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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.

Push for Tuition Students

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President of School Board Walter Wilcoxen and Superintendent Dr. John Gratto



At their last meeting, the Sag Harbor Board of Education was treated to a demonstration by Pierson High School Jeff Nichols, who showed the students’ achievement levels compared to others on a global scale. At this week’s board of education meeting, superintendent Dr. John Gratto talked about those achievements and proposed that the school look at ways to raise revenue, including a plan to invite more students to the district on a tuition-based status.

“There are good test scores and they are attractive to any parent that may want to send their kids to this school,” Gratto said on Monday. “Could we be a bit entrepreneurial? And are we willing to accept students on a tuition basis?”
Gratto explained that by looking at the master schedule, he predicted the school could accept more students at no additional cost.
“How many kids could we take, without negatively affecting class size?” asked school board member Ed Haye.
Gratto responded there could be up to 35 more students per grade level, on the current schedule. Haye suggested that the district should start off slow, and added that 35 seemed like a lot of additional students in one grade.
School board president, Walter Wilcoxen suggested that for some of the Advanced Placement (AP) courses, adding more students might make those classes more economical to run.
Gratto added that the school might have to make some major decisions next year as to whether the school will offer the AP courses with limited enrollment.
“If we decided as a district to keep the classes vibrant, keep a rich curriculum … it would be a good thing to look into as long as we are able to say when we have too many students,” board member Mary Ann Miller, said. “We have tuition paying students now and this is the school they chose; I think that speaks to the program.”
“I second the notion of exploring it gently,” board member Daniel Hartnett said, “I think our school may be appealing because of our small class size.”
“We are talking about negatively increasing 25 to 35 percent and that it won’t have a negative impact on the kids,” Parent Teacher Association President Chris Tice said at the meeting. She said the idea of raising revenue was approached nonchalantly by the board and noted that even if the district added three, four or five students to the class it would have a negative impact on the students. She said she would be cautious about adding to class size.
Gratto said on Tuesday that he intended to bring in more tuition-based students, but still stick to the school’s goal of small class sizes. For example, he said that if 30 new students came in to the school on a tuition-paying basis, and that tuition was $20,000 for each child, that would be $600,000 revenue for the district. He added, if the district had to add a teacher to keep class sizes small – that may cost the district $50,000, but the district could still potentially make $550,000 in profit.

Teacher Contracts
President of the Teacher’s Association of Sag Harbor, Eileen Kochanasz, spoke at Monday’s meeting about the prolonged teacher contract negotiations, which are closing in on the one-year mark.
“We are asking the board for a change in the process,” Kochanasz said, “There is an inordinate amount of time that goes by to consider the proposals.” She explained that in between the contract negotiation meetings, too much time lapses before they are able to come to the table again. She asked on Monday that the board consider authorizing the superintendent and the school’s attorney to negotiate at the table – eliminating the study and review process after each session.
Kochanasz said that as TASH president she is able to actively negotiate on the teachers’ behalf.
Wilcoxen responded that the board hasn’t discussed that but said that he supposed board members and Gratto could do so after the meeting.
“Let John [Gratto] know prior to the 10th [of December], that would clearly move this process,” said Kochanasz to Wilcoxen, “rather than stopping and waiting, stopping and waiting.”
“I’m torn,” Wilcoxen said. “On one hand I want to be honest and open, but I’m limited to what I can say, I’m only one voice of our seven.”
“We always had the authority to negotiate within parameters,” Gratto said on Tuesday. He said along with the board and the school’s attorney, he will meet with TASH members to talk about teacher negotiations on December 10.

Extra-Curricular Trips
At the start of Monday’s school board meeting, high school art teacher, Peter Solow, asked the board if he could show them a short film about past school trips to Italy.
“We hope to show you the effects and lasting effects of this very meaningful experience,” said Solow who would like to plan a trip to Italy in 2010.
At last month’s board of education meeting, a change in policy for field trips was discussed. In the past, several trips have extended beyond scheduled school vacation time and the board had its first reading of a new policy at that meeting, which outlined parameters for class-based and extra-curricular trips.
Resident Elena Loreto expressed her concerns that students would be losing valuable instructional time and also expressed concern for those students that would be left behind. Loreto asked the board to reconsider the policy.
Wilcoxen said that he did not believe the policy was ready to go yet, and it was tabled, for now.