Tag Archive | "education"

Update: Sag Harbor School Board Member Daniel Hartnett Resigns

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Sag Harbor School Board member Daniel Hartnett resigned Monday.

Sag Harbor School Board member Daniel Hartnett resigned Monday.

Originally published July 14, 2014 8:47 p.m.

By Tessa Raebeck 

Daniel Hartnett resigned from the Sag Harbor School District Board of Education Monday, July 14, after selling his house in the district two weeks ago.

Elected in May 2013, Mr. Hartnett entered the second year of his three-year term this month. He also served two terms on the board from 2005 to 2011.

Mr. Hartnett, a social worker and counselor at East Hampton High School, was the frontrunner in the school board in 2013, receiving the most votes from among a group of six candidates. The only educator on the board, he is one of its most vocal members.

“I have come tonight to very painfully, with enormous regret, ask you to accept my resignation from the board of education,” Mr. Hartnett told the board at Monday’s meeting. “I sold my house two weeks ago and have been unable to find affordable or appropriate housing in the district that would allow me to stay on the board. So, I’ve moved out of the district. I’ve signed a lease and need to resign.”

After listing his house in March, Mr. Hartnett said the sale went through much faster than he had anticipated. He was unable to find suitable housing in Sag Harbor and has rented a house in Springs. New York State Law requires all school board members to live in the district and the duration of Mr. Hartnett’s lease in Springs required that he resign.

While waiting for Monday’s meeting to start, Mr. Hartnett told several parents he was saddened by his unplanned resignation and had been looking forward to working with the district’s new superintendent, Katy Graves, who he helped to recruit.

“There’s not a lot of joy being on the school board,” Mr. Hartnett said from the podium during public input Monday. “Except for the fact that you know you’re doing something really amazing for the children of the district.”

“I would walk out of the house at night and say, ‘I’m going out tonight for you and if I can bring some of your friends with me, I will.’ And that’s really what it’s about: it’s about doing what’s best for the kids and it has been a privilege for me to bring whatever knowledge and experience I have to this table,” he added.

Mr. Hartnett thanked his fellow school board members and the administrators, superintendents and principals he has worked with “for the collegial relationships and collaboration that we’ve shared together on behalf of the children of this district” and thanked the community for giving him the opportunity to serve.

Mr. Hartnett also offered his services and said he was more than willing to continue to help and serve in whatever way he could. His son, who lives part-time with his mother in Sag Harbor, will continue to attend school in the district.

Chris Tice, vice president of the board, thanked Mr. Harnett for giving the board a heads-up when he first realized he might have to resign. As a real estate agent, she said she understood the challenge of finding suitable year-round housing in Sag Harbor. Ms. Tice said the board consulted with school attorney Thomas Volz to see if there was any way Mr. Hartnett could legally remain on the board “because everyone on the board was hoping you could stay on the board because you’re such an asset.”

Board President Theresa Samot recalled being first elected to the board the same year as Mr. Hartnett in 2005.

“We went through many great times and, as you said, some difficult times, and it made it much easier for me knowing that you were a colleague and that we were there working through these issues together,” she said.

“The great thing about a board,” said David Diskin, who was elected last year alongside Mr. Hartnett, “is that you have diversity of opinion and diversity of expertise and you add a huge piece of both of those to us and it’s going to be tough not having you there to share your mind.”

“I’m going to miss you as my friend,” said Sandi Kruel, a board member who has known Mr. Hartnett personally for many years. “But I have to tell you that having an educator on the board with such immense passion for children was just amazing to have next to me.”

“I’ve served with you quite often as well,” added board member Susan Kinsella, “and I have to say—although I don’t always agree with you—your knowledge as an administrator, a social worker, your willingness to advocate for the children of this district and for improvements in education—it’s going to be sorely missed, because you come with a welcomed knowledge that’s going to be hard to replace.”

In the wake of Mr. Hartnett’s resignation, the school board has several options: It can appoint someone immediately to fill the remainder of Mr. Hartnett’s term, which expires June 30, 2016; it can appoint someone to fill the position for this school year until the elections in May 2015; it can hold a special election for a new board member immediately; or it can continue with just six board members until the elections in May 2015. No decision was made Monday.

Sag Harbor Elementary School Teacher Travels to Malawi to Visit School for Orphans

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Students at the Jacaranda School for Orphans in Malawi. Photo courtesy Jacaranda School.

Students at the Jacaranda School for Orphans in Malawi. Photo courtesy Jacaranda School.

By Tessa Raebeck

Hundreds of art supplies, dozens of books and one Sag Harbor Elementary School teacher are on their way to a school for orphans in Malawi Thursday, July 17.

Science teacher Kryn Olson will spend three weeks at the Jacaranda School for Orphans in the village of Che Mboma, near the city of Limbe in the south of Malawi, a small, landlocked country in southeast Africa.

Sag Harbor Elementary School science teacher Kryn Olson.

Sag Harbor Elementary School science teacher Kryn Olson.

Ms. Olson, who pioneered the outdoor gardening program at the elementary school, is visiting Jacaranda to work with the children there on a gardening program they’ve started. She’s been researching the types of greens that would be successful in Malawi’s tropical climate and could flourish in African soil.

