Tag Archive | "education"

With No Clear Option for Later Start Times, School District Asks Community for Help

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Sag Harbor Elementary School Student Beckham LaRose told the Sag Harbor School District Tuesday.

“I need more sleep,” Sag Harbor Elementary School student Beckham LaRose told the Sag Harbor Board of Education Tuesday, as School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi and District Clerk Mary Adamczyk listened. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

After hosting seven workshops in less than two months, the Sag Harbor School District has made headway on researching ways to move school start times later, but remains far from ready to implement a change.

A later start to the school day, especially for high school students, has been advocated by health and education experts nationwide, after research has shown a later start time is better for students’ overall health and safety, behavior and academic performance. Despite the indisputable benefits to children, however, implementation faces practical challenges: established schedules for classes, bus routes and classes; faculty and staff contracts, parents’ work requirements, and cultural behaviors that are in many cases deeply ingrained.

Although Sag Harbor parents have individually advocated for later starts at various times—and to various superintendents—over the past decade, national momentum toward a change surged in August, when the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report calling chronic sleep deprivation in adolescents a national health crisis and recommending no American high school start before 8:30 a.m.

Human sleep cycles change during adolescence; teenagers naturally feel alert later at night and have difficulty falling asleep before 11 p.m. Teenagers also need more sleep, requiring at least 8.5 hours, a mere pipe dream for those who have to get on the bus at 6:45 a.m.

Mirroring the national conversation, the movement has gained significant traction in Sag Harbor, which, like many other schools on Long Island, has one of the earliest start times in the country. The Pierson Middle/High School schedule runs from 7:25 a.m. to 2:26 p.m., with many students waiting for the bus in the dark to make it to first period on time. Sag Harbor Elementary School starts the day with morning program at 8:35 a.m. and goes to 3:10 p.m.

Spectators are rare at school board meetings, perhaps not surprisingly, but on Tuesday some 30 parents, students and teachers filled the Pierson Library to hear the board discuss its options. The district’s administrative team compiled extensive data on various aspects and costs of a potential switch, including the effect on athletics schedules and bus routes, the two primary challenges of a change (data available at sagharborschools.org). The plans would range in cost and effectiveness, but none was selected by the board or highly favored by those in attendance. Some options come with significant price tags, while others do little to solve the problem.

Several options would continue operating separate bus runs for the elementary school and Pierson, which are “what saves us the most money,” Jennifer Buscemi, the school business administrator, said. Under other plans, however, the bus runs would have to be combined, which would require significant costs and the potentially problematic situation of 5-year-olds riding the bus alongside teenagers.

The probable annual costs for the first three options, which start both schools after 8 a.m., could range from $401,986 to $625,799, Ms. Buscemi projected. Options 4 and 5 have no additional costs, but Option 4 simply swaps the schools’ times, starting the elementary school early instead, and Option 5 starts Pierson at 7:35 a.m., a mere 10-minute improvement, but a possible starting point, Ms. Graves said.

The sixth option gives Pierson a 7:45 a.m. start time, with 9 a.m. at the elementary school, and would have a much lower cost of $75,000 for contracting out additional sports runs, which Ms. Buscemi said would “not be a very large impact on our tax cap,” whereas that of options 1, 2, and 3 is substantial.

“My general feeling,” said school board member David Diskin “on this is that to make a significant change, it’s obviously a huge amount of money.” Although Mr. Diskin said he saw the benefits of a change, he added he “would hate to see us reduce programs because we made the switch.”

But advocates of later times maintain its better to be roughing it in the beginning of a change than catching up at the tail end, and the momentum is definitely growing. Parents in Southampton, which starts its high school at 7:30, have also urged the board to adopt later times. While Sag Harbor was debating Tuesday, a school district in Dorchester, South Carolina, voted to move its start time later next year.

Switching times is difficult, but not impossible. Schools in Pierson’s athletic conference, the Ross School and Shelter Island High School, both start at 8 a.m.

“I don’t think we have found the right solution—the right option—yet,” said school board vice president Chris Tice. “I think we needed to go through this process to say what are the big rocks, what is the data—I’m not convinced that all the options that are potentially viable are on the table yet…the average district that has made a change takes six months to two years to explore this, we took a month.”

