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Board Aims to Solidify School Mascot

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Yearbook Photo, whale

By Claire Walla

Your perception of the Pierson Middle/High School mascot is probably correlated to the amount of time you’ve spent with the school.

“The whale has always been the mascot,” said school board member Teresa Samot, who grew up in Sag Harbor.

She added, however, that the school has seen a lot of variations over the years, and many uniforms don’t have a mascot at all. Recently, this prompted athletic director Monty Granger to question what the school’s rallying symbol was at all.

The Pierson mascot has been discussed before, but now the school district has expressed interest in deciding, once and for all, what exactly this symbol will be.

According to Samot, not only is the mascot a whale, it’s a very specific whale.

“Many alumni have made it clear that it’s not a whale standing on its tail, or a whale dancing,” she began. “It’s that whale!” she said, making reference to the whale depicted on the wall of the Pierson Middle/High School gym.

Board members Chris Tice and Mary Anne Miller expressed an interest in deciding on the mascot quickly in order to solidify the Pierson “brand.”

“We’re losing fundraising opportunities,” Miller said.

By licensing a specific mascot, the school could use that image on stationary, pens and other Pierson products, including t-shirts and sweatshirts.

“What I’m concerned about, is the whale you use,” said Pierson High School student Amanda Gleeson. “It should be something that we can actually be proud of visually.”

She added that she felt the board should choose mascot options, and then leave the final decision-making process to a student vote.

“We’re really looking for something really simple that we can just put on a t-shirt,” Monty Granger said. And then, invoking the words of Herman Melville, he added: “We may never find the white whale, but we may find one that we think reflects the history and tradition [of Sag Harbor] through time, but is also palatable to students.”

The board is expected to revisit the issue at its next meeting, March 26.

In other news…

What do draw bridges, pine needles and chickens named “Retro” have in common?

All were featured at last Monday’s Sag Harbor School District meeting when students from Kryn Olson’s Elementary School fifth grade science class presented three different science fair projects to the board of education.

According to science fair participant Phoebe Miller, science projects “first start out with an inspiration.”

Standing next to her science fair partner Gabriela Knab and a wooden model of a bridge, she continued: “Ours was the Mystic Drawbridge.”

The girls hypothesized that a drawbridge would not be able to lift without a counter weight. And after experimenting with different weights on the wooden model they constructed, their hypothesis was proven correct.

Student Daniel Capurso focused his project on pine needles, paper scraps and cardboard in order to “make heat from garbage.” Using a plastic cylinder and CDs to shmush the paper refuse into compact circles, he said, “My hypothesis was correct, the paper discs [conducted] more heat” than regular trash.

Finally, standing before one of their scientific subjects, Retro the chicken, Reilly Rose Schombs and Caroline Jungck said that their hypothesis revolved around the correlation between diet and egg quality. After feeding their poultry a new combination of cantaloupe, tomatoes, apples and pears and testing their results, they did indeed prove that the color of the chickens’ egg yolks grew darker as a result of a diet rich with fruit.

Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone related the importance of science at the elementary school level to the growing interest in the Intel science projects at the high school level.

“By focusing on science in the elementary school,” he said, “we can focus on some of the things that are to come.”

Budget Update

The proposed 2012-2013 school district budget — currently set at $34,182,256, representing a 2.88 percent spending increase over this year’s operating budget — plans to appropriate $500,000 from the fund balance to be used for energy efficiency upgrades. However, school board member Ed Drohan cautioned the district against dipping into these funds.

“You’ve got to ask yourself, are we going to pay the price next year?” he asked. “Are we mortgaging the future?”

While the district is going to see some savings from cost-cutting measures taken in the business and special education departments, Drohan pointed out that these will probably be one-time savings.

Instead of dipping into the fund balance to pay for building upgrades, he said the district should think instead of cutting costs elsewhere.

“I think it’s time we approach the [teachers’] union and come to some sort of compromise,” Drohan said.

He noted that the Bridgehampton School District recently managed to negotiate a district-wide freeze on all teachers’ salaries for the 2012-2013 school year. Although District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto didn’t seem very optimistic that situation could be mirrored here in Sag Harbor.

“I have talked to the teachers about concessions and we didn’t reach an agreement,” he responded.

The school board was expected to make its final decision to approve the proposed budget this week. But, according to Dr. Gratto, the state is still “tweaking” some of the finer points of its two-percent tax cap legislation.

The proposed budget currently includes a 1.94 percent tax levy increase, just shy of the two-percent limit. Any modifications to the legislation have the potential to change this calculation, perhaps bringing that total even closer to the two-percent limit.

“We wanted to hold off for that reason,” Dr. Gratto added.

But, because the budget must officially be adopted before the end of the month, he said the board will have no other choice but to vote on the budget at its next meeting, March 26.

The debate over student accident insurance continues

School board members said at a meeting this week that they were reluctant to make a decision as to whether or not the school should carry a supplemental insurance policy until they find out more information, including exactly how many neighboring districts hold such a policy.

Currently, the district does not have student accident insurance; it was canceled last spring when board members agreed that, overall, the insurance plan was not giving parents an adequate financial return on their medical bills.

As a supplement to the school’s liability insurance, this type of coverage relates to injuries that are not determined to be related to negligence on the part of the school. (For example, if a child should get injured in a sports game.)

The board is divided on the need for such a program. While some board members feel the school has an obligation to cover all student injuries, others feel the current options before them are not sufficient.

“I’m actually in favor of a parent-pay plan,” said board president Mary Anne Miller, who pointed out that the school offers insurance to parents at a much lower rate: from around $20 to $245 for the year with no deductible, versus a $250 deductible for student accident insurance.

“It’s less money out of the parents’ pockets.”