“It’s going to be an experiment, but exciting,” Ms. Olson said in a recent interview. “They have a very successful program they’ve been working with on gardening and so, they want to have me come and just see how we can join forces and work together on learning and developing what they have.”

The family of a young girl Ms. Olson has been mentoring over the last several years is friends with the owner and developer of the Jacaranda School, Marie Da Silva.

“They invited her to come out and see what I do here,” Ms. Olson said. After Ms. Da Silva visited Sag Harbor, she and Ms. Olson decided to work together in expanding Jacaranda’s garden—and uniting their students as pen pals.

Ms. Olson said Sag Harbor children wrote letters to the kids in Malawi she will carry with her on her trip, and then she will bring the Jacaranda students’ letters back to Sag Harbor. After the first exchange, the students will begin emailing back and forth regularly.

“They can’t stand it, they’re so excited,” Ms. Olson said of her students in Sag Harbor. “It’s really a beautiful thing. There was such a level of humility, but smart humility.”

“They were very excited about being able to write somebody in another country,” she added. “They realize that they live another life, so they were just curious. It was just kids talking to kids; it was beautiful. It wasn’t about depth, it was: Tell me what your country looks like. What animals live there? Do you have a brother or sister?”

Born and raised in Malawi, Ms. Da Silva, who has lost 15 members of her family to the AIDS pandemic, including her father and two of her brothers, came to the United States to work as a nanny and lived in New York City for 19 years. In 2002, she returned to Malawi and, after seeing how many children in her hometown were left out of school, she founded the Jacaranda School for Orphans, operating out of her family home. She used the money she earned working as a nanny to scrape together supplies and teachers’ salaries.

“When she nannied,” Ms. Olson said of Ms. Da Silva, “she really researched the schools and watched how the children were being raised here. She felt that education here was profoundly different. She wanted to expose the children to things she learned here. So she took those concepts back to Malawi with her.”

Twelve years later, the school has 400 students, its own campus and is the only entirely free primary and secondary school in the country. It provides the orphans with a free education, scholarships to high school graduates, uniforms and school supplies, clothes and shoes, daily nutrition, medical care and counseling, AIDS awareness activities, arts programs, agriculture activities and home support in the form of renovation of students’ houses, monthly financial support to the most impoverished children and construction of boarding houses for students in child-headed families.

Ms. Da Silva was recognized as a Top Ten Hero by CNN in 2008.

“It’s really an incredible thing that she did,” Ms. Olson said. “She not only feeds them, but she gives them medicine and funds their education. She has also now sent six kids to college, which is unheard of.”

In addition to bringing the pen pal letters and her school gardening expertise to Malawi, Ms. Olson is also bringing boxes of gifts to the Jacaranda School.

Sag Harbor students raised funds to donate two cases filled with art supplies—hundreds of water color tablets, reams of paper, colored markers and other materials—and “an enormous amount of books,” which will be shipped over on a boat.

“We’re trying to double the size of their library,” Ms. Olson said.

In addition to the books donated by students and their families, Ms. Olson is bringing a suitcase with all her favorites, including Eric Carl classics and “Goodnight Moon.”

Ms. Olson will also help the Jacaranda School enhance its garden, which currently grows carrots, tea and other vegetables.

“What they raise they sell to help support the orphanage,” she said. “And they also really are working at making sure the kids understand that it’s about learning how to be sustainable and how to take care of themselves and not taking things for granted.”

The produce that isn’t sold is used to feed the children.

“She wanted to teach them how to survive in the world,” Ms. Olson said of Ms. Da Silva.

Sag Harbor Teachers Accept Minimal Salary Increases in New Contract

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Art teacher Laurie DeVito in her classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Photo by Michael Heller.

Art teacher Laurie DeVito in her classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

In a surprise announcement last week, released with little fanfare, the Sag Harbor Board of Education and the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) said they had agreed on new contract.

Besides minimal fanfare, the three-year agreement also carries minimal increases. It was approved at a board meeting on Monday, July 7, and is effective from July 1 through June 30, 2017. It gives teachers salary increase of 0.7 percent for the 2013-14 school year and increases of 0.75 percent for both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.

The last contract negotiations between the district and the teachers union, which concluded in December 2010, took over two years and were marked by acrimony.

The union, led by then-president Eileen Kochanasz, had initially asked for salary increases of 3.9 percent, which were comparative to those in neighboring districts. After much back and forth, they agreed on increases of 2.5, 2.65, 2.7 and 2.6 percent for the respective school years from  July 1, 2008, through July 1, 2013.

During those negotiations, teachers eventually started wearing black t-shirts to school to protest their lack of a contract.

This time around, the bargaining was “much, much easier,” Jim Kinnier, the union’s current president who was involved in both processes, said Thursday, July 10.

“I think, in general,” Mr. Kinnier said, “both the board of [education] and the teachers wanted to have a more cooperative negotiation session and we kept negotiations out of the public. That was a priority for both sides.”

The process was eased by an early, private start in the fall that gave the groups plenty of time to go back and forth, in addition to “a much more cooperative environment than was around the last time,” said Mr. Kinnier, who is a math teacher at Pierson Middle-High School.

According to his understanding, this is only the second time in 40 years that a teachers contract in Sag Harbor has been settled on time.

