By David McCabe
During their annual reorganization meeting on Monday, members of the Sag Harbor School Board approved the hiring of personnel for the Youth Advocacy and Resource Development (YARD) summer beach program. They were also informed that Pierson High School has been accepted into the International Baccalaureate (IB) program for next year.
Concerns over whether the beach program would run this summer have plagued the board for months, and had come to a head recently as the proposed start date of the program, Friday, July 6, drew closer. As of Wednesday, YARD representatives confirmed the program would, in fact, begin this Friday at Long Beach in Sag Harbor.
At issue in recent months were a number of problems which an auditor found with the program in 2010, including employees bearing incorrect civil service titles and questions over whether the district should be assuming liability for a recreational program.
During the course of the meeting, some members of the school board objected to approving the personnel actions in the absence of IMA’s (inter-municipal agreements) with the different municipalities who are funding the program. Mary Anne Miller, who ended a one-year term as board president on Monday, but remains a board member, said she believed it was illegal for the program to be operated by the district without those documents in place. She pointed to a memo issued by the district’s outside counsel, attorney Tom Volz
But Sandi Kruel and Chris Tice, two board members who have been vocal proponents of the program, argued Volz’s memo did not preclude the district from running the program without the agreements if they were able to fund the summer program without moneys from the other municipalities. Kruel also sits on the board of Friends of YARD, a non-profit organization created to fundraise for YARD activities.
Currently, Friends of YARD has enough money to fund the summer beach program without assistance from outside municipalities, Kruel said.
Miller said that, as of Tuesday, Volz had clarified his original statements and told board members that at least one municipality must have signed an IMA in order for the district to legally run a recreation program.
Unbeknownst to school board members, this point was likely moot even as they debated it: the North Haven Village Board voted to approve their agreement with the district at a meeting Monday evening. According to Miller, Southampton Town had signed an IMA by Tuesday afternoon.
“I think the board did what was right for children,” said Kruel.
Some board members were once again critical of Friends of YARD, saying that many of the logistical hurdles which stood in the way of the program could have been cleared earlier. In response, Kruel provided the Express with a list of questions the board had presented to the Friends of YARD one year prior, with answers attached.
Monday’s school board meeting also brought news that Pierson High School had been accepted into the International Baccalaureate program, the culmination of a years-long process that was at times contentious.
The IB program is a diploma granting course sequence that is often presented as an alternative to the College Board’s Advanced Placement classes. Students begin taking IB classes during their junior year and receive a diploma when they graduate. Jeff Nichols, principal of Pierson High School, had been credited with being a driving force for bringing the IB curriculum to the school.
Before the foundation that develops the IB curriculum could allow Pierson to offer its diploma, it sent an evaluator to campus to make sure it had the facilities and technology to support the program. Teachers have also attended IB training sessions.
“I think it’s a great positive addition to the district as a whole and I think it’s going to help us grow district wide, I don’t see it as a plus for just juniors and seniors,” said Miller.