The board spoke in favor of putting the issue on the back burner for now, with hopes of reconvening with better preparation after the budget season. They urged community members to use the extensive data and information compiled by the administration to research more cost-effective, sustainable options.

The community appeared ready and willing to take the reins.

Jackson LaRose, a sixth grader at Pierson, asked the board to consider moving the elementary school schedule from 9 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. and Pierson from 7:50 a.m. to 2:50 p.m., “So the buses have enough time and I don’t think it would cost anymore money,” he said. His little brother, 8-year-old Beckham, agreed, saying, “I need more sleep.”

Laurie Marsden, a parent, said after transitioning to middle school this year, her daughter is “struggling still and it’s December. She’s never had a headache in her life and she had headaches the first two weeks of school straight.”

“I know that every single parent that I speak to says they wish the school was later and they talk about how they’re struggling. They talk about how difficult it is not just for their children, but for their whole family,” said Ms. Marsden.

Jean Cowen, the mother of a seventh grader and a former teacher, suggested moving the academic support to beginning of the day, rather than at the end as it stands now, and making it optional. The teachers’ school day—and contracts—would not be affected, nor would bus routes. School would start at 8:05 a.m. for students whose parents can drive them later, with students who need academic support or to be at school earlier so their parents can get to work riding the bus at the regular times.

“Asking kids to get up and perform at the 7 a.m. hour is equivalent to asking an adult to get up and perform at the 4 a.m. hour,” said Susan LaMontagne, adding there are ways to make the change with very little or no costs, and she and other parents are willing to find out how to make it work in Sag Harbor.

Updated Communications Plan for Sag Harbor School District

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By Tessa Raebeck

Seven months after the Sag Harbor School District Communications Committee presented its recommendations to the school board for better communications, Superintendent Katy Graves on Monday, November 17, offered her view of how to best move forward.

In early April, the committee presented a report to the board, in response to feedback from a survey of various stakeholders that found the district needed to improve its communication with all parties, which is now a board goal for the 2014-15 school year. The district had worked with Syntax Communications, a Long Island marketing firm that specializes in public relations for public school districts, in the past, but has not had a contract with any communications company since July 1.

The main recommendations made by the committee were: to improve and expand the district website; to develop a communication manual for employees and establish expectations for constituents; and to hire a communications specialist to “facilitate better communication to all district stakeholders;” as well as to continually assess the success of those recommendations and adjust for ongoing improvements. The committee included five options for hiring a communications specialist, which range in projected costs from $23,690 for a part-time assistant to $74,688 for a full-time communications specialist.

Since July 1, the administration has been gathering information and deciding whether to hire a staff member, as recommended by the committee, contract out services with an outside company, or use a company through BOCES, Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi said on Wednesday.

At Monday’s board meeting, Ms. Graves said the district would use Syntax through BOCES for the rest of the school year, which she and Ms. Buscemi agreed is the most cost-effective option.

“I’m doing it as fiscally and in as sustainable a model as possible, so my recommendation is to go with the BOCES service, which is service through Syntax,” said the superintendent.

The BOCES contract with Syntax Communications, would, at a prorated amount, cost $26,085 for the rest of the school year, which ends on June 30, 2015.

Ms. Graves said if the district continues with that model in the future, Syntax would hire a specialist locally who would work more directly with several East End school districts, but “this late in the year, that isn’t something we’re going to get.” For this year, Syntax will aid the district on putting out a board of education newsletter, the annual budget newsletter and improving the website.

“Syntax was really gracious enough to give us a prorated rate when they will be providing almost the same exact services they were going to provide” had the contract started in July, said Ms. Buscemi.

The agreement, Ms. Graves said, would also “free up [Director of Technology Scott Fisher] to be doing more with and for students when it comes to technology.”

While the district will work with BOCES for the rest of this school year, the board plans to evaluate communications again during budget deliberations in the spring, and implement a long-range plan. In the meantime, administrators remain cognizant of the ongoing need to improve outreach to school stakeholders.

“We’ve been getting better and better about email blasts, about what goes on the website and, even at board meetings, I think we’ve done a much better job at not only getting information out to parents, but also letting them know the positive things that are happening with their children and for their children in the district,” said Ms. Graves.

