By Amanda Wyatt
While the future of Sag Harbor’s Youth Advocacy Resource Development (YARD) program has sometimes been shaky, it looks as if the popular after-school and summer beach program is now finding some solid ground.
At Monday’s Sag Harbor Board of Education (BOE) meeting, Chris Tice, vice president, announced that the board had recently met with representatives from Friends of YARD, the Southampton Youth Center, the Southampton Youth Bureau and Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman’s office to discuss a merger.
“Both [YARD and the Southampton Youth Center] are getting funded from different sources right now and serving the same population in a relatively small community, so it would make sense to really merge those organizations to leverage those resources, financially and otherwise, and build a broader vision of a program that best serves the youth,” Tice explained.
She said they would be “plowing ahead” to make the merger happen soon, and that Schneiderman had acted as “a catalyst for accelerated movement in the cause.”
“Schneiderman really wants to see it finished and merged by the end of March,” added board member Sandi Kruel. “That’s our goal.”
Also at Monday’s meeting, the BOE discussed its efforts to increase school security in light of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. two months ago. Recently, Sag Harbor schools held a 15-minute lockdown drill with local police to prepare both students and teachers for emergency situations.
Jeff Nichols, principal of Pierson Middle/High School, said Sag Harbor Police Chief Tom Fabiano and Sergeant Paul Fabiano spoke directly with faculty members about what to do during a lockdown, and even issued the district a “report card” on how it fared during the drill. Nichols noted that the district planned on completing three or four additional drills this year.
Matthew Malone, principal of Sag Harbor Elementary School, reported that the district was also working with John Hark, a security expert from Eastern Suffolk BOCES who recently toured the buildings. Hark has been reviewing the school’s safety plan and will make suggestions about further implementation, Malone said.
However, Nichols mentioned that the BOE and the community must strike a balance in their school safety initiatives, being careful not to go “overboard” with security measures.
“Everyone we’ve spoken to, from village police to the gentleman from BOCES, is sensitive to that balance and that will be reflected in the report we get,” he said.
For board member Susan Kinsella, “knowing your students — especially your disturbed, your troubled, your bullied students, is…sometimes, I believe, a bigger issue than where your cameras are and who’s guarding your front door.”
Dr. Bonuso, the district’s interim superintendent, agreed, noting that the school was mindful of the need for support services and other ways to make sure they don’t “have students who are so disenfranchised” that they even consider an act of violence.
Also at the meeting, the BOE mentioned they were still working with several other East End school districts and BOCES to apply for a Local Government Efficiency Grant from New York State.
Last year, the consortium of schools unsuccessfully applied for the grant, which would have provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for a study on how they might consolidate or share services.
Two weeks ago, officials from the schools attended a meeting with representatives from the New York Department of State and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Hauppauge office about reapplying this year.
Dr. Bonuso said the group had not settled on the next meeting or who the lead grant writer would be, but he noted time was of the essence, with the grant’s deadline of March 13 approaching rapidly.
If the consortium of schools does go ahead with the grant, the Sag Harbor BOE would have to pass a resolution to approve the grant at its next meeting on March 6 or at a special meeting before the March 13deadline.
In other news, John O’Keefe, district business administrator, gave a presentation to the BOE on the school’s cafeteria program. He said that the school-run cafeteria was on target, financially, and that they were essentially “breaking even.”
This year, there has been $124,817.68 in expenditures related to salaries, benefits, food supplies and contracts. It has taken in $130,566.92 in revenue, which includes cafeteria sales and state/federal reimbursements, as well as a $5,000 transfer from the school’s General Fund.
O’Keefe also mentioned that this month, “stringent” new requirements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on school nutrition had taken effect. However, he said, the district was already meeting and even surpassing many of these requirements.
For example, the district is now serving smaller sandwiches to keep in line with reductions in portion sizes for meat and bread. And while the USDA is mandating schools serve at least 50 percent whole wheat, all of the bread, pasta and pizza dough served in the cafeteria are whole grain.