Tag Archive | "education"

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.

Bridgehampton School Board Feeling Better Now That Budget Has Passed

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BHSchoolStockImage

By Tessa Raebeck

The mood was considerably lighter at the monthly meeting of the Bridgehampton School Board on Wednesday, June 18. After months of worry over piercing the state-imposed tax cap, there was relief the day after the community approved the district’s $12.3 million 2014-15 budget on the second try.

“It’s been a great year overall,” said Dr. Lois Favre, who is completing her first year acting as both principal and superintendent for the district. “Despite our budget fight, it’s been a great year. I think it’s a good feel in the building, morale is good.”

The budget, which pierces the state-mandated tax cap by 8.8-percent, failed to gain the required 60-percent supermajority in the first communitywide vote on May 20. After a grassroots get-out-the-vote effort by the board, administrators and other supporters, it passed with 62 percent June 17.

Lillian Tyree-Johnson, a member of the school board, extended her compliments to Dr. Favre, business administrator Robert Hauser, and district clerk Tammy Cavanaugh at last Wednesday’s meeting.

“During this revote process,” she said, “it’s been really grueling and you guys have handled it with incredible grace. It was really a tough time and I commend you all for absolutely answering questions with ease.”

“The transparency is impeccable as well,” added Ronald White, president of the school board. “Any question that you guys were ever given, you guys were able to answer it. It was clear and people totally understood, I understood it.”

Also at the meeting, Mr. Hauser updated the board on facilities improvements around the Bridgehampton campus. The bulk of capital projects take place over the summer, so as not to interfere with instructional time.

New equipment for the playground has been ordered and the renovation should be completed by August 15, several weeks before the start of school.

A Bridgehampton resident donated a playhouse to the school that board members are quite impressed by.

“I was actually thinking about moving my office in there,” Mr. Hauser joked.

Sag Harbor School District’s Athletic Director and School Business Administrator to Resign

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Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio, School Board member Sandi Kruel, Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and School Business Administrator John O'Keefe celebrate the approval of the capital projects bond in November 2013. Photo by Michael Heller.

Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio, school board member Sandi Kruel, Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and School Business Administrator John O’Keefe celebrate the approval of the capital projects bond in November 2013. Todd Gulluscio and John O’Keefe are resigning from the district Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

According to the agenda for the Sag Harbor Board of Education meeting Tuesday, June 24, the board will accept the resignations of School Business Administrator John O’Keefe and Todd Gulluscio, Director of Athletics, Physical Education, Health, Wellness, and Personnel.

Mr. Gulluscio’s resignation was confirmed several weeks ago, but Mr. O’Keefe’s came as a surprise when the agenda was posted on the district’s website. The business administrator has been in Sag Harbor since 2012. Prior to joining the district, he was the Chief Financial and Operations Officer for the Cleary School for the Deaf in Nesconset for three years.

Once accepted, Mr. O’Keefe’s resignation will be effective July 16. Mr. Gulluscio’s term ends June 30.

The resignations come at a time when the district is already doing a lot of interviewing and hiring, as seven longtime teachers and staff members are retiring. Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso is also leaving his position, although he is set to be appointed as temporary assistant to the 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, pending board approval Tuesday.

Update: In Second Vote Attempt, Bridgehampton School Budget Passes

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District Treasurer Laura Spillane and District Clerk Tammy Cavanaugh celebrate after the passage of the Bridgehampton School budget vote on Tuesday, June 17. Photo by Michael Heller.

District Treasurer Laura Spillane and District Clerk Tammy Cavanaugh celebrate after the passage of the Bridgehampton School budget vote as school board member Jennifer Vinski looks on on Tuesday, June 17. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Bridgehampton voters approved a $12.3 million budget that pierces a state-mandated tax cap on the second try on Tuesday, June 17.

Out of 385 voters casting ballots, 240 voted yes and 145 said no, giving the budget 62-percent approval, just above the 60-percent supermajority required to pierce the state-mandated tax cap.