Those “positive things” were on full display at Monday’s meeting.

Alexandria Battaglia, CPA, an audit partner at R.S. Abrams & Co., shared the results of the district’s annual audit.

“We issued an unmodified opinion, which is the best opinion you can have; that means it’s a clean opinion, we call it in the audit world. We did note that the reserves did increase this year. We’re very happy to see that the district has come a long way in building that fund balance,” Ms. Battaglia said.

“This is my fifth year on the board and this was by far the strongest, most positive results of the audit, so I just want to thank all the employees,” said Chris Tice, vice president of the school board. “That doesn’t happen overnight—it’s happened, I’d say, five, six, seven years—there’s been an enormous amount of effort and energy…. We’re in the strongest financial position we’ve been in in a long time.”

More good news came from Pierson Middle School Vice Principal Brittany Miaritis, who said the eighth grade’s book drive to help students at the Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Louisiana has inspired other local schools to join the cause. The middle school was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and, 10 years later, has a brand new building but hardly any books, materials or supplies to fill it. Since hearing about Sag Harbor’s initiative, students in Hampton Bays have donated some 100 books to the southern school.

“Just from one little implementation here, now it’s all over the East End,” said Ms. Miaritis. “It’s pretty rad and cool that our students are involved in it.”

In other school board news, the board decided to explore the notions of allowing in-season varsity athletes to opt out of gym class to allow for more time for academics, and of eliminating class rank and instead marking students by 25-point percentiles, which many Long Island schools have opted to do in order to encourage colleges to look at students in more depth.

Sag Harbor School District to Consider Six Options for Later Start Times at Pierson

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By Tessa Raebeck Start Times Sidebar copy

Striving to be leaders in the national trend toward later high school starting times, Sag Harbor administrators have outlined six options of potential time changes for the school district.

In early October, in response to concerns expressed by parents and students and a growing body of research that supports moving start times later for students’ overall health and success, the Board of Education created an ad-hoc committee, to explore possibilities and develop plans to present to the board. The committee is in the midst of eight scheduled meetings, with each meeting designed to tackle a specific challenge, such as after-school program scheduling at the elementary school, transportation and budget challenges and athletics schedules.

The decision to pursue a schedule change came shortly after the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report in late August that called insufficient sleep in teenagers “an important public health issue” and recommended all high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The report, and others, showed that teenagers’ circadian rhythms make it nearly impossible for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. and wake before 8 a.m., and that growing adolescents have less ability to focus in the early morning than younger children and adults.

The school board voiced its support of making a change for students’ benefit as early as last spring, but remained wary of the challenges of altering the long-ingrained schedules of school buses, interscholastic athletics and extra-curricular activities.

As it stands, the day at Pierson Middle/High School starts at 7:25 a.m.—which is on the earlier side of national start times—and ends at 2:26 p.m. After a 45-minute route, Pierson buses drop students off between 7:10 and 7:15 a.m. The Sag Harbor Elementary School day begins with morning program at 8:35 a.m. and ends at 3:10 p.m. Elementary school buses also have a 45-minute route, and students are dropped off at the school between 8:20 and 8:25 a.m.

The school district, which owns all of its buses and runs transportation itself to save money, has seven large buses, five mini-buses and one van, and 13 bus drivers and two substitute drivers. There are 750 students who are eligible to ride the bus.

The committee has come up with six possible options (see sidebar) to change the high school start time, which will be presented when the board meets on December 1.

Under the first option, the morning bus runs would remain separate, but the afternoon runs would be combined, meaning that students in kindergarten through 12th grade would ride the bus together. Both the morning and afternoon runs would be combined under options two and three. For those three options, administrators project that five additional buses would be needed. Purchasing two buses and contracting out three buses would cost an estimated $690,799, or $511,769 if the two buses were leased instead of bought. That cost includes an additional parking lot to store the new buses, as the current lots are at maximum capacity.

“Economically,” Superintendent Katy Graves said Monday, “it’s such a challenge to combine the bus routes.” The committee also expressed concerns over having five-year-olds ride the bus alongside teenagers.

“The combined bus runs—again, I always think we can work through issues and we would—but initially, that would pose some obvious difficulties and challenges,” said Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone.