“This is the third contract I have done,” board member Sandi Kruel said Thursday, “and this was one of the best experiences I have had. I feel that it was a wonderful team effort between the board and the teachers.”

Having asked for a 3.9-percent increase in 2008, when the economy first crashed, accepting an increase of less than 1 percent six years into the recovery is a seemingly surprising move on the part of teachers, but Mr. Kinnier attributed their willingness to compromise to the tight financial burdens felt in schools since the 2-percent tax cap was enacted by New York State in 2011.

“There’s only so much room that the district has and that’s the major reason why the increases are a lot less than they were,” Mr. Kinnier said, adding that teachers in many districts on Long Island have had to take salary freezes and give up step increases.

For the three-year term of this contract, the teachers’ contributions to active employee medical health insurance will remain at 17.5 percent. When the contract expires on June 30, 2017, however, that contribution will go up to 20 percent.

“Actually, the healthcare costs have leveled off a little bit, but the district wanted us to contribute more,” Mr. Kinnier said. “Our argument was that we contribute more than any district on the South Fork and we have done so for a long period of time,” he said, adding that Sag Harbor was among the first in which teachers contributed to healthcare costs at all.

“So, the compromise was that there will be an increase, but not until these three years are up,” he said.

“We have what I think is a fair deal, and they think it’s a fair deal” he added. “And as a result, we get to concentrate on what it is we do best and that’s public education.”

Bridgehampton Board of Education Looks Forward

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BHSchoolStockImage

By Tessa Raebeck

The Bridgehampton Board of Education reappointed Ron White as president and Lillian Tyree-Johnson as vice president at its annual reorganizational meeting Wednesday, July 2.

“I appreciate the district and the board reelected me,” Mr. White said Wednesday, July 9. “It certainly has been a pleasure to learn and understand the operations of the district; it makes me understand why things are the way that they are.”

Mr. White said the challenge of the upcoming year will be to continue the drive to educate the community about the significance and benefits of Bridgehampton having its own small school. The Bridgehampton School District almost failed to pass a budget this spring, as its first draft—which would have pierced the state-mandated tax cap with a tax levy increase of 8.8-percent—was voted down. After a grassroots get out the vote effort by board members, administrators and school supporters, an identical proposal passed by a slim margin June 17.

“We need to continue the momentum of educating our overall community of this special establishment we have here in our own district,” said Mr. White. “We need to educate, we have to go to all corners of our community and just really educate them on the finances and also how beneficial it is to have a school in your district.

“We need to find a way to invite them in, we’ll have open houses, we’ll have meet the school days where they come on in and see us and even folks that don’t have kids here or [have] kids who are elsewhere, they need to know what their school really entails. I think that’s our challenge as a school district and as a board to try to get these folks in and to see how special and unique our place really is,” he added.

Ms. Tyree-Johnson is optimistic about the coming year now that the budget has passed.

“I’m actually looking forward to this year,” she said Wednesday, July 9. “We’re hoping to continue the good things that are going on there.”

“Because the budget passed, we’re able to continue with the programming that I there and that’s why I’m pretty excited about this year coming up and continuing doing what we do at Bridgehampton,” she added.

Ms. Tyree-Johnson said she is also looking forward to Dr. Lois Favre’s second year as both superintendent and principal.

“I think that she’s done a great job in that dual role,” Ms. Tyree-Johnson said of Dr. Favre. “So, I think that now that she has one year under her belt, things are going to look even better this year.”

Update: Sag Harbor School Board Approves New Teachers Contract

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Art teacher Laurie DeVito in her classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Photo by Michael Heller.

Art teacher Laurie DeVito in her classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Sag Harbor Board of Education announced at its annual reorganizational meeting on Monday that it had reached a contract agreement with the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH).

With unanimous approval from the board, the contract was settled before the current one expires for the first time in recent memory and only the second time in the district’s history.

“It was a sign of all of us working together collaboratively and we’re proud to have all of you in the district teaching our children,” Theresa Samot, president of the school board, said Monday.

The last contract negotiations took over two years and became quite heated, with teachers protesting the lack of a settlement by wearing black t-shirts to school for months. After the contracts expired in August 2008, the union and the school district did not decide on a new agreement until December 2010.

The new three-year contract is in effect from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2017. The agreement between the district and the union will increase the 2013-14 salary schedule by 0.7 percent. For each of 2014-15 and 2015-16, salaries will be increased by 0.75 percent.

During the term of the three-year contract, TASH members will contribute 17.5 percent of the premium costs for employee health and dental insurance, the same amount they’ve been paying since July 1, 2010. Starting June 30, 2017, members of TASH will have to contribute 20 percent of those costs.

“I just want to say thank you and how happy we are that we have settled this contract and approved it tonight,” said Ms. Samot.

Chris Tice, vice president of the school board, added the contract is “respectable both to the needs of the district and of the employee.”

The increases are significantly lower than those in the previous contract, which retroactively gave teachers a 2.5-percent salary increase for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, a 2.65-percent increase for the 2010-11 school year, a 2.7-percent increase for 2011-12 and a 2.6-percent increase for 2012-13.

“Finalizing the contract agreement through 2017 is a very good way to begin the new school year,” the district’s new Superintendent Katy Graves, who was sworn in at the meeting Monday, said in a press release. “It clearly shows the strong relationship and common goals shared between the board, administration and teachers union.”