The budget requires a $10.6 million tax levy, an 8.8-percent increase over the 2013-14 budget. It amounts to an increase of about $56 for the year on the tax bill of a house valued at $500,000, district officials said.

In the district’s first budget vote on May 20, a total of 247 voters turned out. Of those, 54 percent, or 134 voters, said yes to the budget and 113 said no.

School board members, parents and community supporters responded to the defeat with a grassroots, get-out-the-vote campaign to ensure there were more ballots to count in the second go-round. With a turnout increase of 138 and double the supporters in attendance as the results were read, it appeared they had succeeded.

Those students, parents and administrators gathered in the Bridgehampton School gymnasium Tuesday night to hear the results of their second and final attempt seemed to let out a collective sigh of relief as the tally was read.

“We are thrilled,” said Lillian Tyree-Johnson, a lifelong Bridgehampton resident and school board member, who said she had gotten little sleep in the weeks in between the votes, as she lay in bed wondering what they would do should more cuts need to be made.

If the budget had failed a second time, the district would have been forced to adopt a 0-percent tax levy increase and craft a new plan with some $800,000 less in spending than the one proposed.

Contractual obligations account for the majority of the budget’s increased costs. An increase of $332,000 in the cost of medical insurance for employees alone put the district’s levy increase over the tax cap.

Elizabeth Kotz and Melanie LaPointe count absentee ballots following the Bridgehampton School budget vote in the school's gymnasium on Tuesday, June 17. Photo by Michael Heller.

Elizabeth Kotz and Melanie LaPointe count absentee ballots following the Bridgehampton School budget vote in the school’s gymnasium on Tuesday, June 17. Photo by Michael Heller.

“It’s good that they didn’t have to go through that struggle of trying to figure out how to make the cuts that they would have had to face,” said Elizabeth Kotz, who served on the board this year when the budget was crafted but did not seek another term. “It would have been just terrible.” Ms. Kotz is the wife of Sag Harbor Express managing editor Stephen J. Kotz.

“We have some work to do in the very near future to begin strategizing on new and innovative ways to communicate to naysayers about how wonderful their school is,” Ronald White, president of the school board, said Wednesday. “We appreciate the super majority, as their answer was clear to pierce.”

“The current board has worked very diligently to cut costs and provide savings to our district,” he added.

After the results were read Tuesday, school board member Jennifer Vinski accounted the success to “the community at large that really kind of realized that this was serious business. There’s too much to lose.”

“We are grateful to the Bridgehampton community for their support on the second vote,” Dr. Lois Favre, superintendent/principal for the district, said in an email Wednesday, June 18. “We thank everyone who took the time to vote, and we look forward to continuing our good work on behalf of the students of Bridgehampton School, confident that we can continue to move forward with our goals for continual improvement.”

Pierson and the Ross School Win Big at the 12th Annual Teeny Awards

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Pierson High School students rehearse the final dance number of "A Chorus Line" in the high school auditorium January 26. Photo by Michael Heller.

Pierson High School students rehearse the final dance number of “A Chorus Line” in the high school auditorium January 26. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Up against 15 other competing high schools, Pierson High School and the Ross School took home 10 awards between them at the 12th Annual Teeny Awards ceremony at Longwood High School Sunday, June 8.

Hosted by East End Arts, the Teeny Awards recognize exceptional acting, directing and technical work in the theatre productions at local high schools. The 2013-2014 awards saw the entry of over 30 dramas, comedies and musicals, with more than 1,000 students involved in the casts, crews, pit and production teams.

“Whatever position you hold in a theatrical production–it is of the utmost importance,”  Teeny Awards Coordinator Anita Boyer said in a press release Sunday. “Each member of the troupe relies on the others in order to pull off a show and being a part of it is such a unique and incredible experience.”