“We’re always aware of the goal of trying our best, within reason, to keep these little kids young as long as we can…that’s something that we’re very cognizant of, so [sharing buses] would be something that we’d have to really talk through and work through,” he added.

Under options four and five, the district would keep the separate bus runs and thus need no additional buses or funding, administrators said. Option six was just added last Thursday and hasn’t been thoroughly vetted yet, but Superintendent Katy Graves said the plan, which is a less ambitious option with a still early start time of 7:45 a.m., “could possibly increase our busing to athletics.”

Ms. Graves said the fourth option, “flipping” the elementary and high school start times, is a popular choice in districts that have successfully implemented a change, but “culturally, the way we built our district with the morning program and everything—I would be very concerned about that.”

Another concern, which was echoed by Mr. Malone and Donna Denon, the elementary school vice principal, is the potential loss of the time allotted for after-school programs, if there was a later dismissal time at the elementary school.

“There’s no way to do this without some kind of effect and a compromise,” said Chris Tice, vice president of the school board, who has been vocal in her support of moving high school start times later.

“Unequivocally,” she continued, “it is so much healthier for kids to go to school later…. Every piece of research documents that this is a worthwhile process to go through, but we have to acknowledge that, I think, almost every choice or recommendation that’s made—it’s going to have some pain associated with it…. That’s going to be the conversation—what is most beneficial with the least negative impact on children?”

The administrators are creating a survey about the potential changes to get feedback from parents, students and staff.

Representatives from Section XI will discuss the impact a change would have on athletics at the committee’s next meeting, on Wednesday, November 19, at 7 p.m. in the Pierson library. The committee will draft final plans on Thursday, November 20, also at 7 p.m., and present those plans when the school board meets on December 1 at 6 p.m. in the Pierson library.

Celebration Planned to Honor Mary Anne Jules’s Long Career at Bridgehampton School

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By Tessa Raebeck

Mary Anne Jules enjoying her retirement. Courtesy Mary Anne Jules.

Mary Anne Jules enjoying her retirement. Courtesy Mary Anne Jules.

To honor her 32 years of service to the Bridgehampton School, its students and athletics programs, the Bridgehampton Teacher Association will host a celebration of Mary Anne Jules’s retirement at Almond Restaurant in Bridgehampton on Monday, November 10.

Just a year out of college, Ms. Jules started at the Bridgehampton School as a physical education teacher in 1983. She earned her master’s degree and administration degree while teaching and became athletic director for the district in 1991, while still teaching physical education. From 2010 to 2012, Ms. Jules served as president of Section XI, the governing body of high school sports in Suffolk County.

The evening will include cocktails, presentations and stories about Ms. Jules’s long career, with dinner to follow.

“It is to celebrate her over 30 years of service to us as a staff, Section XI and the Bridgehampton community as a whole,” said Jeff Hand, a Bridgehampton teacher who has helped organize the evening.

“A true testament to Mary Anne the person is the number of friends, former students, Section XI colleagues and family members who be attending,” Mr. Hand said, adding that as many as 40 people who are not part of the BTA are coming to show Ms. Jules their support and gratitude.

Although she is enjoying the rest since hanging up her whistle last summer, Ms. Jules has stayed connected to the district—and busy—by mentoring its new athletic director Eric Bramoff.

“He was a good choice for the job,” she said on Tuesday, adding she had yet to return to Bridgehampton’s sidelines as a fan in order to “Let Eric do his thing; he’s doing a great job.”

Ms. Jules said she won’t be able to stay away much longer, however. “I’ll definitely be at some basketball games, ’cause they should do very well this year,” she said, adding she had been following the papers intently for reports from the fall season.

Lillian Tyree-Johnson, a member of the school board and lifelong Bridgehampton resident, has known Ms. Jules as the face of Bridgehampton athletics for over 20 years. Her husband, Carl, was Bridgehampton’s junior high coach when they first started dating and later became head coach.

“Mary Anne has been a mentor to my husband and a wonderful friend to both of us for many years,” Ms. Tyree-Johnson said in an email Monday. “Her love for Bridgehampton is unquestioned and I will miss her very much, but wish her all the best in retirement.”

