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Dec 8, 2010 11:20 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tuckahoe Superintendent Would Rent District-Owned Home Following $95,000 Renovations

Dec 8, 2010 11:20 AM

The Tuckahoe School Board will ask voters this month to approve spending $95,000 to renovate a district-owned house for an unconventional use: as a home for the district’s top administrator.

Certain key details, such as how much rent would be charged, have not yet been hammered out—and likely will not be before the measure goes up for a vote on December 21, district officials said this week.

The proposed plan has drawn the ire of several residents of the district who have questioned why the funds would not be spent for educational purposes and challenged the district’s claim that such an expense would not raise taxes.

Officials also offered somewhat conflicting ideas regarding the use of the house, an approximately 1,600-square-foot, single-story, shingled home at 46 Sebonac Road, just east of Tuckahoe School’s athletic field.

Superintendent-Principal Joseph “Chris” Dyer said on Monday that while he is very interested in living in the house, he cautioned that he has not been offered the house officially.

“They have asked me if I would be interested in living on campus,” he said. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’ It would be great to live on campus. It’ll be close to the school, and I’ll be able to be a part of the school life, so I would very much enjoy that. But I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to anticipate that until it’s approved by the voters.”

A letter sent to residents by the board last week, however, was less equivocal. “The house, in its completion, will be used by our superintendent as his home. It is Mr. Dyer’s desire to ‘live on campus,’” it states.

School Board Chairman Robert Grisnik said on Monday that the plan was a joint idea between the board members and superintendent. Mr. Grisnik said that the to-be-determined rent would be a fair-market value.

“It was a joint idea because we needed to do something with the house. He was looking for a home. He expressed an interest in the possibility of living in that home, living on campus,” Mr. Grisnik said, adding, “Everything I have to say is in that letter.”

Mr. Dyer’s salary is $155,000, excluding benefits. He has a three-year contract with the district that expires in June 2013.

An informational session to discuss plans to renovate the house is expected to follow the School Board’s regular meeting on Monday, December 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the Tuckahoe School library on Magee Street. The polls will be open for voting on the referendum on Tuesday, December 21, between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., in the school gymnasium.

The district’s architect, Paul Rogers of Chaleff & Rogers Architects in Water Mill, is expected to present his plans to the public that evening. In a phone interview this week, Mr. Rogers said the house is currently uninhabitable, but that the restoration would be minimal, involving upgrades to the interior finishes and electrical and heating systems, as well as finishes for the floors, walls and ceiling. The house currently has one full bathroom but, after renovation, would have an additional half-bath, he said.

When first hired last summer, Mr. Dyer said one of his goals was to live in the Tuckahoe School District—a goal he met. He said he rents a house on a month-to-month basis on Cedar Lane in Shinnecock Hills with his wife, Cheri. He said they hope to purchase a home in the district eventually.

The board pushed the plan for the referendum forward this fall, following discussions in executive session. The letter states that on-campus housing could be an incentive for future administrators to come to the district, since affordable housing is difficult to find in this area.

The district purchased the house and half-acre lot it sits on for $515,000 following voter approval in the spring of 2009. At the time, officials said it could potentially be used to provide extra classroom space to meet an expanding student population. Tuckahoe School enrolls approximately 360 students in prekindergarten through the eighth grade. The letter mailed out last week states that the property was acquired to conform with State Department of Education property-to-footprint ratio requirements, and that the district received a variance from the state to expand in 2001, with a goal of purchasing additional properties, if available to better meet state requirements.

Mr. Grisnik said the board’s decision to move forward with the referendum was unanimous. The other members of the board, Sharon Grindle and Daniel Crough, declined to comment on the measure this week, noting that Mr. Grisnik had asked them to refer all questions to him.

The letter to the community called the plan the district’s “good fortune, civic responsibility and district obligation to maintain the property.”

The funding for the project is to come from an unappropriated reserve fund. The board’s letter claims the project would not increase taxes, since the funds already exist. However, some parents argued that all funding for schools ultimately comes from taxpayers.

