By Claire Walla
For some, the case is closed.
For others, it’s hard to know where to begin.
But for administrators in the Sag Harbor School District, the discussion surrounding the future of the Bay Street Theatre carries on.
Recently, the theater announced it will not stay at its current location on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor when its three year lease expires next year. Instead, Bay Street wants to find a more permanent home. Southampton Village has offered Bay Street the current Parrish Art Museum space on Jobs Lane — which will be vacated later this year when the museum moves to a new home of its own. But theater board members have expressed a strong desire to stay in Sag Harbor and two weeks ago, hosted a public meeting to explore the possibility.
One option raised that night was the creation of a new theater at Pierson High School that could accommodate both Bay Street and school productions.
Addressing the Sag Harbor Board of Education at a regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, district superintendent Dr. John Gratto announced the district would be meeting with Bay Street Theatre board members on Tuesday, January 31 at 6 p.m. Dr. Gratto said he had met with the theater’s executive director, Tracy Mitchell, and proposed next week’s meeting “for the purpose of discussing how we might collaborate with each other.”
School board member Chris Tice supported the idea, but urged Dr. Gratto to create an agenda that could be circulated to the public before discussions get underway.
“Let’s get it out there early,” she said.
School board’s president Mary Anne Miller agreed.
“This is the right thing to do,” she said, adding “It will probably be a lively discussion.”
The meeting will be open to the public and largely revolve around a plan already in place for the construction of a new Pierson Middle/High School auditorium. The blueprint for a 300-seat auditorium was created in 2009, but was never put to a community vote as part of a bond measure.
However, this fall the school’s Facilities Planning Committee recommended the school board continue to pursue the reconstruction project through private funds instead of taxpayer money. (The committee also recommended the district pursue the most expensive of three proposed reconstruction plans, at an estimated cost of $12 million.)
Dr. Gratto said rebuilding the school’s auditorium is a crucial aspect of any potential collaboration.
“There are hundreds of details that still need to be fleshed out,” Dr. Gratto added. “But my general rule is: if there’s a will, there’s a way.”
In other news…
School district business director Janet Verneuille reported that the Pierson cafeteria has improved its sales — and its menu — since its new manager Greg Pisciotta came on board at the beginning of last year.
“Last year at this time we had a loss of about $20,000,” Verneuille said.
Referring to a chart that showed cafeteria revenues and expenditures for the first half of both 2010 and 2011, she explained the cafeteria earned about $13,973 more this year than it had by this time last year.
“We think we’ll come in in the black this year,” Verneuille continued. “Break even, or maybe run a $5,000 to $6,000 profit.”
Verneuille added that Pierson had the exact same number of students in December 2011 as it did in December 2010, so “obviously, we’re selling more.”
According to Pisciotta, this was the goal when he came on board last year: to break-even and to make the program healthier.
He said he increased program participation by increasing the presence of popular menu items and adding items students specifically requested (like flavored tea). He also cut costs by getting rid of ingredients that weren’t frequently used — food items he referred to as “orphans” — and cracking down on portion control.
“Everyone knows and loves Sue Higgins,” Pisciotta said of the woman who considerately serves Pierson students each afternoon. “But, I always kid her that she feeds the kids like they’re her kids and they’re going off to war.”
He said he’s tried to regulate more portion control to ensure the cafeteria maintains healthy profit margins.
In the way of providing healthier options, Pisciotta said he’s made a number of changes based largely on the advice of the school board. For instance, he replaced “compressed” chicken patties and nuggets to the “full muscle” variety, which he said is not made with rib meat or rib juice.
He’s also been purchasing vegetables and fruits that are flash frozen, rather than canned in containers of fructose. And healthy snack options, like Greek yogurt, hummus and sunflower seeds are seeing some sales.
He added that salad bar sales have improved, thanks to one crucial readjustment:
“As soon as I changed over to iceberg lettuce [from mixed greens] the sales doubled,” he said. “For some reason, kids like it better.”
Heading into the second half of the year, Pisciotta said he plans to add new menu items like roasted chicken, beef stew and chicken pot pie.
Pisciotta did add, however, that sales of certain snack items — like Pop-Tarts and breakfast bars — have dropped since the school started carrying “healthier” options. (Pop-Tarts are now whole grain.)
“I would say if we put [breakfast bars] in tomorrow we’d see about a $250 increase for the week,” he speculated.
But, even so, Pisciotta said the cafeteria is in healthy financial standing.
“Even with the increase of the cost of food and supplying paper cups [instead of the less-expensive Styrofoam], I still think we’ll break even.”