Tag Archive | "health"

Citing Exhausted High Schoolers, Sag Harbor Parents Ask for Later Start Times at Pierson

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Susan LaMontagne addresses the Board of Education Monday, February 10.

Susan Lamontagne addresses the Board of Education Monday, February 10.

By Tessa Raebeck

By 7:25 a.m. when many adults are either still asleep or just getting up, Sag Harbor teenagers are in class, solving math problems, writing chemistry equations, and, some say, struggling to stay awake.

Since the mid-1990s, school districts across the country have taken measures to push back morning start times for high school students, citing research that says early times interfere with the natural circadian rhythms of growing adolescents, who require more sleep than adults and naturally have more energy at night and less in the early morning.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has voiced his support for later start times, posting on his Twitter account in August, “Common sense to improve student achievement that too few have implemented: let teens sleep more, start school later.”

Despite the research and growing public support, however, many school administrators are wary about changing start times due to potentially detrimental effects on student athletes, who practice and play games after school. Administrators also cite the logistical concerns of having enough sunlight for outdoor games and the inherent difficulties of competing against schools with different hourly schedules. Later times would also require transportation schedules to change, an obstacle with undetermined costs.

At the Sag Harbor Board of Education meeting Monday night, several parents showed up to advocate for later start times, present the board with supporting research and offer their help in determining how such a change could be implemented in Sag Harbor.

As it stands, the bell rings for first period at Pierson Middle/High School at 7:25 a.m. The sixth grade eats lunch at 10:17 a.m., seventh and eighth grade students eat at 11 a.m. and high school students eat at 11:43 a.m. The last class ends at 1:49 p.m. and students have academic support, an optional period they can use as a study hall or to get extra help from teachers, until 2:26 p.m., when the academic day ends.

The Sag Harbor Elementary School starts at 8:35 a.m. and gets out at 3:10 p.m.

A parent of two children in the district, Susan Lamontagne founded the Long Island Chapter of Start School Later, a nonprofit coalition of health professionals, sleep scientists, educators, parents, students, and others “working to ensure that all public schools can set hours compatible with health, safety, equity, and learning.”

Addressing the board Monday, Ms. Lamontagne cited sleep research that has found teenagers’ changing hormones make it difficult for them to go to sleep earlier than 11 p.m. and wake up before 8 a.m. Some Pierson students wake as early as 6 a.m. to get ready, catch their bus and get to class in time.

Ms. Lamontagne referenced schools across the country that saw increases in attendance and test scores and decreases in failing grades, depression, sports-related injuries and teen-driving related accidents once later start times were implemented.

At Nauset High School in Massachusetts, after the start time was moved more than an hour later, to 8:35 a.m., the number of days students were suspended for disciplinary reasons decreased from 166 days in the first two months of the 2010-2011 school year to 19 days in the first two months of the 2011-2012 school year.

In 2011, the Glen Falls City School District BOE voted to change the high school start time from 7:45 to 8:26 a.m. effective September 2012. In an interview with PostStar, Principal Mark Stratton stood by the board’s decision, although he admitted some students, particularly those who play sports, were unhappy about getting home from school later.

According to Mr. Stratton, after a year of the later start time, by September 2013 the percentage of students who were late to school dropped by almost 30 percent. The number of students failing courses also decreased, from 13.6 percent to 8.6 percent.

Glens Falls City School District does not provide transportation for its students, removing one obstacle cited by administrators considering earlier school start times.

“We want to offer our help,” Ms. Lamontagne told the board Monday, adding that she and others are willing to walk the administration through the experiences at other districts, the logistics of changing times and “the full body of research.”

“All of the research that I’ve read indicates that there’s only benefit to the students’ health and performance,” replied Chris Tice, the board’s vice president, saying she would like to “at least put it on the table and hear back from the administrators on their thinking that—if that was going to be the will of the board—what would it take to make that happen.”

BOE member Susan Kinsella said, while other districts have lights on their athletic fields, Sag Harbor has no such means of finishing games in the dark.

“We have problems as it is finishing games in the fall,” agreed Todd Gulluscio, the district’s athletic director, adding that Sag Harbor students have longer travel times to and from games than other districts that have implemented later start times.

“For me,” added Mr. Gulluscio, “from an academic standpoint, if the kid’s going to miss something, I’d rather it be academic support than a class.”

Ms. Tice asked Mr. Gulluscio whether the district would be able to play schools that are closer.

He said no, “we can’t control where small schools are in Suffolk County.”

BOE member Sandi Kruel said that with the overwhelming amount of research in support of later start times, “the pendulum’s swinging backwards for us instead of forward.”

“I too have read and understand the research and it makes a lot of sense,” said elementary principal Matt Malone. “But there’s many, many factors that go into it.” He pointed to families who have structured their work schedules around the schools’ current times.