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They're joking, right?
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Dec 6, 10 10:47 AM
I'll work for free if someone will drain my septic tank
By littleplains (305), olde england on Dec 6, 10 11:19 AM
Did he have a Town of Southampton Rental Permit? And will the School DIstrict get a Rental Permit for that property??/
By DiDi (16), Southampton on Dec 6, 10 11:47 AM
$ 95,000 renovations; $515,000.00 house; unappropriated reserve funds...Hopefully they wont come and ask taxpayers for more money to run the schools too.
Let Mr. Dyer rent from the many private homes available in the area that pay taxes to the school district. One way to make housing more affordable for the employees of the school district might be to waive taxes or a portion thereof to landlords that rent to its employees. That could be done for other municipal employees as well. No?
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Dec 6, 10 12:12 PM
The dude gets a contract for $155,000 per year plus benefits and a public elementary school wants to spend $95 grand from a "surplus" to make him a nice house in property purchased to one day school kids? How many public schools across America provide "on-campus housing"? Only in the Hamptons, folks.
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Dec 6, 10 12:17 PM
What are they proposing to do for $95,000? Kitchen, A/C, baths, structural work? Is the house sound? Aren't there other houses available for rent in the district? What have they been doing with it for the last year? Has it been empty, rented or used by the district in some way? There are more questions than information. It would be interesting to learn more.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Dec 6, 10 1:29 PM
Surely they're kidding. Since when does a school administrator position come with housing? Seriously out of control.
By Dafsgirl (64), Southampton on Dec 6, 10 3:10 PM
Sadly, this is not a joke. ... Just a bad idea from some very misguided board members.
By tuckahoemom (19), Southampton on Dec 6, 10 3:47 PM
If the house is vacant and is not going to be used for school expansion any time soon, sounds like a good idea to make the repairs, have an occupant and collect monthly rent. At the going rental rate of $2,ooo per month you could recoup the costs in 4 years.
By auntof9 (159), Southampton on Dec 6, 10 5:53 PM
And who replenishes the surplus or comes up with money for an emergency expenditure during those four years? Taxpayers.
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Dec 7, 10 4:31 PM
Superintendent-Principal Joseph “Chris” Dyer would rent the home from the district once it was renovated, but the amount of rent has not yet been determined

Let me guess. $1. a year? Wouldn't it be nice to advise the voters of the yield from the rental income before the vote?
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Dec 6, 10 6:31 PM
Why did the board set the date fit the referendum for December 21? Because a lot of people will be out of town. Doesn't the school have to absorb the cost of the vote? Yes. How much did the school already spend on architectural plans? Was this deal made before the super was hired? If teachers making $40,000/year are expected to be able to find their own housing or commute two hours why should we go out of our way to help someone making $150,000/year plus benefits? Did this $95,000 fall from ...more
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Dec 6, 10 7:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
Once again the taxpayers in Tuckahoe are getting the shaft by the board. They never saw an unnecessary expenditure that they didn't want to make. It's time to get rid of these ridiculous little districts out here and come up with fiscal sanity.
By Southampton Truth (10), Southampton on Dec 7, 10 7:09 AM
Are they for real. We have local young people who can't afford the rents around here. but they will help someone ho make $155, 000 a year. REALLY
By mother of firefighter (18), Southampton on Dec 7, 10 11:03 AM
I like tuckahoe, but I don't like it
By deKooning (106), southampton on Dec 7, 10 5:17 PM
First Oysterponds and now Tuckahoe...is there something in the water?
By hdhouse (8), westhampton on Dec 8, 10 10:15 AM
I like the idea. Parents will know where the Superintendent is 24/7. The $95K won't be thrown away, it will increase the market value of the house and will be recouped should the district ever decide to sell the property. The article stated that market rate rent would be charged.

