Tag Archive | "New York State"

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.”

Pierson Students Lobby for CPR to be Taught in New York Schools

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Pierson students Emma Romeo, Arlena Burns, Joseph Carlozzi and Alex Toscano and their health teacher Sue Denis met with Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. in his Albany office June 3.

Pierson students Emma Romeo, Arlena Burns, Joseph Carlozzi and Alex Toscano and their health teacher Sue Denis met with Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. in his Albany office June 3. Also pictured are Barbara and John Schmidt, who attended the event in memory of their 14-year-old grandson, Ronan Guyer, who tragically passed away after suffering a heart attack during a practice for a state cross country championship in November, 2012. Photo courtesy Assemblyman Thiele’s office.

By Tessa Raebeck

Madison McCarthy was just 5 years old when she went into sudden cardiac arrest in her kindergarten classroom in upstate New York. The principal of her school held Madison in his arms for 18 minutes waiting for help No one checked her breathing, no one performed CPR and Madison died waiting for help.

Pierson Middle-High School Health teacher Sue Denis and her student CPR instructors, backed by the American Heart Association and supporters like Madison’s mother, Suzy McCarthy, are now lobbying state politicians to ensure tragedies like Madison’s don’t happen again.

Having taught CPR at Pierson for 20 years this spring, Ms. Denis has instructed  hundreds of students—who have saved  16 to 18 lives—to be instructors, but at schools across the state, CPR programs are neither mandated nor funded.

Sue Denis's first CPR class at Pierson in the spring of 1994.

Sue Denis’s first CPR class at Pierson in the spring of 1994. Photo courtesy Sue Denis.

That could change very soon. After years of teachers, survivors and mourning relatives asking legislators to back a bill to require kids in New York to learn CPR before graduating high school, a bill passed the state Senate last week and the state Assembly on Tuesday, June 17. It is now waiting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature. If the governor signs the bill, it will then go for final approval to Commissioner John King and the Board of Regents, who will be responsible for whether CPR training is actually implemented into educational curriculums statewide.

“One step at a time,” Ms. Denis said Wednesday, June 18.

The American Heart Association says the requirement could help to save thousands of lives across the state each year. Nationwide, according to the AHA, approximately 424,000 people have cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year—and only about 10 percent survive.

The survival rate fluctuates between 2 and 10 percent across New York State, Ms. Denis said, adding that in the 16 states where CPR certification is mandated for high school students, that survival rate can be as high as 50 percent.

A cardiac arrest can be brought on by 14 different causes, including drowning, getting hit in the heart, smoke inhalation, loss of blood and heart attacks, the latter which occur about every 30 seconds in the United States.

“There’s just so much in our diet and the way Americans live these days is just so unhealthy, that it’s a common occurrence to have a heart attack,” Pierson senior Caleb Atkinson-Barnes  said while in Ms. Denis’s CPR instructor class Friday, June 13. “You could be anywhere and a person could go down—and knowing CPR will save that person’s life.”

Sue Denis's elective class of 10th, 11th and 12th grade CPR instructors at Pierson Friday, June 13.

Sue Denis and her elective class of 10th, 11th and 12th grade CPR instructors at Pierson Friday, June 13. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Ms. Denis and four of her Pierson students—Arlena Burns, Joe Carlozzi, Emma Romeo and Alex Toscano—traveled to Albany Tuesday, June 3, to ask for the bill’s passage. They heard from Ms. McCarthy, Madison’s mom, and other families who lost loved ones who could have been saved had someone started CPR earlier.

Alex Toscano, a senior at Pierson and a CPR instructor, told state lawmakers that Ms. Denis has been teaching CPR since before she was born and that she cannot understand why every school doesn’t teach the life-saving skill.

Teaching students to save lives seems like a political no-brainer, but legislators have stalled bills in the past because they are hesitant to put another unfunded state mandate on New York’s already fiscally tight school districts.

“You would rather not support the bill then—God forbid, you’re ever in that situation where you need someone’s help—there’s less people around that know what to do?” Pierson senior and CPR instructor Emma Romeo said of the politicians in class Friday, prior to the bill’s passage. “Because I know if I was in that situation, I would want as many people around to help as possible.”

“You’re going to feel safer in any situation,” added classmate Sheila Mackey. “The fact that most of the teachers in our school don’t know CPR or in other schools don’t know CPR—I’m just surprised the bill hasn’t been passed, it’s a chance to save lives, why wouldn’t they go for it?”

Ms. Denis started at Pierson in the fall of 1993 and had convinced the administration to let her teach CPR by the spring of that school year. Her first graduates in 1994 are now among hundreds of students she has taught, “thousands probably,” she said.

“I’ve been so lucky here at Pierson and fortunate that I’ve always had the support of the whole administration—the principals, the superintendent and the board,” said Ms. Denis.

To her knowledge, about 30 of her students have performed CPR and 16 to 18 lives have been saved.

