by Marianna Levine
It was a quiet night at the meeting of the Sag Harbor School Board Monday night, with only a few items up for discussion, including out of district student contracts for the Springs and Sagaponack districts, and a working discussion on facility use costs.
There were about 30 to 40 people in the audience including several teachers, a few Pierson students, and both School Board candidates (Ed Drohan and Chris Tice).
Sag Harbor School Superintendent Dr. John Gratto mentioned that two additional clauses had been worked out for the student contracts that will be presented to the Springs and the Sagaponack school districts for the 2010-2011 school year.
“The contracts for both are basically the same, only the district name changes on each. They will each pay the tuition rate the board set back in January: $16,217 for Kindergarten through grade 6, and $21,080 for students in grades 7-12,” Gratto explained.
“Springs wanted us to limit the yearly tuition increases to no more than 2.5% while their students are enrolled at Sag Harbor,” Gratto continued. He thought this clause was requested by Springs because many parents believe they are currently being price gouged by the East Hampton school district.
Gratto then added “Sagaponack wanted a clause that stated once a student is admitted into our district that they could continue his or her academic career at our school, unless of course there is a good reason for dismissal.”
It should be noted that the tuition is considerably higher for students with disabilities: $44,196 for students in kindergarten through grade six, and $50,808 for the higher grades.
Board member Dan Hartnett expressed concern over whether the district had some sort of cap on how many out of district students will be allowed to tuition into Sag Harbor, stating without one, “I think this situation is rife with possibilities for these districts to have high expectations.”
“We reserve the right to limit the number of students from out of district, but here is what we actually think will happen,” said Gratto. “We feel there might be only 8 to 10 students that’ll come who want to break with their traditional ties to East Hampton.”
In a discussion with Gratto following the meeting, he stated currently Sag Harbor has 12 tuition paying students, and he doesn’t think, “there will be more than 10 (additional) students coming next year.”
Gratto felt sure there was plenty of room for those prospective students, adding “we haven’t decided on a limit for 2011 yet, but as long as there is room, everybody can come.”
Gratto also presented proposed rates for facility use. In the past the school has not charged for use of its grounds, but with over 1,200 requests already received, Gratto and the board thought a fee should be charged to out-of-district groups.
The working fee schedule proposes that groups who had less than 50% resident membership be charged $350 for the Pierson gym, $450 for the Pierson field, $300 for the SHES gym, and either $150 or $200 for the three hour use of a classroom. Anything over the initial three hour period would incur an additional hourly cost in the $100-$200 price range.
Several board members raised questions about these fees. Harnett wanted to know how these numbers were created, others wanted to know what percentage of groups were actually out of district, and board member MaryAnne Miller thought perhaps the fees were somewhat high.
“I am all for a building use policy, and I think it is very important that in these economic times that we make sure we cover our costs, and make sure people have insurance for these things,” said Miller, “but I think we need to think about a cost that seems appropriate. $450 for the field for a weekly soccer game seems a little unrealistic. It’s different if it’s for a one day fundraiser.”
Gratto answered that most groups were in district, and that he wasn’t exactly sure how the numbers were created, but he did stress these were only working numbers.
“I think we’ll go back to the drawing board with these and then make a final decision,” he said.
The other topics of discussion included Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols’ report about the recent 6th grade orientation, and praise for the Pierson play “Thoroughly Modern Milly”.
Nichols said “80 percent of the parents attended the orientation after we did a voice and email alert. We also had three families from The Ross school attending and they have already set up tours. We have 62 students entering the 6th grade so far.”
Concerning the play, board candidate Tice related “ several graduating students in that play are going on to study performing arts in some form in college. I think that is because the kids are exposed to this at our school, and the students and teachers should be commended for their work in this area.”