That being said, this will be the only Superintendent to live in the property unless the School Board makes it a requirement of the job. After Mr. Dyer has endured the harangues and jeremiads of parents who ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Dec 8, 10 10:40 AM

Highhatsize, it will take more than a $95K renovation for the taxpayers to recoup the investment. It was bought rather quickly and rushed for $515K when it is nothing but a TEARDOWN HOUSE and to me worth no more than the land, bought at a time when houses of that kind (under $700K were simply not moving in Tuckahoe in the middle of perhaps the worst real estate slump in the midst of the worst Recession since the Great Depression!

And the Board never presented any market appraisals ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Dec 8, 10 8:51 PM
$95 k? As a contactor, I can guarantee I could do a top-notch job for less. I would love to see the itemized estimate.
By clamdigger (85), Quogue on Dec 12, 10 5:28 PM
The market rate for renting a freshly remodeled house in that area would be at least $2500 a month. The $95,000 could be amortized in under four years, and replaced in seven.

That speaks to a 10% plus interest rate; where else can the school district get that type of return?
By VOS (1241), WHB on Dec 8, 10 11:05 AM
By investing that money in kids and not real estate. A public school should not be a freaking landlord. Why does this school have a surplus? I would guess it would be in case of an emergency. My kids went to private school and we never would have allowed such an expenditure. A public elementary school spending taxpayer money on "on-campus housing" is a precedent we do not want being set.
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Dec 8, 10 11:14 AM
Why are taxpayers paying for a million dollar renovation for a house that the Supeintendent will live in? let the Superintendent prvide their own house. The land should be sold as is and the funds received used to lower the school budget!
By Walt (292), Southampton on Dec 8, 10 4:20 PM
The fact that the district was allowed to purchase this property is outrageous. They did so under the guise that the land could be used to expand the school. Now they want to provide a perk to the Superintendent! This is another reason why the school board needs to be nine members, not three!
By Walt (292), Southampton on Dec 8, 10 4:23 PM
You just can't make this stuff up. I've considered renting a house for my seasonal employee's. Its good business. They mess up you fire them and toss them out of the house. That's probaly not the motivation here (sarcasm intended). If the Tuckahoe school district is thinking along the lines of good business then good education should be the goal. For those who want to put students first I refer you to studentsfirst.org. There is a revolution starting in education. This is so wrong on so many levels ...more
By Bob Schepps (77), Southampton on Dec 8, 10 4:52 PM
on campus housing maybe we should change our name to Ross School or maybe we should purchase Southampton College and house all the teachers. The only Supers I know that need to be available 24/7 are the ones that fix the plumbing in apartment building
By frayman (10), southampton on Dec 8, 10 8:04 PM

This is obviously the brainchild of the usual suspect , the Chairman of the Trustees who runs this school like his own personal kingdom, and its Treasury seemingly like his own personal checkbook. I propose we might as well name name Tuckahoe the Robert Grisnik Private Elementary School and do away with parent opinions and children's best interests, at least those that don't agree with him.