Also at Monday’s meeting, Ms. Graves and new school board member Diana Kolhoff took the oath of office.

Having just finished her ninth year on the board, Ms. Samot was again elected president on a motion brought by Ms. Tice and seconded by Susan Kinsella.

“I just want to thank Theresa because most people don’t realize how much time it takes to be president,” said Ms. Tice, adding, “Your dedication is very appreciated and you’ve done a great job.”

Board member David Diskin said how important it is in this period of transition—with a new superintendent and several administrative positions to fill—to have Ms. Samot return to her leadership position.

Ms. Kinsella nominated Ms. Tice to again be vice president, a motion that was seconded by Mr. Diskin.

The board meeting Monday was the first one to be filmed, although not broadcast, in the trial period of the district’s new videotaping of board meetings policy, which aims to increase transparency and public access to the goings-on of the school board. Future meetings will also be broadcast live on LTV and SEA-TV.

Ms. Graves told the small crowd gathered in the Pierson Middle/High School library that, having worked in the district for only four days, she was unable to share her entry plan just yet, but would provide a detailed plan of action at the July 28 board meeting.

The board appointed J. Wayne Shiernat as interim athletic director, filling the position left vacant by Todd Gulluscio’s resignation last month. Mr. Shiernat worked part time in the district prior to the hiring of Mr. Gulluscio two years ago.

“He’s going to be part time and he’ll be starting immediately tomorrow, because we are working without an athletic director at this time and a lot of very important scheduling items happen at this time,” Ms. Graves said.

Mr. Shiernat will work for four hours a day, five days a week at a daily rate of $325, with a maximum pay of $35,750. He will act as interim for up to 110 days from Tuesday, July 8, through December 19.

The board debated whether it is financially pertinent and necessary to have a full-time athletic director. Ms. Kolhoff suggested looking at sharing services with the Bridgehampton School District, but Ms. Graves said they had already reached out to that district but had not heard back yet.

“We have to proof sharing, we have to,” added Ms. Graves, “and maybe this is the part where we start.”

Board member Daniel Hartnett worried that having a full-time athletic director would require funds that could be used to keep the district’s 62 teams strong and intact and benefit the children more directly.

Former board member Mary Anne Miller, on the audience side of the meeting for the first time in years, and community member John Battle stressed the importance of addressing the health and wellness portion of the position.

In the end, the district decided to move forward with the applications it has received using a similar job description to that under which Mr. Gulluscio was hired, as director of Athletics, Physical Education, Health, Wellness and Personnel.

“My recommendation with my four days here is to do what’s best for kids and that is to provide as much leadership as possible,” said Ms. Graves.

Longtime Bridgehampton Athletic Director Mary Anne Jules Hangs Up Her Whistle

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Mary Anne Jules hugs a graduating student at the Bridgehampton School graduation Sunday, June 29. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

Mary Anne Jules hugs a graduating student at the Bridgehampton School graduation Sunday, June 29. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Tessa Raebeck

For 32 years, Mary Anne Jules has paced the sidelines at Bridgehampton School’s athletic contests, no small feat considering that Bridgehampton students often compete on East Hampton and Sag Harbor teams. After three decades of serving the small, tight-knit district as a physical education teacher and 23 years as its athletic director, Ms. Jules’s retirement was announced at the graduation of the class of 2014 Sunday, June 29.

The school gave Ms. Jules an honorary diploma at graduation and on Tuesday, July 1, she took time from watching the United States play Belgium in the World Cup to confirm her decision.

“I love my career at Bridgehampton,” Ms. Jules said Tuesday. “Believe me, it hasn’t been an easy decision… I’ve loved it there, it’s a great place to work. I’m very fortunate that I had my career there.”

“The district and I are very, very sad for her to go,” said Ronnie White, president of the Bridgehampton School Board. “She put in her time and she was just an extremely integral person, a mentor to our school.”

Ms. Jules’s athletic career extends past her time in Bridgehampton; She played sports her whole life and was a four-sport varsity athlete at Baldwin High School up-island, playing field hockey, volleyball, basketball and softball.

Mary Anne Jules, second from left, smiles as she watches her students graduate from Bridgehampton School Sunday, June 29. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

Mary Anne Jules, second from left, smiles as she watches her students graduate from Bridgehampton School Sunday, June 29. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

“Back then in my day, you could play four varsity sports, that’s changed since then,” said Ms. Jules, adding, “I’ve been pretty active my whole life.”

After shining at Baldwin, a large district in Nassau County, she was invited to play basketball at SUNY-Cortland in upstate New York—and quickly made the lacrosse team, too.

“I didn’t play lacrosse ’til college,” Ms. Jules said. “I just got lucky, I tried out for college lacrosse and I ended up making the team, so I was pretty fortunate.”

Some would argue that, in addition to luck, her athleticism had something to do with it.

After graduating from Cortland, Ms. Jules was a substitute teacher in Syracuse for a year and then took the position as Bridgehampton’s physical education teacher in 1982. While teaching, she got her master’s degree at Southampton College and her administration degree at Dowling College.

“If you’ve been involved in athletics, you know what a difference athletics makes in a kid’s life…I call it the laboratory for life,” she said. “I went to a great phys. ed. program and that’s why I wanted to become a phys. ed. teacher.”