“We have to think about what’s doable,” agreed Pierson Middle-High School principal Jeff Nichols. He said the issue has been “brought up for years here” and it may be realistic to move the start time by 10 minutes or so, but in terms of athletics, the school cannot simply choose to only play schools with the same schedule.

Mr. Nichols said such a change might work with a larger school district, but not one as small as Sag Harbor.

“It would be a challenge,” agreed vice principal Gary Kalish.

Parent Diana Kolhoff said if she had to choose between having bus service and school starting later, she would choose the later time, but Ms. Tice informed her cancelling transportation is not a legal option for the district.

BOE member David Diskin said later start times “obviously” make sense in terms of the benefits.

“My personal transition—having my kids go from elementary school to [high school] time—it’s torture. I mean it’s so early, it’s crazy,” he added.

Board member Mary Anne Miller asked Ms. Lamontagne, “if there’s a roadmap or some sort of a guideline that you could provide the board and the district with so we could keep talking about it, rather than closing the door and saying it’s too difficult, because most things in municipalities have many hurdles and obstacles.”

Ms. Lamontagne proposed the board put together a small group to go through the barriers and provide the board with recommendations.

“I’m comfortable with that,” said Mr. Nichols.

No decision was made and a group was not officially formed, but Ms. Lamontagne committed to continually updating the board.

Contract for Teaching Assistants

Also at Monday’s meeting, the board approved a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Teaching Assistants Association of Sag Harbor, which has been without a contract for three years.

The contract is from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2016. It provides for 0-percent salary increases in the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years, a .5-percent increase in 2012-2013 and again in 2013-2014, and 1-percent increases in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.

Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the district, thanked the negotiating team, calling them “respectful, caring, very clear with their perspective [and] willing to listen to all perspectives.”

The board also granted the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) the right to include the title “Occupational Therapist” within their bargaining unit.

Bridgehampton School Ranks in Top 15 Obese Schools on Long Island

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Bridgehampton School personnel work in the district's new community garden last April, 2013. (Photography by Michael Heller).

Bridgehampton School personnel work in the district’s new community garden last April. (Michael Heller photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

Although rates of childhood obesity in New York are showing signs of dropping, schools across the state are still reporting alarming rates of overweight students.

According to New York State Department of Health (DOH) data, Greenport is the most obese school district on Long Island, with Bridgehampton, Riverhead and Springs not far behind.

Between 2010 and 2012, 17.6 percent of New York public school students (excluding New York City) were considered obese, according to the DOH.

The Student Weight Status Category Reporting System, through which the data was compiled, was established in 2007 to support state and local efforts to understand and confront the problem of childhood obesity.

It requires students in kindergarten and grades 2, 4, 7 and 10 to have a student health certificate completed based on a physical examination, thus the data used in the DOH report only reflects students in those grades. Schools collect the health certificate information and the district then reports a summary to the DOH. The DOH does not receive data on individual children, only summaries of the district total and of students categorized by gender and grade groups, i.e. elementary versus secondary.

Although the appraisals used to collect the student obesity data are mandatory, parents can opt out of having their child’s data included in the school summary report sent to DOH. Approximately two percent of all parents opt out, according to DOH spokesman Dr. Jeffrey Hammond.

The percentages are therefore not definitive comparisons of districts’ obesity rates, noted Bridgehampton School superintendent Dr. Lois Favre.

Bridgehampton School, for example, is reported to have 15 obese children and a rate of 27.3 percent obesity. Both numbers are based on the 56 students in the grades for which data was submitted, not the entire district population.

Although the data is not all encompassing, it is nonetheless alarming.

According to the DOH, obesity is more prevalent among children raised in low-income households. Rates of obesity in New York are significantly higher in school districts in which a higher proportion of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch.

In Bridgehampton, 57 percent of students are on free or reduced price lunch, according to Dr. Favre.

“We work hard at Bridgehampton,” said Dr. Favre, “to assure that all students receive the state mandated amount of time for physical education [and] have daily recess that encourages movement.”

“We were one of the first schools on the South Fork to begin a school garden,” she added, “and pride ourselves on getting healthy foods to our students.”

In Riverhead, 315 students, or 24.7 percent of the sample population, were reported to be obese.

According to Superintendent Nancy Carney, 48 percent of Riverhead students are on free or reduced price lunch.

“With a poverty level of this rate,” said Carney, “families tend to rely on foods that are high in calories and low in cost to satisfy their nutritional needs.”

Riverhead schools offer low calorie meals of high nutritional value and encourage students to participate in the breakfast program, to save parents money and hopefully afford children the opportunity to make healthier food choices.