“She was a great example to her students as well,” she added. “Her work in bringing shared sports to Bridgehampton is, I think, her most important contribution. She opened doors for so many student athletes and created and sustained an amazing program.”

In her newfound free time, Ms. Jules has done exactly what she intended to do: watch her nieces and nephews play sports. She has been up to Sienna College to watch her nephew play lacrosse almost every weekend this fall and often travels to Westchester to watch another nephew play high school football. “And that’s only a few out of the 16,” she said of her total count of nieces, nephews and requisite games.

Ms. Jules is also taking yoga classes once a week and doing “the things that I never had time to do before,” she said. “I’m not rushing around, but I do miss the kids.”

Her fellow teachers organized the evening at Almond Restaurant to celebrate Ms. Jules’s long career in Bridgehampton.

“I’m looking forward to seeing all of them,” she said of her former co-workers. “It’s great people I work with and I miss them, so I am looking forward to a few laughs and seeing all them—some of my families—coming out.”

The cost to attend the evening is $50 per person with checks payable to “Bridgehampton BTA.” The party is from 5 to 8 p.m. For more information, contact Steve Meyers at smeyers@bridgehampton.k12.ny.us.

Sag Harbor Elementary School Hopes to Bring Back Once Popular Summer Camp

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By Tessa Raebeck

With hopes of improving student learning and year-to-year retention and helping families who cannot afford expensive local camps, the Sag Harbor School District is considering reinstating its once-successful summer program for elementary students.

Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone and Vice Principal Donna Denon proposed expanding the school’s current summer program to the Board of Education on Monday, November 3. Superintendent Katy Graves said it was the only request made by the administrators when asked what they’d like to see added to the budget.

“It’s important to rest and recharge,” said Mr. Malone of the summer months, “but children definitely regress and the children that regress the most are those that are at risk.”

The elementary school currently has a summer program for special education students; a 12-month learning plan is required for students with learning disabilities as part of their Individualized Educational Program or IEP. It was expanded to also include students who are learning English as a Second Language (ESL) or require Academic Intervention Services (AIS).

About 15 years ago, however, the elementary school’s summer program, Look-See, resembled a camp, open to all students and well attended. It “also offered many enrichment opportunities for boys and girls to take on areas of learning that they maybe aren’t even afforded during the school year,” said Mr. Malone.

Participants could take all sorts of courses: In “Kings, Queens and Castles,” younger students learned the history of monarchs and designed an elaborate cardboard castle in the classroom; Deanna Lattanzio taught a course on scrapbooking in which children gathered their memories into books, and a course on radio culminated with a visit to WLNG to record a public service announcement. The program cost about $120,000 in the annual budget and attracted some 200 students, board member Sandi Kruel estimated.

Mr. Malone said the district “did make a decision to discontinue the program [in the early 2000’s], but each summer when we see the success we have with our current programs, we think maybe there’s a way we can reinstate that.”

“We want to offer courses and discoveries and explorations that are really grounded in reading and writing and mathematics, but also make it fun and engaging for the children,” said Ms. Denon. Traditional courses would be offered in the morning and students could choose which courses to attend in the afternoon, with interdisciplinary options like theater and cooking.

“Out here,” Mr. Malone said, “the cost of camp, the cost of summer programs is extremely high for all of our families and for them to be able to include their children in these programs is cost-prohibitive. If we could find a way in the school district to make something like this a reality we know it would be well attended, much appreciated.”

Sag Harbor’s Eighth Graders Host Book Drive to Aid Middle School Affected by Hurricane Katrina

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Students in Christine Farrell's eighth grade English class at Pierson with books they're donating to Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Kenner, Louisiana, which lost all its supplies due to flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina. Photo courtesy Christine Farrell.

Students in Christine Farrell’s eighth grade English class at Pierson with books they’re donating to Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Kenner, Louisiana, which lost all its supplies due to flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina. Courtesy Christine Farrell.

By Tessa Raebeck

When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005, it looked like the flooded Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Kenner, Louisiana, would close its doors forever. Nine years later, the school has a brand new building, but its desks, bookshelves and supply cabinets remain empty.