While still acting as the school’s physical education teacher in 1991 Ms. Jules also became athletic director for the district. She also served as president of Section XI, the governing body of Suffolk County high school sports, from 2010 to 2012.

After years of wearing many hats and watching many games, Ms. Jules intends to spend her duly earned free time doing none other than watching games, but under the sole hat of doting aunt.

Three of her nephews play college-level lacrosse and she has several nieces and nephews involved in high school sports, so she will be catching up on watching them play, in addition to continuing to follow the careers of her Bridgehampton students.

“In all the years I’ve been there, they’re good kids,” Ms. Jules said of Bridgehampton. “In a small environment you get so much support, it’s a huge family…I’m just very appreciative and grateful for the career I’ve had and I will miss Bridgehampton School a lot, I really will.”

“It’s such a unique job in that you can teach from 4-year-olds to seniors. As a physical educator, I can teach all those kids. I can watch them grow. After that I go to graduation parties, I go to weddings, you really get to know the kids so well,” she said.

Mr. White said Ms. Jules, who lives in Water Mill, has promised to come back and visit from time to time.

“She will be missed, she is loved,” he said.

“That’s what’s so special about [Bridgehampton],” said Ms. Jules, “kids don’t fall through the cracks there. They get a lot of support and you can really become very close to the students. And you can make a difference, every day you can make a difference in the school.”

After Teaching Multiple Generations of Sag Harbor’s 4-Year-Olds, Sue Daniels Retires

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Sue Daniels with her 1991 class at the Tuller School, many of whom graduated with the Pierson class of 2014. Photo courtesy Sue Daniels.

Sue Daniels with her 2001 class at the Tuller School, many of whom graduated with the Pierson class of 2014. Photo courtesy Sue Daniels.

By Tessa Raebeck

When Sue Daniels’s 4-year-old students grow into adults and have 4-year-olds of their own, they instinctively know where to send their children for preschool: wherever Sue Daniels is.

Ms. Daniels, who has educated Sag Harbor’s prekindergarten students through three different schools, two generations and three decades, saw her last graduation June 13, as she retired from the Rainbow School this month.

Sue Daniels, who has educated generations of Sag Harbor 4-year-olds, in her garden Monday, June 30. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Sue Daniels, who has educated generations of Sag Harbor 4-year-olds, in her garden Monday, June 30. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

“It hasn’t really sunk in,” she said Monday, June 30, sitting in her Sag Harbor home surrounded by artwork from grandchildren and pictures of past students. One picture changes each year to show Pierson High School’s current graduating class when they were preschoolers with Ms. Daniels.

A Bridgehampton native, Ms. Daniels met her husband Al when she ran his truck off the road when she was just 16. The couple, who celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary last week, have two children, Mark and Kaitlin, and three grandchildren. Teaching runs in their family; Ms. Daniels’s daughter is a high school English teacher and her mother taught at the Bridgehampton School for over 30 years.

Ms. Daniels started teaching at the Hampton Day School, a private school that was in Bridgehampton where the Ross School’s Lower Campus now stands. After taking several years off to be home with her children when they were young, she returned to teaching as director of the Tuller School on the Maycroft estate in North Haven, which she ran for two decades.

When the property was sold in 2004, Ms. Daniels founded the Rainbow Preschool, currently located at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike. The school offers two sessions, morning and afternoon, for 3- and 4-year-olds. Through all her years and classrooms, Ms. Daniels has stuck with pre-K.

“I just love 4-year-olds,” she said Monday. “I think that’s the most amazing age. They are truly like little sponges—they just absorb everything. It’s just an exciting age…and they can go to the bathroom by themselves, always a bonus.”

Ms. Daniels will stay on as director of the school for at least a year and will remain on the board afterward. Her colleague of 12 years, Donna Cosgrove, who has been teaching the 3-year-olds, will take over the 4-year-old class with assistant Kaitlin Duran. Jessica Spehler, hired by the board, will teach the 3-year-olds.

Now that she is retired, Ms. Daniels plans, first and foremost, to spend more time with her grandchildren, but also to continue teaching piano lessons and get to work on a longstanding idea for a children’s book about a horse with special needs. She will also keep working on the business she shares with Al, Sag Harbor Seashells, combing the beaches looking for beach glass, shells and even fish teeth, which they then fashion into jewelry, beach glass Christmas trees and other custom ware.

Although she is excited to spend more time on the beach and with her grandkids, Ms. Daniels will miss her time in the classroom.

“I’ve taught now second generation,” she said.

Nina Landi, herself a kindergarten teacher at Sag Harbor Elementary School, was in Ms. Daniels’s very first class. When it came time to send her two children, Peter and Daisy, to nursery school, she knew who to call.

“I have very faint memories of doing amazing things back there,” Ms. Landi said Tuesday. “I was little—I was like 3, I think—but I remember when it was time for Peter and Daisy to go to Tuller, [having] an incredible sense of calm knowing that Ms. Daniels was there. She’s the best. She’s a Sag Harbor jewel.”

In the 30-plus years Ms. Daniels has been preparing Sag Harbor’s youngest students for elementary school, teaching has changed considerably.