With 64 obese children in the sample data, Springs has an obesity rate of 22.9 percent.

Principal Eric Casale said although the school does not have its own cafeteria, the district works with parents to monitor students’ nutritional habits and a lunch cart filled with healthy foods is available. Its Springs Seedlings school garden has also been a success.

“Our mission as a district,” Casale said, “is to enrich the intellectual, emotional, social and physical wellbeing of our student body.”

Greenport School District had a reported childhood obesity rate of 33.4 percent.

The DOH rate of childhood obesity is 16.8 percent in East Hampton, 14.7 percent in Southampton and 9.9 percent in Sag Harbor, the lowest district on the East End

Ring in the New Year Right – and at a Discount – During Hamptons Wellness Week

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The organizers of Hamptons Wellness Week enjoy a healthy sunset. (Jenna Raynell photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

While many fitness regimes focus on getting a toned butt, a flat stomach or losing an inordinate amount of pounds in an impossible amount of weeks, Kiley Sabatino and Anastasia Gavalas don’t want to help you simply ‘get thin,’ they want to empower you to change your life.

With New Year’s resolutions still ripe in our minds, many East End residents are striving to be healthier. This Sunday, Hamptons Wellness Week, organized by Sabatino and Gavalas, is offering dozens of heavily discounted fitness classes, lectures and other events to kick start a year of good health.

“It’s touching upon all the important aspects that we want,” said Gavalas of the event. “It’s not just a get-on-a-diet plan, not just a crash course on getting thin. It’s not about that, it’s really a holistic approach to mind, body and soul.”

Gavalas, who lives in Bridgehampton, is a family life teacher and the founder of the Wing It Project, a social arts project that benefits children’s organizations worldwide. After meeting Sabatino, the founder of OneHealthyHamptons.com, they came up with the idea for a full week devoted to the local wellness community.

“We basically looked at each other and said, ‘What can we do?’” said Gavalas.

Anastasia Gavalas with a pupil and the wing she made through the Wing It Project. (Photo provided by Gavalas).

Anastasia Gavalas with a pupil and the wing she made through the Wing It Project. (Photo provided by Gavalas).

“I just think it’s so unique out here,” said Sabatino. “The health and wellness community out here is so amazing, so I wanted to empower it.”

Dozens of local businesses are participating in the event, which kicks off with a sign-up Sunday at Hampton Coffee Company’s Experience Store in Southampton. People who sign up will receive a gift bag (for the first 50) and a program outlining the variety of things they can do during the week.

Participants can pay $25 for three vouchers or $35 for seven. The vouchers are good for classes throughout the East End at a variety of studios, gyms and fitness centers.

From Pilates to CrossFit, there is something for everyone. Men and women, children and seniors, fitness experts or beginners can all find a suitable class, attend a relevant lecture or at the very least, enjoy the pizza party at the week’s end.

“It’s for people that want to try new classes but are hesitant to go in there,” said Sabatino. “They can go with friends, feel more comfortable. People don’t want to spend $40 [on a fitness class]…this allows them to try it for $5.”

Eighteen local fitness centers from Montauk to Hampton Bays are participating, including five yoga studios, Studio 89 in Sag Harbor, Exceed in East Hampton, BodyTech and the Ed & Phyllis Davis Wellness Institute at Southampton Hospital, to name a few.

Hamptons Wellness Week takes ‘health’ a few steps further than working out; it incorporates lectures from life coaches and other wellness experts, as well as fun promotions like facials from White’s Pharmacy in East Hampton and consultations with local nutritionist Tapp Francke.

“By healthy,” said Sabatino, “I really mean balanced. So a good life, not very strict, having fun and taking advantage of the awesome activities and events and parties and everything going on in the community and kind of intertwining it into a balanced, good life.”

Each night, a different local expert will lecture on a topic of their choice, ranging from stress management to life coaching.

“Basically,” said Sabatino, “it’s what experts would like to communicate to the community. They’re all doing it for free and they’re all really excited about it.”

Hamptons Wellness Week co-founder Kiley Sabatino.

Hamptons Wellness Week co-founder Kiley Sabatino. (Jenna Raynell photo).

Gavalas, who has five children ranging in age from seven to 15, will present “Rebalance your Family in 2014” on Tuesday.

The wrap-up party Friday is at Fresh Hamptons, where kids and families can make pizzas with chef Todd Jacobs and cloth wings with Gavalas, as part of the Wing It Project. Cocktails and food tastings follow.

In addition to empowering locals to get healthy, Hamptons Wellness Week aims to give energy to local businesses that are slower this time of year.

“The whole point,” said Sabatino, “is to celebrate health and wellness in this community, to make it available to people who are here all year round.”

“It’s about making really good change — and realistic change — that will guide them throughout the year,” added Gavalas.