Sag Harbor students are determined to help fill those shelves. Eighth graders in Christine Farrell’s English classes at Pierson Middle School are collecting books to send down to Kenner, a small city in the New Orleans suburbs.

“They are very happy to pay it forward,” Ms. Farrell said of her students, who have plastered posters around Pierson’s halls asking classmates for donations.

Superintendent Katy Graves connected the middle schools after hearing from a former student of hers, Katy Clayton. Ms. Clayton began teaching at Roosevelt Middle School this year, with six classes, including eighth grade English.

“She started the year with no paper for the copy machine, no books,” Ms. Graves explained. “Literally, the school was gutted. They built the school where the flood had come in, but they had no resources at all.”

Ms. Graves quickly got on the phone with John Olson, the principal at Roosevelt Middle School. Mr. Olson had worked in some of the highest performing schools in the south, but, rather than pursuing a lucrative interim job, after retirement he decided to return to work in his hometown. His hometown needed his experience: Before its doors opened for classes this fall, the middle school was already in the red, with no money for such basic supplies as pens and paper.

Ms. Katy Clayton and her eighth grade English Language Arts students at Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Kenner, Louisiana.

Ms. Katy Clayton and her eighth grade English Language Arts students at Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Kenner, Louisiana.

“They have a brand new building and it’s all pretty, but they have literally next to nothing for the classroom, they don’t have even white Xerox paper,” explained Ms. Farrell.

“The kids,” she said of her eighth grade students in Sag Harbor, “ have an abundance of books and typically for eighth grade, I ask them to read independent books on their own and usually they read it once and then nothing happens—it gets lost under their beds.”

The eighth grade ran a “very successful” book drive for the Little Flower School in Shoreham several years ago, so Ms. Farrell said she knows “Pierson will definitely come through with this.”

Although the focus is on the eighth grade at Roosevelt Middle School, Sag Harbor students have been collecting non-fiction, fiction and picture books for all students in the school, which has students in grades six through eight. “They need really everything,” said Ms. Farrell.

The drive has only been running about three weeks, but Pierson students have seen ample donations from parents and community members since word got out.

Eighth grade students bringing donated books into Pierson. Photo courtesy Christine Farrell.

Eighth grade students bringing donated books into Pierson. Courtesy Christine Farrell.

“We have all this stuff collecting in our house,” Ms. Farrell said, “but you don’t want to throw it out, it’s a book.” Families who may have overdone it on the school supplies shopping this fall can bring any extra items to the school. “Whatever they’re not using can be donated,” she said. They are still working out the logistics of how to transport boxes of heavy books to Louisiana.

Although Pierson students are starting with the book drive, they hope to continue working to support the southern school in various ways throughout the year.

“We want these kids to develop; we’re really working hard on character and empathy and thoughtfulness and really reaching outside yourself,” said Ms. Graves, adding, “I’m so proud of them.”

Ms. Farrell hopes to connect her eighth graders with their southern counterparts more directly by establishing literary pen pals; students would write letters to each other based on the books they’re reading in class.

When Ms. Carlson, the teacher at Roosevelt Middle School, accepted Pierson’s offer to help, Ms. Graves gave her one condition: The Yale graduate will be coming to Sag Harbor to speak with students about getting into a top school from a small town later in the year—and she’ll likely be returning south with plenty of boxes.

If you’d like to donate books or school supplies to the Theodore Roosevelt Middle School, please drop items off at the main office at Pierson Middle/High School, with an attention to detail for Christine Farrell.

Bridgehampton Teachers Urge School Board to Move Forward with Contract

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By Tessa Raebeck 

Twenty Bridgehampton School teachers showed up at the district’s Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, October 22, to prompt administrators to move forward with their contract negotiations.

“We are all here tonight because we as a union are not happy with the negotiation process; it seems to have stalled,” Bridgehampton Teacher’s Association (BTA) President Helen Wolfe told the board. “We have come to tell you that we’re not happy with the process.”

The district is in its second year of negotiations with the teachers’ union. Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre said Tuesday she could not comment on the negotiations because they are ongoing.

Ronnie White, president of the school board, said the board is following the standard procedures under the Taylor Law, the 1967 New York State law that established a government agency to mediate contract disputes, and allows public employees to organize and elect union representatives, while prohibiting them from going on strike.

