for the school board because "we are in a golden opportunity at this moment with cyber technology." Ding said that district schools "have offered our students life-enriching opportunities, we have athletic teams and showcase our artists and our thespians, but what we are missing are technology wizards." He said the district should offer programs that "allow students who have cellphones and play video games to use their talents." Ding said technologically savvy students could teach senior citizens how to use their cellphones in an after-school program. He said the district should participate in the Air Force Association's Cyberpatriot program, which he said "promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] in a fun way."

James Sanford

BACKGROUND: Sanford, 46, has lived in the district for 10 years and was previously a summer resident since the early 1990s. Sanford is a portfolio manager with his own firm, Sag Harbor Advisors in Sag Harbor. Sanford has a bachelor of arts degree in economics and political science from Amherst College in Massachusetts. He is a chartered financial analyst. Sanford is a member of the school board's facilities planning committee. He is a member of the Elks Club in Southampton and sits on the Town of Southampton GOP Committee. Sanford has a child attending a district public school. This is his first run for the school board.

ISSUES: Sanford said the most important issues facing the district include "staying under the tax cap without cutting the instructional budget for students." He said that the school board should "take a more assertive stance against growth in the noninstructional budget and scrutinize all noninstructional items."

Thomas Schiavoni

BACKGROUND: Schiavoni, 51, is a 12th-grade social studies teacher in the Center Moriches school district. He also teaches the college level Excelsior course. He is a lifelong Sag Harbor school district resident and a 1981 graduate of the district's Pierson High School. Schiavoni has a bachelor of arts degree in secondary social studies from SUNY Cortland and a master of arts degree in liberal science from Stony Brook University. Schiavoni was appointed to the school board in August to fill a vacancy. Schiavoni is Village of North Haven trustee and a former member of the North Haven zoning board of appeals. His two children attend district public schools.

ISSUES: Schiavoni said "the most important issue facing our district is the question of how we are going to maintain our quality programs moving forward." He said this goal can be achieved by attracting tuition-paying students. Schiavoni explained, "We have the opportunity to purchase a Catholic school, and my vision is to make it a bit of a magnet to attract special-needs students from the South Fork on a tuition basis." He continued, "We have a number of students who are sent out of the district and I want to bring those students home."

Chris Tice

BACKGROUND: Tice, 54, is a real estate salesperson in the Sag Harbor office of The Corcoran Group. Tice became a full-time Sag Harbor resident 11 years ago, after being a summer and later a weekend resident since 1965. Tice has a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University at Albany. Tice has three children, two of whom attend district public schools, and one graduate. Tice is a former president of the Sag Harbor PTA and a former board member of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce. Tice was elected to a three-year term in 2010. She was re-elected in 2013 to complete the remaining two years in the unexpired term of a board member who resigned.

ISSUES: Tice said she is "proud that our district has continued to deliver an excellent educational program while being very fiscally healthy and keeping under the tax cap." Tice continued, "Our biggest challenge is going to be to continue to raise the bar in academic excellence and college and career readiness while under these ongoing fiscal constraints." Tice said she will "continue to push for added STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] curriculum, including technology-related classes, to better prepare our students for tomorrow's job-growth sectors. She said she would advocate for "collaboration with surrounding districts to leverage savings and increase student opportunities through shared services."

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