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There is Hope Lunch will Pay for itself at the Sag Harbor Schools

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The lunch program for the Sag Harbor School District is nearly out of the “red zone,” according to those in the department and district business manager Len Bernard.

Cafeteria manager Lisa Koehne and Bernard jointly gave a presentation to the board of education on Monday night, to show the status of the lunch program and its performance from September 2008 through January 2009. The only situation preventing the program from being at a self-funding status, according to both speakers, is the purchase of a new cash register, software and trays. The items were bought this school year to help the lunch line move more quickly and for the entire department to work more efficiently. The purchases were also made to keep better track of expenditures and profits from the lunch program, which had been “a mess” in years past, according to School Board President Walter Wilcoxen.

“The program was something that was a mess for a long time,” Wilcoxen said, “We wanted to support the program but it had to support itself too.”

Bernard explained the average daily receipts for the 2008-2009 are $871 compared to $761 from the 2007-2008 school year. That, he said, is a difference of $110 per day.

Koehne explained there were only three students who pre-paid last school year, and this school year, the program hosts about 70 pre-paid students.

Bernard further explained that last year, the lunch program was around $20,000 in the red. This year it was necessary that the lunch program be completely self-funded in order to continue to function.

The total cost of the lunch program for the 2008-2009 school year is $95,300. Bernard added, however, the program is only in the red by $6,700 and by taking out the purchases of new trays, software and the cash register – the program would be fiscally supporting itself. Further, Koehne and Bernard predicted by the end of the school year the program will be running with a profit.

Bill Madsen is the district’s athletic director, head of buildings and grounds and is in charge of wellness for the district. He explained at the meeting that all the food being served in the cafeteria currently complies with the federal government’s nutrition policy. He and Koehne have been working together to get vending machines which will also offer food up to those required standards.

 Madsen said the vending machines would not only add revenue to the lunch program, but also offer nutritional choices for kids who participate in after school activities.

Koehne added the vending machines are free.

Other ideas for adding revenue to the department includes partnering with the Bridgehampton School district, to supply “bagged lunches.” Bernard explained the Sag Harbor School district did supply lunches to Bridgehampton when they worked with a previous company.

Koehne agreed this would be a good money-making tool, but argued this may not be feasible with only three employees working in the department on limited cooking appliances.

Koehne said there is a stove, “sitting in the basement, wrapped up,” and it would add productivity to the lunch program.

 “With a little up-front investment, it could really pay for itself over the next few years,” Bernard said.


Students Can Get 49 College Credits at Pierson

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Pierson High School has always offered advanced placement (AP) courses for students interested in them but now, many of those courses will be accepted by the State University of New York (SUNY) standards.
At Monday night’s Sag Harbor Board of Education meeting, superintendent Dr. John Gratto announced that he has been able to get college level credit for those students who enroll in AP classes.
“Conceivably now a student can get 49 credit hours of college courses finished while still in high school,” said Gratto, who has been involved with this type of program five times in his career.
He announced that the students will pay $50 per course credit.
The typical cost for a three credit course at Suffolk County Community College is $423 plus fees. With the implementation of this plan, it will cost Pierson kids $150. Gratto outlined in his presentation that for a student attending a four-year SUNY college, the average cost for 30 credits would be $9,320. Now, for Pierson students to get 30 college credits, it would cost them $4,500 if they enroll while still at the high school.
“Some students may be dissuaded to take the course because of the cost,” board member Ed Haye said at the meeting. Gratto countered that the courses will still be offered for students who are not getting the college credit.
“Those who need the credit, won’t get it,” board of education president Walter Wilcoxen said adding that perhaps the PTA or PTSA would be able to help students raise money and pay for it.
“We appreciate that vote of confidence,” Chris Tice, president of the PTA, said “but we can’t write that check.” She added that it would be against the PTA and PTSA policies.
Gratto said that his daughter was involved in a program like this at her high school, and she was able to enter college as a sophomore.
“This saved us a year of room and board,” he said.
The college level courses include chemistry, English, Spanish, physics, history and math.
Tuition Rates Set
Also on Monday, the board of education looked at setting tuition rates, and allowing the district to try to recruit students from surrounding schools.
The tuition rates for a non-resident student are now set at $20,381 for a 6 to 12 grade student and $16,050 for a student in Kindergarten through fifth grade.
Currently the Sag Harbor Elementary school has five non-resident students whose families are paying more than the newly adopted rates. The resolution suggested that the rates are based on 80 percent of the maximum amount a school is allowed to charge.
Board member Daniel Hartnett asked if the school had supplies needed for the additional kids, like textbooks. Gratto said that there will be a task force that will look at this and other related issues.
PTA president Chris Tice recommended that the board consider adding wording to the requirements such as limits on the amount of students per grade level allowed to enroll.
Walter Tice, a former Sag Harbor school board president, said that the board should be careful, because if there were additional local students that would “miscalculate the number of out of district kids.” This, he said, would require additional teachers to keep class sizes small and would not be an additional revenue making tool as the board and superintendent intended it to be.
Business manager Len Bernard said he received a request for a non-resident student as recently as Monday.

Athletics offers a three-year plan

The new athletic director and supervisor of buildings and grounds, Bill Madsen is not even through with his first year on the job, but is already implementing some changes for the athletic department. Anyone who has attended an athletic event in the gymnasium at the high school may have noticed photos of athletes that now line the lobby area. Madsen announced at Monday’s board meeting that he also has created a three-year plan, which is intended to enhance the athletic department by adding a booster club in hopes of creating more pride in Pierson’s athletics throughout the community.
Every year, the department hopes to add one new athletic unit. Next year, he would like to add a junior varsity girl’s soccer team. In the future he wants to see golf and tennis added to the program.