“We are negotiating, we believe that we will eventually come up with something that makes sense,” Mr. White said Tuesday. “At this point in time, it’s a process, and we believe that that process will see the light at the end of the tunnel at some point, but both sides have been working diligently to come up with something that makes sense.”

“There are definitely some things that are up for negotiation and we’re seeing if we can come to a compromise,” he added.

Although Mr. White said he cannot guarantee that compromise will have been reached by the time next year’s budget is adopted, he said he is “confident and hopeful that we will be if not there, then extremely close.”

For the 2012-13 school year, the first year Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2-percent tax levy limit on school districts and municipalities affected Bridgehampton’s budget, the school’s teachers agreed to a hard freeze on their salaries. The teachers forfeited all raises, including step increases, saving the district about $93,000 and making it possible for the school to meet the state-mandated tax cap.

The board adopted a budget that pierced the tax cap for the 2014-15 school year. It did not get the required 60-percent supermajority on the district’s first try in May, but residents approved the budget in a second vote in June. Several positions were cut, and from 2013-14 to 2014-15, the total increase in salaries for teachers in grades pre-kindergarten through 12 increased by $26,997.

Over the past two years, the district has not replaced a principal, a part-time technology teacher, a business teacher, a guidance director, a head custodian and a main office secretary in order to cut costs and preserve other programs.

New York Ballots Will Include Proposal to Bond $2 Billion for Technology in Schools

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By Tessa Raebeck

At the polls November 4, New Yorkers will vote on whether or not to authorize the state to issue and sell $2 billion in bonds to support statewide technological improvements.

The proposal, the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014, was brought up at the Sag Harbor School District’s Board of Education meeting on Monday, October 20, by board member Tommy John Schiavoni, the school board’s legislative liaison.

If approved, the money raised would be used for various projects related to purchasing educational technology equipment and facilities, such as laptop computers, tablets and high-speed internet; constructing and modernizing facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs and replacing classroom trailers with permanent instructional space; and installing high-tech security features in school buildings.

The measure was proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and backed by members of both parties in the State Legislature, including local representatives Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Senator Kenneth P. LaValle.

Supporters of the proposition argue students belong in classrooms rather than trailers and children are better prepared for modern careers when they learn in a setting that is technologically up-to-date. Opponents, however, say the measure would add to New York’s already substantial debt and that it is impractical for the state to borrow money to fund technology that will soon become obsolete in a rapidly changing industry.

Sag Harbor voters will have the opportunity to answer yes or no to the $2 billion bond in Proposal 3 on the November 4 ballot.

 

Videotaping Pilot

Also at Monday’s meeting, the school board discussed the progress of the six-month pilot program to videotape its meetings for online access.

“I understand that the videotape of the board meeting from September 29 is unavailable,” Noyac resident Elena Loreto said to the board.

Board of Education President Theresa Samot said the video was unable to be posted “due to technical issues.”

“It was all garbled,” explained Superintendent Katy Graves.

“There was a problem with the display and the video itself,” added Chris Tice, vice president of the school board.

School board member Sandi Kruel noted there have been fewer people in the audience at meetings since taping began, which was a concern of the board when the initiative was first considered. She added the district does not have control over LTV, the East Hampton television studio that airs the recordings, and cannot direct when those recordings are posted.

“It’s just kind of out there like we’re trying to hide something and it’s very offensive,” Ms. Kruel said of the missing September 29 video.

“This is a new process for all of us and that’s why we set this up as a pilot and we were very clear about that when we set forth,” added Director of Technology Scott Fisher, who is in charge of the program. “So, we’re trying to work out some of the technical issues associated with it.”

Mr. Fisher said he currently delivers the memory card of the recordings to LTV in person, which can result in delays in how quickly they are available online.

“They do a lot with a really small crew of people,” added Mr. Fisher of the LTV staff.

“The meeting that didn’t go up was a result of the video camera just not focusing,” he said, adding that at the last workshop they filmed the meeting from a different angle.

“It was still a problem but not as obvious, that’s why tonight I’m not using that video camera anymore and we switched to an iPad to see if we’ll have better results…we’re working all this out so I appreciate your patience,” Mr. Fisher continued.