 

Pierson High School

Before a crowd of past Teeny Award winners, theatre owners, local politicians and other distinguished guests, Pierson students performed the number “What I Did for Love” from “A Chorus Line,” warming up for what would be a long night of shaking hands and grabbing trophies.

Pierson took home one of the biggest awards of the night, winning “Best Ensemble” for its production of “A Chorus Line.”

The technical end of “A Chorus Line” was also featured in a heavy showing during the awards. Shelley Matthers was recognized for her role as stage manager and Shane Hennessy took home a technical design recognition award for his role in lighting design for ”A Chorus Line,” as well as Pierson’s other productions “A Murderer Among Us” and “The Fantasticks.”

Emily Selyukova was also recognized for technical design for her work as set designer and student director for “The Fantasticks.”

Emily and the entire cast of “The Fantasticks” took a Judges’ Choice Award home to Sag Harbor for their work as a student run and directed production.

The Lead Actress in a Drama award went to Rebecca Dwoskin of Pierson for her performance as Olga Buckley Lodge in “A Murderer Among Us.”

 

The Ross School

The Ross School also had a strong showing. Joannis “Yanni” Giannakopoulos was named best supporting actor in a drama for his performance as Scotty in “Median.”

Ross also earned best supporting actress in a drama, with Amili Targownik winning the award for her solo showing in “The One-and-a-Half-Year Silent Girl.”

The supporting actress in a comedy award resulted in a surprising tie, but the twist simply gave Ross School two awards instead of one; For their performances in “The Grand Scheme,” Daniela Herman, who played Bethel, and Naomi Tankel, who played Clarice, were honored.

Inga Cordts-Gorcoff was awarded a prize for her role as stage manager for “One Acts” at Ross.

Sag Harbor School Board Honors Retirees, Grants Tenure

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Retiree Bethany Deyermond is congratulated by school board member Mary Anne Miller while board vice president Chris Tice, president Theresa Samot, interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and board member David Diskin look on at the board of education meeting Monday, June 9.

Retiree Bethany Deyermond is congratulated by school board member Mary Anne Miller while board vice president Chris Tice, president Theresa Samot, interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and board member David Diskin look on at the board of education meeting Monday, June 9. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

At what many members of the Sag Harbor School Board call their favorite meeting of the year, the district recognized the contributions of seven retirees and granted tenure to five teachers Monday.

The retirees, interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso joked, have been in the district for some 20 to 200 years each.

“I’m speaking as a colleague of theirs, somebody who started in the school when all of them had already established careers,” Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone, who started as a teacher at the school, said of his teachers before a crowd of friends and family gathered in the Pierson library.

“From the minute I walked into the building, I could always look to these four ladies for guidance and support and for setting the benchmark of professionalism,” he added.

Art teacher Laurie Devito, Mr. Malone said, has worked for 31 years to “ensure that art has been an integral part of our school and the educational experience for all the boys and girls. When you enter our school, art is truly alive.”

Mr. Malone spoke of the commitment shown by third grade elementary school teacher Bethany Deyermond, who has been in the district for 29 years, to promoting the growth and success of her students.

“All the boys and girls who have had the good fortune to work with her have truly benefited from that experience,” he added.

Those who have been “lucky enough” to work with Nancy Stevens-Smith, the elementary school’s Response to Intervention (RTI) specialist, during her 33 years at the school have learned much under her direction, Mr. Malone said.

“Each year, Nancy guided her students, our school and our entire community to become more aware of the tremendous contributions of African-Americans throughout history and for that we are grateful,” Mr. Malone said.

School board member Sandi Kruel thanked all the retirees, saying she is privileged and honored they have all worked with at least one of her three sons.

When asked what he was grateful for on a school assignment, “my son was grateful for Martin Luther King because if it wasn’t for him, he wouldn’t have been able to have Ms. Stevens as a teacher,” Ms. Kruel added.