“It’s just changed so much over the years,” she said, “For example, years ago if I was doing say a unit on dinosaurs, I would go to the library and do the research and get books and all that. And now you just go online and it’s there, so I think that makes it a lot easier for teachers in some ways.”

“In some other ways, I think we’ve lost some things,” she continued. “An example, years ago at Hampton Day School we heard about a whale that had washed ashore, so we put the kids in our car… no written permission slips or anything like that—and we just went to the beach. You can’t do that now.”

Ms. Daniels doesn’t allow computers in her classroom and forbids her grandchildren from bringing their iPads over.

“To me, the pre-school years are about socialization—how to get along with each other, how to talk to each other—and I really believe that there’s really only three things that kids need at this age: they need books, they need blocks, they need balls. That’s it, the three b’s,” she said, adding, “but it’s a different world now.”

Ms. Landi hangs a gold star ornament she made in Ms. Daniels’s class on her Christmas tree each year. Over two decades later, Ms. Daniels took both her children on their first train ride.

“We could not have been more thrilled or happy,” Ms. Landi said of her former teacher teaching her children. “It’s like having a second mom, she really is a great lady.”

“I think preschool is just so important,” Ms. Daniels said, “because it’s the gateway to education for the children. At this level, I think the most important thing is to build their confidence and help them with their communication skills, just so they can get along in this world. I keep telling my classes the most important thing is to be kind to each other, I think that’s just something we don’t always stress enough.”

“They’re going to get the basics,” she continued, “they’re going to understand about the alphabet and how to read and mathematics, but I think the socialization is just so important and I think this is where you start.”

“It’s really a shame that she has to retire, but God she deserves the rest,” Ms. Landi said, adding, “The whole town should throw that woman a retirement party…if you could ever count the kids and families—I always call it the ripples in the pond that she caused—you’d be there all day. It would be like trying to count stars, she’s been with so many families and she’s seen so many kids go all the way up to being married and having their own kids. It’s amazing.”

Pierson Parents and School at Odds Over Recognizing Sag Harbor’s Salutatorians

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A student navigates the halls of Pierson High School. Photo by Michael Heller.

A student navigates the halls of Pierson High School. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

The parents of a Pierson High School senior say their daughter was unjustly denied recognition for her academic performance and that the Sag Harbor School District is doing nothing about it.

Kristin and Paul Davey maintain their daughter deserves to be recognized as a co-salutatorian of the graduating class of 2014 because the district uses faulty guidelines and does not have a clear policy for how valedictorians and salutatorians are named.

Pierson administrators, however, say the district is using the same guidelines it has used for decades and, although they may enact a board-level policy in the future, that change will not happen in the days leading up to graduation.

After taking the complaints to Facebook, Kristin Davey said in a phone interview Wednesday, June 25, that her daughter was in third place by 7/100ths of a point when the grade point average rankings were calculated in January. When the grades were recalculated in April, Ms. Davey said, her daughter had pulled into second by a full point.

Dr. Paul Davey in a statement to the board on June 18 said their daughter was then “invited by State Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s office to a luncheon honoring Long Island’s valedictorians and salutatorians.”

Ms. Davey said on Wednesday, June 25, that several days after they received the invitation, Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols informed her that her daughter had been invited in error.

She was told, she said, that “they were not using those grades, they were using the grades in January, as has been their tradition, and that [my daughter] was not the salutatorian.”

“We asked several times for the school to recognize [our daughter] as co-salutatorian and not to take anything away from the other student, but to recognize them both,” she said.

“I feel that we were misled and it’s gotten kind of worse from there,” said Ms. Davey, adding that she has sent many letters and made many phone calls to administrators that have gone unanswered.

“We’ve had very, very clear guidelines with regard to that, my understanding is certainly for the 17 years I’ve been here and for decades preceding that,” Mr. Nichols said when the issue was brought up at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, June 24.

The guidelines are on page 17 of the student handbook, which is given to every student and available on the district website.

Mr. Nichols read from the policy Tuesday, which states: “To validate who has earned the highest (valedictorian) and the second highest (salutatorian) ranks in a graduating class, students’ grades are re-averaged at the end of the first semester of the year in which the class graduates. Such determination is final and no adjustment thereafter will take place.”

In a phone conversation Wednesday, June 25, Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the district, said, “There was something where I believe some temporary word was passed along that [Ms. Davey’s] daughter was ranked second in the class, but when we checked it was an error.”

“While at the time of the ranking—that is at the end of the seventh semester in the middle of the year that they’re graduating, which is what Jeff read last night [at the school board meeting]—in fact, it was not her daughter,” he said.

“I’d rather not discuss a specific case or a specific child,” he added, “so I can only say that Mr. Nichols clarified it as much as possible additionally last night and no further comment.”

In his statement read on June 18, Dr. Davey questioned the lack of “a formal policy” and asked the board to vote that evening to recognize co-salutatorians for the class of 2014.

“The only thing they keep reciting in this refusal is traditionally they have never done that before and I don’t find that a good enough answer,” Ms. Davey said.

“Because they are lacking this formal policy,” she said, “I just don’t understand why they will not recognize both students…I just really hope that moving forward, the district writes a clear, comprehensive and specific policy so this does not happen in the future to any student graduating from Pierson. I will say that [my daughter] is beyond devastated that her school will not recognize her academic achievement.”

