By Claire Walla
If your child injures his elbow after school on one of the campuses of the Sag Harbor School District and has to be hospitalized, you will have to pay the hospital bills on your own. That’s what the situation is now, anyway.
But, the topic of liability insurance is being revisited by the Sag Harbor School Board after parent Evelynne Ramunno criticized the board for doing away with its liability insurance plan at the tail end of the last academic year. At a school board meeting on Monday, Ramunno said her son had been injured during the after-school SHAEP program so badly he needed to go to the hospital to get pins put in his elbow. Only when she contacted the school to get coverage for the incident did she find out that the plan had been cancelled.
“I’m a mother of two and I need the SHAEP program,” she said. “But, if I was aware the school did not have insurance, I might not have sent my son to the SHAEP program.”
The board of education voted last year to cancel its liability insurance plan with Pupil Benefits because, as School Superintendent Dr. John Gratto noted, “it was an expense the board deemed unwarranted.”
The reasoning behind the decision, according to School Board President Mary Anne Miller, is that the insurance plan was flawed.
“We had dissatisfaction from parents who used it because it wasn’t paying back what was hoped for,” she said. “Also, we felt that families who were not insured would be better served going through [state] programs like Child Health Plus.”
The program cost the district about $22,000, and as board members explained, it often did not cover much. District Treasurer Janet Verneuille said she priced out similar programs at other schools, and found they ranged from $6,700 (for the Tuckahoe School District) to $37,00 (for Hampton Bays).
Last year, board members agreed the school was spending money for a program that was hardly effective. However, the board has agreed to look at other options for taking on an entirely new liability insurance program. Verneuille said she would have some options by the end of the month.
“I think it’s a no-brainer,” said board member Sandi Kruel. “To not have it is irresponsible.”
In other news…
After fighting to give the Sag Harbor School District the chance to look at alternatives to its costly insurance program with the New York State Health Insurance Program, Tom Morrissey of Morrissey Advisory Services was noticeably disheartened by the final results.
In order to explore alternative health options that would match the benefits offered through the Empire Plan, but at a lower cost to the school, Morrissey first needed teachers to answer “a simple form online” with basic questions about their health. In the end, he said only 37 of 209 eligible teachers completed the form.
“I don’t think we got the responsiveness we needed,” Morrissey told the school board. “I thought 17 percent was pretty pathetic.”
By switching to a new plan, Morrissey said the school could save at least $300,000. And while exploring alternative health insurance options is now a moot point, he said he would continue to work with the school to try to replace Empire entirely.
“Our efforts don’t stop here,” he said. “We volunteer to do this because we have students in the school and we want to help. You have skyrocketing health care costs,” he added. “We’ve been dealing with double digit rate increases for some time now. I know for certain that the 209 people eligible here could have significantly lower premium numbers [with another plan].”
On Monday, the Sag Harbor School Board also heard from members of the school’s new Booster Club, who detailed the list of events coming up for the not-for-profit fundraising organization.
According to the group’s president, Robert Evjen, the club will hold its Winter Spirit Night on January 27 during the boys’ basketball game in the Pierson Gym. The festivities would include performances by the Pierson choir and elementary school singers, a demonstration from the robotics team, a half-court shooting contest and banners made by Pierson art students.
Also, on February 11 (the night of HarborFrost), the Booster Club will hold a fundraising event at B. Smith’s. The $25 event ($30 at the door) will include a quiz bowl, dinner and raffle.