Retiree Nancy Remkus has served the district for 31 years, filling multiple roles as a classroom teacher, special education teacher and music teacher.

“The institution that we all call Morning Program started with Nancy’s encouragement and triumphed due to her talents and care,” Mr. Malone said. “Our school is going to continue starting each day with a song and we thank Nancy for that.”

Spanish teacher Rafaela Soto Messinger is also retiring from the elementary school, although she was not in attendance Monday.

Director of Pupil Personnel Services Barbara Bekermus honored longtime staff member Laurie Duran, senior clerk typist for the district.

“When I was going to take this job,” Ms. Bekermus said of her position. “I thought, well, at least I have Laurie to teach me this job and show me the ropes.”

“The directors came, they went, and the only constant has always been Laurie—and every director has relied on you to steer the ship and show them the way. I’m grateful that I had my first year with Laurie, because I could not have done it without you,” she added.

A special education teacher for 33 years, Peggy Mott has “worked with some of our most challenging students, not only academically, but emotionally,” Ms. Bekermus said, adding that Ms. Mott advocates for her students and many of them told Ms. Bekermus they never would have taken challenging courses, graduated and mapped out careers without the guidance of Ms. Mott.

Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols celebrated his friend and longtime colleague Douglas Doerr, a science teacher.

“The pride with which he approaches his position here at Pierson is the same pride and commitment that he shows with regard to his own kids and as a single father, I’ve watched his kids grow up and turn into wonderful, wonderful people,” Mr. Nichols said.

Also at Monday’s meeting, five teachers were nominated and unanimously approved for tenure. Teachers can be nominated for tenure after they’ve served three years in the district.

“The board treats—all of us treat—tenure very, very seriously,” Dr. Bonuso said. “It’s not something that we automatically dole out. We know how important the teaching act is.”

For grades seven through 12, Anthony Chase Mallia was awarded tenure for mathematics, Richard Schumacher for chemistry and Kelly Shaffer for French. Elizabeth Marchisella earned tenure for Visual Arts and school counselor Adam Mingione was granted tenure in his field.

“This is one of the many fun things we get to do as a board and we have many very talented staff throughout our buildings,” said Chris Tice, school board vice president.

“To me,” said Dr. Bonuso, “I think teaching is the most noble of all professions, so to have the ability to say thank you to people who have devoted their life to that is an honor.”

Second Budget Vote for the Bridgehampton School District is Tuesday, June 17

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By Tessa Raebeck

After its first budget vote failed to garner the 60 percent supermajority needed to pierce the state-mandated cap on property tax levy, the Bridgehampton School District has decided to bring an identical budget back to the public for a second vote on Tuesday, June 17, this time hoping to earn the support needed to keep the school’s programs and personnel in staff.

The Bridgehampton School Board has proposed a $12.3 million budget.

Administrators say the budget, which pierces the cap with a levy increase of $1.1 million, is necessary to keep the school strong and special. It fell short of a supermajority by 36 votes in the first vote May 20.

The vote is from 2 to 8 p.m. in the school gymnasium. If the budget fails to pass a second time, the district will have to draft a new budget with a 0-percent tax levy increase, requiring an additional $800,500 in spending cuts.

Those cuts, school board member Lillian Tyree-Johnson said, would be “devastating” to the district.

Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island Discovers History While Making It

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Students from the University of Minnesota look for artifacts during an archaeological dig at the Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island in June. Photo courtesy Sylvester Manor.

Students from the University of Minnesota look for artifacts during an archaeological dig at the Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island in June. Photo courtesy Sylvester Manor.

By Tessa Raebeck

“When I was growing up, Sylvester Manor was like a mystery to me,” Glenn Waddington said as he drove his truck through the manor grounds, passing by farms and field trips, stopping to reflect at a slave burial ground, eat a few snap peas with vegetable grower Mary Hillemeier and check in with a team of archaeology students digging through native American and Colonial artifacts in the garden.

