Like any household strained by the economy, the Sag Harbor School District continues to scrutinize spending to find ways of cutting costs. The imminent purchase of a school bus and van, a provision voted through by the community on May 19, is expected to save the district an additional $56,000, reported school business manager Len Bernard at the board of education meeting on Monday, June 8.
Originally, Bernard and superintendent Dr. John Gratto predicted the purchase would cut transportation spending by $125,000, but by combining the responsibilities of the full time bus driver, the measure is expected to save the district $181,000 next year.
“The savings will be outstanding,” declared Bernard. “The first year our net savings will be about $181,000. Once our debt services [for the bus and van] kicks in [next year] the savings will probably be around $140,000 per year [for the next five years]. After debt service is finished we will be back up to savings around $180,000 to $190,000.”
Bernard reported that the full time bus driver employed by the district will also conduct lunch duty around 150 days and will do spot monitoring for two hours per week. The plan of doubling up the responsibilities of the full time driver, said Bernard, would save the district nearly $12,250 overall. Bernard added that the school already has a trained and certified candidate for the position, who is also familiar with the area.
The school will also combine several bus routes, slashing district spending by around $255,000. The morning and afternoon bus routes for Ross School students living in the district will be synched with the bus schedule of the Sag Harbor Elementary School, totaling almost $100,000 in savings. Other combined routes include the morning buses for Stella Maris, Ross School and Hayground, and the afternoon buses for Hayground, the Ross Lower School, Our Lady of the Hamptons and the Montessori school.
In addition, the school is eying a plan to team up with the Bridgehampton and Springs school district to share transportation costs in the summer. Two Sag Harbor students are attending a “Life Skills” course over the summer in Springs and the Springs School District is willing to pick up these students, reported Bernard, saving the school around $4,500.
Last week, Dr. Gratto reported that the school would jointly transport students to the BOCES Riverhead location for summer classes with Bridgehampton School, but after further review the schools discovered a New York State law prohibiting school districts from sharing the services of private companies. In the original plan, Pierson kids were to be transported to Bridgehampton where a private bus company was to take the Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor students to Riverhead.
Among the laundry list of items mulled over by the BOE on Monday night was an idea to implement a student and staff recognition program. Board president Walter Wilcoxen said the school already had avenues to recognize achievements in sports and scholastics, but wanted to see students receive school appreciation for community projects and artistic accomplishments. Dr. Gratto noted that three Pierson students had recently performed at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City.
“Testing isn’t everything. We are also making community members out of our students and this is another way to re-enforce that role,” said Wilcoxen.
Dr. Gratto suggested the school hand out certificates to student and staff with the words “We’re proud of …” printed on them and filled in with the persons name and their accomplishment.
Sprucing up Pierson
Over the summer, the school plans to beautify the Division Street side of the exterior landscape with the help of students and art teachers Peter Solow and Joe Bartolotto. According to Solow, the students hope to construct a small brick wall along the grassy knoll leading up to the main side entrance. Bartolotto, who is also a professional mason, will teach the students basic masonry skill as part of a service learning project. Although the school has agreed to pay for the materials, Solow says the group is still looking for additional outside funding for Bartolotto’s time and are waiting for cost estimates for the brick.