“There has been some discussion about having a more formal policy, there are districts that have board-level policies on it,” BOE Vice President Chris Tice said. “I would suggest at a future board meeting, we discuss whether we want to have that sort of policy on it.”

Later Start Times?

In other school board news, the board agreed to appoint a task force to examine the plausibility of starting school at later times, a move that is gaining traction across the country.

“There’s research that has come out that says if you could do one thing to help your kids do better in school—one thing—it would be to get our kids to school later,” said Ms. Tice.

Board member Susan Kinsella also brought up the idea of allowing varsity athletes to have study hall instead of gym class while in season.

“They certainly don’t need the gym class if they’re playing a varsity sport. Let them have that time to do homework,” she said.

“I think this makes a lot of sense,” agreed Ms. Tice, adding the district could see more athletes participating in International Baccalaureate (IB) and other challenging classes “if they knew they’d have more time to get the work done.”

The board will start its trial of videotaping meetings in July. The first meeting of the month will be taped but not broadcast to figure out some sound and technical kinks and the second meeting will be fully broadcast on LTV and SEA-TV.

Sag Harbor School District Says Goodbye to Three Chief Administrators

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School Business Administrator John O'Keefe, who will leave the district this summer, at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday, June 24. Photo by Tessa Raebeck

School Business Administrator John O’Keefe, who will leave the district this summer, at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday, June 24. Photo by Tessa Raebeck

By Tessa Raebeck

Although school’s out for summer, the Sag Harbor Board of Education will have its hands full with interviewing and hiring new personnel in time for students’ return in September.

In addition to the seven retiring members of the faculty, six of whom have positions that will be filled (one special education teaching position was abolished), interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso, business administrator John O’Keefe, and Todd Gulluscio, director of Athletics, Physical Education, Health, Wellness and Personnel, are leaving the district.

The board on Tuesday, June 24, accepted the resignations of Mr. O’Keefe and Mr. Gulluscio and appointed Dr. Bonuso as temporary assistant to the district’s new superintendent Katy Graves.

Dr. Bonuso will help Ms. Graves settle into her new position for 14 days between July 1 and July 31. He is being paid at a daily rate of $950 for a total of $13,300.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, community member and frequent meeting attendee Elena Loreto questioned the appointment of Dr. Bonuso to the temporary position.

“When you hired Katy Graves, everyone was high on her,” Ms. Loreto told the board. “We were ecstatic we found someone who was so neat, she was even better than sliced bread or ballpoint pens—then why does she need a mentor?”

“Carl, I love you, but we gotta say goodbye,” she added. “Katy is fully capable. Don’t spend the money.”

“Katy requested that Carl remain for some transition planning with her,” replied Theresa Samot, president of the school board. “We did, through our attorney, do a review of best practices, and he reported to us that it’s not unusual when a superintendent is coming from out of the district or out of the immediate area to actually have a transition for them.”

The board pointed to the extent of issues the new superintendent will have to deal with immediately, including capital projects from the bond referendum, for which the bulk of construction will start this summer, and the hiring of new personnel in many important positions. Ms. Samot added that the district budgeted for the transition in the 2014-15 budget.

“The board really carefully considered this issue,” said member David Diskin. “The request is really coming from Ms. Graves. This is a need that she feels is critical to make a great transition.”

“There’s just a lot of stuff happening,” added board member Daniel Hartnett, “and it just kind of struck me as Katy spoke that the reason that she asked for some transition is because she’s experienced…that I think is a sign of professionalism and I think it’s money well spent on our part.”

The board also recognized the contributions of Dr. Bonuso, Mr. O’Keefe and Mr. Gulluscio during their time in the district, as well as Mary Anne Miller, a school board member of six years who chose not to pursue another term.

“Mary Anne leads with her heart,” said Mr. Hartnett. “Mary Anne leads with her heart, but thank goodness, she’s got a great brain to follow. She’s a passionate advocate for public education.”

“I don’t know of many people that spend as much time focused on education that actually aren’t being paid to do so,” added Chris Tice, vice president of the board.

“Her willingness to be unafraid to turn over rocks and to challenge things and ask questions is unique,” said Mr. Diskin.

Dr. Bonuso initially came on as an interim for a few months, but was quickly asked to stay for longer and ultimately served two full years as superintendent.

“He’s been an amazing force not only in the school, but in the community,” said Ms. Samot.

“I think that you brought a new level of heart to this school family,” added Ms. Tice. “That is going to be your legacy when you leave, so thank you for that.”

“I have to say,” added Sandi Kruel, a board member, “that the senior class, you know every one of them by name, how to pronounce their last name…and when you showed up at [the New York State baseball finals] the seniors were like, ‘He’s the man,” and that’s all I can say, you the man. So thank you for being a part of so many of our students’ lives.”

Acknowledging the “100 people to [my] left and right,” Dr. Bonuso spoke of his love for Sag Harbor.

“I’ve been in the business a long time—maybe close to 40 years—I thought I was going to come by for a few months, turns out a couple years because I fell in love with the place and the projects we were working with,” he said, adding that he came out of retirement because, “I think God whispered in my ear, ‘Before you go, you have to see this place.’ It’s just a remarkable experience.”