“We proactively ask for your continued positive support even if there are some technical errors…our staff is doing the best we can having these new added responsibilities on their plate,” added Ms. Tice.

Members of the Pierson High School Student Council attended Monday’s meeting to thank the board for its service before School Board Recognition Week, which is October 27 to 31. Council President Colleen Samot, board President Theresa Samot’s daughter, Vice President Zoe Diskin, who is the daughter of board member David Diskin, and Secretary Claire Oppenheimer thanked the board for its “unending commitment, dedication and countless hours [spent] supporting the students of Sag Harbor School District.”

Sag Harbor Schools Defended at Noyac Civic Council Meeting

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By Tessa Raebeck

Members of the Noyac Civic Council expressed a grim outlook for the future Tuesday evening when they gathered in the Old Schoolhouse in Noyac to hear a presentation from Sag Harbor School District administrators.

Some 15 people, including Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming and Sandi Kruel, a member of the school board, heard presentations by Superintendent Katy Graves and School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi on testing results, the Common Core, the district’s financial status and other topics chosen by the council, such as “plans to improve student achievement.”

Ms. Graves and Ms. Buscemi, who are both in their first year with the district, introduced themselves to the group and stressed the strength of Sag Harbor’s students and schools. Those gathered in the room were predominately retired members of the community who do not have children who attend schools in the district.

“My guiding principle is, I do what’s best for children, what’s fair for adults and what the community can sustain,” Ms. Graves told the group, adding that she always has time to speak with all community members. She expressed the need for school administrators to communicate with the many families who are not connected to the district because they do not send their children there, but who pay taxes to the schools and “want to know what the value is.”

Ms. Graves shared figures and charts on Sag Harbor’s performance on mandated state, federal and local tests for students. “Assessment is only one piece, but we have a really shiny piece,” she said.

Despite data, information and personal anecdotes from Ms. Graves and Ms. Buscemi about the district’s financial health, “extraordinary” programs, staff and students, the room appeared unconvinced.

“Katy,” John Arendt, a Noyac resident, said to Ms. Graves, “we love our results here, but let’s fact it, we’re inundated every day with the failure of our education system, so we want to see results.”

“They don’t even teach penmanship anymore,” said Noyac resident Vincent Starace.

Although students still learn how to write, New York State no longer requires cursive instruction.

Other members of the council said teenagers no longer have summer jobs, “can’t write a sentence” by the time they get to college, and raised concerns over drug use, as well as teacher benefits and salaries.

Partners in Print Teaches Sag Harbor Parents How to be Good Teachers

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A mother guides her son through a new book at last year's Partners in Print program. Courtesy Sag Harbor Elementary School.

A mother guides her son through a new book at last year’s Partners in Print program. Courtesy Sag Harbor Elementary School.

By Tessa Raebeck 

Whether your reading consists of scientific journals or one-word road signs, it’s hard to remember when letters were simply abstract shapes in strings of confusing sentences. Through its Partners in Print program, the Sag Harbor Elementary School aims to help parents remember by teaching them how to guide their children through the learning process and effectively supplement what teachers are doing in the classroom.

Aimed for non-reading students in kindergarten and first grade and their parents, the program began in the elementary school 15 years ago. Today, Partners in Print “is kind of like a rite of passage for our kindergarten and first grade parents and kids,” said Sag Harbor Elementary School Assistant Principal Donna Denon.

“The purpose of the program is to acquaint parents with reading behaviors and ways they can support what the teachers are doing in school and what they can do at home when they’re reading with their children,” she added.

At tonight’s introduction for parents only, which starts at 7 p.m., teachers will show parents what it’s like to be a beginning reader, what strategies can be used to figure out print, what kind of books to select for which age levels and what they can expect over the four sessions, which begin next Thursday, October 23, and will run from 6 to 7:15 pm. Each week.

Each night’s session will explore a different topic, with children and parents rotating through three 15-minute sessions, visiting different teachers who lead separate but connected activities. After the short lessons on reading strategies, the students practice what they learned with their parents.

“It’s a really special time for parents and children to be together doing this kind of learning in a place where their kids spend their whole day,” said Ms. Denon.

For more information, call the Sag Harbor Elementary School at (631) 725-5301.