As a kid, Mr. Waddington played on the outskirts of the plantation, then a private estate. Today, he serves on its board of directors and is witnessing a historic change of hand, as nearly all of the property is transferred from the family that’s owned the manor for 14 generations to the non-profit organization, Sylvester Manor Educational Farm.

Glenn Waddington in front of the new barn, currently being built by Pennsylvania mennonites, which will provide more space for the growing farms at Sylvester Manor Friday, June 6. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Glenn Waddington in front of the new barn, currently being built by Pennsylvania mennonites, which will provide more space for the growing farms at Sylvester Manor Friday, June 6. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

The first transfers occurred in 2012 and will be completed this summer. It is the vision of founder and special projects advisor Bennett Konesni, who convinced his uncle, Eben Fiske Ostby, the 14th Lord of the Manor according to tradition and now president of the new non-profit’s board of directors, to use the land as an educational farm.

That new use has many facets.

Farm manager Julia Trunzo and Ms. Hillemeier are leading a group of apprentices and WWOOFers, young people who are placed as volunteers on organic farms through the American branch of World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, in the season’s first harvest this week. The farm at Sylvester Manor sustains a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, a farmstand and supplies local restaurants with produce.

In addition to feeding the residents of Shelter Island, the educational farm also aims to entertain them. Ron Ickes and Trey Hensley are playing back-to-back bluegrass house concerts this Saturday, June 14. The theatre program, with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” opening July 19, is thriving under the direction of Samara Levenstein, who brought summer Shakespeare to Sylvester Manor several years ago.

With the events ongoing and the hustle and bustle of farm life a constant, Sylvester Manor keeps itself busy with its day-to-day operations.

But then, of course, there is the history.

Kat Hayes, who has done past archaeological digs at the manor and has written several publications on the site’s deep anthropological history, returned this summer for a field study project with a team of students from the University of Minnesota.

“This is a very, very rich site, there’s a lot of material,” Ms. Hayes said Friday, adding that her crew is finding multiple artifacts daily.

Professor and Anthropologist Kat Hayes is leading a group of University of Minnesota students in an archaeological dig at Sylvester Manor. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Professor and Anthropologist Kat Hayes is leading a group of University of Minnesota students in an archaeological dig at Sylvester Manor. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

The archaeologists are digging through the site that has been the plantation’s garden since Nathaniel Sylvester first purchased it in 1651. Two small pits at the outskirts of a 2 by 2 meter unit have already yielded eight bags of artifacts.

Whereas in other corners of the garden digs have only garnered a single bag, in this particular spot the artifacts are plentiful, offering glimpses of insight into the land’s memories. The team has found metals such as nails and hinges, glass from bottles, lots of animal bone, primarily from domestic livestock, brick, mortar and other destruction debris from when the original plantation structures were demolished, and much more.

“These are ceramics,” Ms. Hayes said, holding up a bag. “I like this one in particular, because it’s dull, but it’s got this apple green glaze that’s pretty typical of Dutch ceramics.”

The first lord of the manor, Nathaniel Sylvester, grew up in Amsterdam. He, his brother and two other partners bought the island in 1651 to use as a provisioning plantation because they had two sugar plantations in Barbados and needed supplies.

“They didn’t spend a whole lot of time raising food in Barbados because the sugar was worth much more,” Ms. Hayes said. “So, this was supposed to be the place that provisioned meat, crops — orchard crops and grain crops — any other kinds of stuff that they would import and then ship down to Barbados.”

It operated in that fashion for some time, with Nathaniel and his wife the only partners who actually lived on the plantation.

“We know from his will that he claimed to own 23 people as his enslaved labor force,” Ms. Hayes said of Nathaniel. “But, one of the things that we discovered when we were digging here is the degree of native involvement in the plantation.”

She estimates some of the finds date back to the native Manhasset from up to 1500 to 2000 years ago, but others were made and discarded in the garden right alongside colonial Dutch ceramics.