Mr. O’Keefe has been the business administrator since 2012. He will be leaving the district for a position as assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations in the West Hempstead School District. His resignation is effective July 16. Mr. O’Keefe was instrumental in passing the bond referendum last fall and in getting the district’s Moody’s bond rating upgraded this spring.

“You’ve put us in the best financial shape we’ve been in since I’ve been in the district,” Ms. Kruel said to Mr. O’Keefe.

Mr. Gulluscio’s term ends June 30. A native of Shelter Island, he will be returning home to serve as director of Physical Education and District Operations in that district, where his wife also works. During his time in Sag Harbor, he oversaw several trips to state championship for the Pierson Whalers.

“You would be hard-pressed to ever find anybody as good at what they do than the two gentlemen who are in the room right now,” said Dr. Bonuso, adding, “It’s been a privilege to have them at the left and right side these past couple years.”

“You both leave the district in much better shape than when you got here, so thank you,” added Ms. Tice.

Move Over Sag Harbor Express, The Pierson Press Has Arrived

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Students read the Pierson Press in Sag Harbor Village. Photo by Kelli Delaney Kot.

Students read the Pierson Press in Sag Harbor Village. Photo by Kelli Delaney Kot.

By Tessa Raebeck

They conducted interviews, took photographs and wrote various forms of editorial content—and they did it all before summer vacation.

The first issue of the Pierson Press was distributed to students and businesses around town last week, six glossy pages featuring business stories about local restaurants, columns on talented Pierson alumni, and will-be recurring feature pages like “Sag Harbor Style.”

Nine students, three from Pierson Middle School and six from the high school, worked on the paper alongside math teacher Jason LaBatti and parent Kelli Delaney Kot, a club advisor. Judy Clempner of The Sag Harbor Express helped with layout and art teacher Peter Solow also provided assistance.

“I’m excited,” said cultural editor Ella Parker, who is going into her sophomore year at Pierson, adding that the paper is more kid-oriented and appealing than your standard student newspaper.

“There’s more pictures and I think people respond to color and large print… Unfortunately, I think we’ve hit an age where we’re so drawn to Instagram and to social media and I think this really appeals to what kids want now,” added Ella, proudly holding up the issue.

Sag Harbor’s official student newspaper is printed on glossy pages in full color. The front page grabs readers’ attention with a large photo of sophomores above the fold and, to its right, “Pierson Paparazzi,” a reel of pictures taken “out and about on campus.”

Also on the front page, is a feature written by Ella on Doppio East, Sag Harbor’s newest restaurant.

“Part of the learning curve,” said Ms. Delaney Kot, “was seeing how to create a story from start to finish and calling people for quotes—not being shy walking into Doppio and saying, ‘Could this be the new hotspot? I’m going to write about it.’ All that stuff’s not so easy when you’re 14, 15, 16.”

Ms. Delaney Kot, whose daughter Lily is in Ella’s class and also worked on the paper, is the founder and editor in chief of KDHamptons.com, “the luxury lifestyle diary of the Hamptons,” and has worked as a fashion editor for Condé Nast and at Us Weekly.

“They’re all reading Us Weekly, whether their parents really want them to or not,” she said of high school students, saying the goal was “to create something that was completely different from any other high school student newspaper and something that was glossy and color-driven and photo-driven.”

A goal of Pierson Press, in addition to setting itself apart from your standard run-of-the-mill, black-and-white and boring student newspaper, was to include shared experiences alongside “info snacks,” as the editorial team calls them.

For “info snacking,” they have tidbits “where kids can jump in, it’s easy to understand what the piece is about, cool picture, maybe you have a laugh and then you can move onto another piece,” said Ms. Delaney Kot. “It was important to have a balance where this was a fun read.”

“Yeah, it’s not so heavy on information, I agree, it’s not too serious,” added Ella.

“Sag Harbor Speak” features common language among teenagers, “a cheat sheet to understand the vernacular of Pierson students.” Though is “doe,” you’re crazy is “u cray,” and yes is “yewwwww.”

Pierson student Eve Bishop wrote a travel diary about her trip to New Orleans and a student trip to Washington, D.C., with Mr. LaBatti was featured, bringing the paper beyond Sag Harbor.

“I think what I like best about the paper,” said Mr. LaBatti, “when it was finally finished and I looked over it, is that it celebrates what they did.”

“There was some information about stuff going on outside of the school, but it was mostly about their lives,” he added.

Following the first issue’s success, the staff at the Pierson Press is optimistic about next year, during which they hope to put out not one issue but 10, with a full paper coming out each month of the school year and continual updates to a page for the paper on the school’s website, which is set to be revamped.

“Also, have the kids manage it and do the editing and proofing,” said Mr. LaBatti, adding that in the long run he hopes to incorporate the paper into an expanded computer science curriculum.

Recurring features in the paper will be the “Teacher Feature,” a Q&A with a Pierson teacher, Pierson Paparazzi, Featured Athlete, Awesome Instagrams, Sag Harbor Style, and Featured Alumnus, which this time around highlighted celebrated musician Rafaela Gurtler of the class of 2009.

“To have a handful of teenagers working on this once a week over a two-to-three month period and to have this result look so professional and perfect—not one typo—is really a testament to how hard everybody worked on it,” Ms. Delaney Kot said.