This is the most powerful rationale for term limits as the man has been there for 27 years ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Dec 8, 10 8:13 PM
This sounds more like a personal attack on one board member than an opinion about the issue. Like you said, he's been there for 27 years, so he's been doing something right in the eyes of the taxpayers for a long time.
By midwest-for-now (2), Southampton on Dec 13, 10 12:07 PM
This is proposal is a blatant misuse of taxpayer money that falls far outside of the mission of public education. We are in the middle of a great recession and the financial future of all public institutions is uncertain. A renewed focus on educating our children will help to turn this country around. We pay our superintendents very well and I believe they deserve the money, but to become their landlords or to believe that a strong candidate needs any more incentive that what is already offered ...more
Dec 9, 10 8:23 AM appended by dagdavid
I need to note, since I quoted the site, that I do not agree with studentsfirst founder Michelle Rhee on her stands against unions and for privatization of public schools.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Dec 9, 10 8:23 AM
1 member liked this comment
In the article it says that Mr. Dyer and his wife hope to purchase a house in the district in the future. What will the distict do with the house then?
I think the the district would be better served by tearing down the house and adding more parking and/or an athletic field.
By interestedtaxpayer (21), southampton on Dec 9, 10 12:13 PM
I know that the board believes that passage of the proposal is a foregone conclusion, but it still would have been nice if they waited until AFTER the vote before starting the renovation! All the sheetrock has already been removed, the interior walls have been replaced with new wall stubs, and a chimney has been removed. Chris' current house lease must be expiring SOON!
By local 25 (1), Southampton on Dec 9, 10 12:47 PM
What is with this school board? They hire this man immediately after the last one resigned,he taught in a cracker town in Va, formally from a cracker town upstate NY. Retired from the service with a high ranking pension from the army. Now they want to renovate a house for him to live in at taxpayer expense. I think the school board and the Superintendent should stick to education and get out of the real estate business. When are school boards going to learn that these old guys coming from these ...more
By bayview (160), Southampton on Dec 9, 10 2:24 PM
The superintendent won't be there 24/7 as he goes "home" each weekend to PA where his wife lives. If this actally passes, this board better not cut a dime from the kid's education (like the elementary science program which is on the chopping block). Vote no on December 21.
By originalhamptonite (2), southampton on Dec 9, 10 10:33 PM
The position of superinpendant is not really neccessary in it's current configuration.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Dec 10, 10 7:37 AM
This is a school district that proports not to have funds to retain the one Spanish speaking teacher's assistant it had last year or increase a para-professional's hourly pay (by $1.50 or so) to meet the Suffolk County's recommended minimum wage. Shameful!
By zoeo (2), Hampton Bays on Dec 10, 10 9:41 AM
ps: correction to the above: "purports"
By zoeo (2), Hampton Bays on Dec 10, 10 9:43 AM
With Apple's educator discount, for the same money, you could purchase an iPad for nearly every child in the school - a tool that would have a direct impact on education
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Dec 11, 10 11:10 AM
1 member liked this comment
The school board is holding a meeting on this tonight, Monday, December 13, at 7:30 at Tuckahoe. Attend and be heard regardless of your position.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Dec 13, 10 9:18 AM
It is hard to believe that this house at 515K purchase price can be listed as “uninhabitable” From the looks of it from the exterior it looked rather good. OH, I FORGOT TO MENTION THAT THE HOUSE HAS ALREADY BEEN GUTTED AND THE SECOND DUMPSTER ALREADY ON SITE! With no existing evidence of the interior structure or it contents left it is hard to determine if it was in fact in need of repair. I have a hard time believing that we would need to spend 95K to repair the house.
Someone ...more
By Common Scense (24), Southampton on Dec 13, 10 12:10 PM
What does this have to do with educating kids?
By Southampton Truth (10), Southampton on Dec 14, 10 6:48 AM
It sounds like Grisnik is up to his usual tricks. He has mastered the art of "puppet Master". Notice how the other two board members look at him for guidance as if they are afraid to say what they are feeling on the issue.
Vote on the 21st "NO" and after the final tally is in regarding the vote and shutting down the proposal. We will watch Grisnik at work and do what he wants again and not listen to the people. He did the same thing as Fire Commissioner. The people said no to the purchase ...more
By Common Scense (24), Southampton on Dec 14, 10 1:24 PM
The board has refused to move the referendum.

The board says they rent will be assessed at fair market value but, if I heard correctly, they also said that the superintendent would not be required to pay the full amount as a portion will be provided by this district as “payment in kind'. Additionally, the board has already spent a large sum of money on architectural plans. They would not disclose the exact number, but between the architect and his assistant it comes to at least $225/hour ...more
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Dec 15, 10 8:46 AM
Maybe they are getting tips on how to run a board, from Southampton Town.

Maybe they could sell the new studs as firewood, when the residents turn them down on this one. Make it a classroom, make it a field, whatever you do, making it a residence for an employee of a public institution is inexcusable.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Dec 15, 10 11:35 AM