By Claire Walla
Above: (left to right) Veronica Baum, Lucy Beeton, Charlie Browning, Ryan Brown (all third graders); Hayley Schimmer, Sam Miller, Adrian Pickering, Emily Verneuille, Siena Remkus-Fabiano (members of Pierson High School’s National Honors Society).
When your hometown has been devastated by rising floodwaters — homes washed away, jobs dissolved — the holidays are not the easiest time of year. But for the Windham School District in upstate New York, which was seriously damaged by Tropical Storm Irene back in August, the holiday season has already arrived.
Last Friday, December 8 Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto and Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone, decked out in matching Santa hats, showed up at Windham with a van full of toys. In total, they presented 12 large cartons of gifts, as well as a shoebox full of gift certificates, to the school’s guidance counselor and representatives from the school’s student council.
“The school could not have been more appreciative,” Malone told members of the Sag Harbor School Board at a meeting last Monday, December 12. “Sag Harbor deserves a nice congratulations.”
The Sag Harbor School District has a special relationship with the Windham School District: it’s where Dr. Gratto had been superintendent before coming to the East End.
After reaching out to the school’s guidance counselor, the Sag Harbor School District received a list of holiday items specifically requested by students at the Windham school. (The list represented items listed by students from 44 families that the Windham guidance counselor identified as being most in need.) Those items were then written on pieces of paper made to look like light bulbs. Members of the Sag Harbor School District were asked to pick a bulb and bring back the corresponding present.
School Board Member Sandi Kruel commented on the enthusiasm Pierson High School students demonstrated during this collection process.
“The student council was basically forcing people to take bulbs off the tree,” she said with a laugh after describing having been relatively accosted by student council members demanding she take a bulb as well. The students did a good job, she concluded.
“Our [high school] students worked very hard to package these gifts,” Dr. Gratto said. And just before their departure up north, he added that students from both Pierson and the elementary school worked together to pile the toys into the administrators’ metaphorical sleigh. (Actually Mr. Malone’s mini van.)
“The Windham community was very appreciative,” he reiterated.
In other news…
Creative Writing Flourishes
“I used to think of writing as a chore, rather than an interactive medium,” Pierson High School senior Drew Devito told members of the Sag Harbor School Board on Monday, December 12. But, he said, that was before he attended the intensive, five-day writing workshop put on by the Young American Writers Project (YAWP) through Stony Brook Southampton.
“My experience there was amazing,” Devito explained. “I learned to appreciate writing a little more than I had before.”
He attended this workshop with four other Pierson students as well as students from around Long Island and one from the Bronx. The students stayed in dorms on the Southampton campus and spent at least eight hours each day participating in free-form writing exercises and a final project.
“Each one of us wrote a finished one-act play,” Devito continued. “Just to say that, in my opinion, it’s an amazing feat.”
The plays ranged from Devito’s humorous, semi-autobiographical account of a lactose-intolerant student who consumes pizza and ice cream with whipped cream on top; to Amanda Gleeson’s play, which she described as a little more abstract.
“It’s a commentary on how society teaches us to alienate touch, and our innate human need for it,” she said.
Sophomore Matthew Frazier’s play — an end-of-the-world thriller about the love between a flame of fire and an ice cube — was chosen from among the bunch to be performed at the Avram Theatre on the Stony Brook Southampton campus this past weekend.
Elementary School Awarded
Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone announced that Sag Harbor Elementary School has been recognized by the Character Education Partnership (CEP) for its “Blue Slip” Awards and its “Soup-er Bowl” Celebration.
Each year, students are awarded “blue slips” by parents or administrators for actions that adhere to the school’s Standards of Behavior. And to celebrate the Super Bowl — instead of veg-ing out on chips and dip — elementary school students gather in the auditorium with a can of soup and predict the winner of the big match by placing their can in a pile for the team of their choice. (All cans are later donated to the Sag Harbor Food Pantry.)
“The joke is that I show up as Howard Cosell,” Malone joked. “And the kids are like, Who’s Howard Cosell?”
CEP, a nonprofit organization that promotes character education programs in schools across the country, honors many schools for programs that demonstrate “promising practices.” This year, Sag Harbor Elementary is one of 260 award winners chosen from an applicant pool of 500.