Hamptons Wellness Week is January 12 to 17. For more information and a full schedule of offerings, visit hamptonswellnessweek.com.

Creating a Healthier School District from the Top Down

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Bridgehampton teacher Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz begins most days with a plate of eggs and cheese, “usually on top of something buttered.”
Until today, that is.

Carmack-Fayyaz is one of about a dozen members of the Bridgehampton Union Free School District participating in the Winter Wellness Challenge, sponsored and facilitated by the East Hampton based not-for-profit Wellness Foundation.

The Wellness Foundation, founded in 2005 by East Hampton resident Doug Mercer, is dedicated to empowering East End residents to live healthier lives through changes in diet, exercise and lifestyle by providing resources, hosting events like film screenings and lectures, as well as through initiatives like the Winter Wellness Challenge.

At its core, the Winter Wellness Challenge asks participants to engage in a vegan-inspired, whole foods diet, as well as increase exercise for six weeks. During the course of the challenge, groups will meet weekly for lectures on health, wellness, cooking classes and for general support.

This winter’s program has over 80 participants from East Hampton through Southampton, including Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton. The scientifically-based program is free, funded by the Wellness Foundation, which hopes to use the results of the challenge to further their research into the physical benefits of a whole foods, nutrient rich diet.

According to Wellness Foundation Outreach Director Barbara Kinnier, a Sag Harbor resident who will facilitate the wellness challenges in Sag Harbor and in Bridgehampton, blood tests were taken by all participants at the start and end of the challenge. Changes in cholesterol and glucose will be measured, along with each participant’s waistline — another indicator of good health.

Whether or not participants choose to share their results with the rest of the group is up to them, said Kinnier, as the foundation aims to protect privacy while encouraging changes in behavior.

According to Kinnier, the main goal is to educate participants about the benefits of a nutrient dense diet, made up primarily of vegetables and fruits.

“The thing about the body that is amazing is that it wants to heal itself and on the cellular level, the body is in fact healed through these foods,” said Kinnier. “And we make it taste good.”

Organizing a group at Bridgehampton School to join this winter’s challenge was the brainchild of new superintendent Dr. Lois Favre, who was inspired after school nurse Elizabeth Alves showed her the DVD “Processed People,” which the Wellness Foundation screened at the school earlier this month in the evening for community members.

Dr. Favre said in light of the new greenhouse on the school grounds — one that will soon produce salad greens and vegetables for the school’s brand new salad bar station — she felt the Winter Wellness Challenge presented the staff and faculty with an opportunity to set a good example for Bridgehampton School students.

Dr. Favre will take part in the challenge herself, along with about 10 members of the school’s faculty and staff.

“I also thought it might be a great way to get to know my staff in a different capacity, alongside them, getting healthy,” said Dr. Favre.

“I am hoping it builds the capacity for bringing more of what’s good for us into our program of studies for our students, into our cafeteria and ultimately to our families,” added Dr. Favre.

Carmack-Fayyaz said she was thrilled with Dr. Favre’s initiative, adding the program is very much in line with changes at Bridgehampton School — in particular the introduction of landscape design and nutrition classes crafted around an outdoor garden and now a greenhouse, which will be completed in March.

“We started our nutrition and culinary arts class here, and we have been teaching our students the Slow Food philosophy,” said Carmack-Fayyaz. “It was striking because at first a lot of the students had this idea that being a vegan would be a very scary thing, that it was impossible to do, but we assembled some really great vegan salads in our class, and I think they were surprised by it.”

She said she hopes to chart some of the wellness challenge results for student’s to see, in particular how much each participant is logging on the pedometers they will wear throughout the course of the challenge.
“I think the biggest challenge will be re-conceptualizing what a meal is comprised of and giving most of the plate over to the vegetables,” said Carmack-Fayyaz. “I know personally, it is a little scary — the idea of eating essentially a vegan diet for six weeks — but my hope is after the challenge I can cut down my meat consumption to one or two small servings a week and eat a more plant-based diet. I don’t think I will end up staying a full fledged vegan though.”

For Dr. Favre, fitting exercise into her busy schedule will be the biggest challenge, although she noted she will have the support of some staff members who aren’t even participating in the nutrition aspect of the program, but are committed to walking each day.

“I am hoping for renewed energy as is promised, and also gratifying will be the congeniality that will be built with staff around issues of taking care of ourselves, while we look after and inspire our students,” said Dr. Favre.
That is not to say the thought of cheesy pizza and a good hamburger will not haunt the superintendent as she embarks on this dietary challenge, although Dr. Favre said she was hopeful she would find new favorite foods in her vegan diet.

“I know that right now tofu is not on my hit parade,” she said. “But ask me later and I will share my new favorites.”