“There’s an awful lot of material from right within the plantation context, those same deposits that’s traditional native pottery making, stone tool making and they were making wampum,” she added.

A University of Minnesota student sifts through the dirt in the garden at Sylvester Manor Friday. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

A University of Minnesota student sifts through the dirt in the garden at Sylvester Manor Friday. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Finding wampum gives Ms. Hayes an idea of why Nathaniel’s native labor force was undocumented in archival records.

“It may have been kind of a personal sideline for Nathaniel,” she said, “to have this extra source of income without having to tell his partners that it was happening. That’s just my guess. It’s one of those things that only shows up in the archaeology and not in the historical records.”

The archaeology, yielding everything from pottery to clothespins to animal bones, allows the history to go beyond the books, showing hidden elements like what people were eating and what kind of clothes they wore.

Ms. Hayes and her team have also done ground penetrating radar surveys in the “Burial Ground for Colored People of the Manor,” a slave burial ground dating from the 17th century. With upwards of 200 unnamed bodies, the eerie graveyard is near the entrance to the grounds, marked only by a plaque and dilapidated fence.

In the surveys, an antenna, pulled across the ground, emits radar waves into the subsoil, reflecting those waves back up to be interpreted.

“It gives you a profile picture of what’s underground,” Ms. Hayes said, adding, “It’s something that is really valuable, especially when you’re working in a burial ground…it’s a good middle ground of learning what’s there without disturbing it.”

Vegetable Grower Mary Hillemeier on the farm at Sylvester Manor Friday, June 6. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Vegetable Grower Mary Hillemeier on the farm at Sylvester Manor Friday, June 6. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Students from Laurie DeVito's 4th grade art class at Sag Harbor Elementary School tour the farm during a field trip to Sylvester Manor Friday, June 6. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Students from Laurie DeVito’s 4th grade art class at Sag Harbor Elementary School tour the farm during a field trip to Sylvester Manor Friday, June 6. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Bridgehampton School Ranked as One of the Country’s Best High Schools by U.S. News & World Report

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Bridgehampton School students Aries Cooks and Tyler Stephens worked with teachers Jessica Rodgers and Joyce Raimondo to complete a mural in the school's cafeteria last June. Photo by Michael Heller.

Bridgehampton School students Aries Cooks and Tyler Stephens worked with teachers Jessica Rodgers and Joyce Raimondo to complete a mural in the school’s cafeteria last June. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Bridgehampton School has earned a spot on the annual ranking of the Best High Schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Out of 19,411 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia, Bridgehampton was awarded a bronze medal, securing its spot on the list. Schools were eligible for the rankings if they had sufficient data and enrollment, which resulted in about two-thirds of the nation’s schools being judged.

They were assessed in a three-step process that took into account: performance on state tests compared to state averages and factoring in economically disadvantaged students; whether the school’s least-advantaged students—black, Hispanic and low-income—were performing better than average than similar students across the state; and college-readiness performance using data from Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) tests (not available for Bridgehampton).

The total minority enrollment at Bridgehampton School is 67 percent.

The school scored a math proficiency of 3.2 and an English proficiency of 3.6. By comparison, the number one high school in the country, the School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas, Texas, scored 3.8 in geometry proficiency and 3.6 in reading proficiency.

With 31 teachers and 159 students in pre-K through 12th grade, Bridgehampton has one of the lowest student/teacher ratios, 5:1. The ratio at Pierson Middle-High School in Sag Harbor is 9:1, East Hampton and Southampton both have a 10:1 ratio and Hampton Bays’ ratio is 14:1.

The only other East End school district to be awarded a medal and spot on the list is Greenport, which earned Silver. The district’s numbered ranking, available for Gold and Silver award-winners but not Bronze, is 121 in New York State and 1,525 in the country.

The complete list of the 2014 Best High Schools is at usnews.com/education/best-high-schools.