While working at the Bridgehampton Club, Ms. Romeo saved a little boy who was choking on a Goldfish cracker by performing the Heimlich maneuver.

Ms. Denis’s former student, Rich Simmons, now a fireman in the village, years ago performed CPR on a 65-year-old man whose boat capsized in Sag Harbor. He saved his life.

In September, Erick Saldivar, another former student of Ms. Denis, saved his aunt’s life when she went into respiratory arrest.

“She started seizing and I thought back to Ms. Denis’s class about what to do,” Mr. Saldivar told the Sag Harbor Express last October.

“You obviously are going to feel more confident in that situation knowing that you’ve been taught by someone who knows it so well like Ms. Denis, so you know exactly what to do,” Ms. Toscano said.

“What we always tell the kids,” said Ms. Denis, “is you’re never going to do CPR when it’s a nice, comfortable, relaxed environment. You’re going to do it in a really stressful, critical situation.”

“It’s a scary thing,” added student-instructor Zach Depetris. “It’s not something that you’re going to be able to do no matter what; it’s a life or death situation.”

Speaking of those who have died from cardiac arrests who were not aided by CPR, Ms. Mackey said, “They were just normal kids. They just went into cardiac arrest, just no one knew how to help them or what to do.”

“Our kids,” Ms. Denis said, “have shown again and again that they’re willing to step up to the plate and do it.”

Hope for “Zone Pricing” Law to Lower East End Gas Prices

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The New York State Assembly Committee on Economic Development has approved legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. that strengthens New York State’s Gasoline Zone Pricing Law originally enacted in 2008.

“This legislation would end the unfair practice of ‘Big Oil’ companies establishing arbitrary prices for gasoline based upon geographical location without regard to cost,” Mr. Thiele said in a press release. Historically, big oil companies have charged higher prices on the South Fork as well as other areas such as Westchester County without regard to cost. The law passed in 2008 was a first step to reduce the differential in gas prices based on geography. However, the State Attorney General’s Office has requested amendments to permit him to more vigorously enforce the law.”

Mr. Thiele said he hoped for a vote on the legislation in the full Assembly by the end of June. The Assembly passed the bill in 2012, but it failed to pass the Senate. The bill is now sponsored in the Senate by State Senator Ken LaValle.

New York Legislators Call For Two-Year Delay on DEC Plan to Eradicate State’s Mute Swan Population

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Mute swans at the East Hampton Nature Trail on February 17. Michael Heller photo.

Mute swans at the East Hampton Nature Trail on February 17. Michael Heller photo.

By Tessa Raebeck

New York officials have introduced legislation that would impose a two-year delay on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s plan to eradicate the state’s mute swan population by 2025.

Co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor, the bill would halt the DEC plan, which was introduced in December, and require the DEC to illustrate the “actual damage” the mute swan population causes to the environment or other species before exterminating the birds altogether.

“Wildlife experts, rehabilitators and environmentalists do not unanimously agree that exterminating the mute swan population is justified,” Mr. Thiele said in a statement. “In addition, there is debate amongst such experts about whether the planned eradication of the mute swan population is even minimally beneficial to the ecosystem or to our environment. Therefore, it is incumbent on the [DEC] to illustrate the necessity of eradicating this non-native species by demonstrating the actual damage to the environment or other species caused by mute swans.”

Mute swans are a species of swan named “mute” because they are less vocal than other swans. Native to Europe and Asia, they were brought to North America in the late 1870s due largely to their aesthetic appeal. Initially introduced in New York as ornaments on the estates of the lower Hudson Valley and Long Island, mute swans were present in the wild by the turn of the 20th century.

According to the DEC, the mute swan population had increased to about 2,000 statewide by 1993, peaked around 2,800 in 2002 and is now estimated at about 2,200, most heavily concentrated on Long Island and in the lower Hudson Valley.

A mute swan in East Hampton. Zachary Persico photo.

A mute swan in East Hampton. Zachary Persico photo.

“On the East End of Long Island, the mute swan is often visible in local ponds and waterways,” stated Mr. Thiele. “My office has not received one report in all my years in office that the mute swan is a nuisance or an environmental problem.”

The DEC says the non-native species causes a variety of environmental problems, “including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation, displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality and potential hazards to aviation.”

Although opposed to the DEC plan, local ecologist Tyler Armstrong said there are ecological benefits to reducing the population. “It would help rare native waterfowl, as mute swans defend large nesting territories and exclude other birds from nesting, as well as competing with native birds for aquatic vegetation, like eelgrass,” he said.

The DEC has conducted “mute swan control activities” since 1993, but not to the extent permitted by the new management plan, which will include shooting free-ranging swans on public lands and private lands (with owner consent) and live capture and euthanasia.

North Haven resident Richard Gambino, professor emeritus at Queens College, said the DEC’s reasons for exterminating the swans are scientifically flawed.

“Everything affects the environment. The question is, do we have a sufficient reason, a necessary reason to kill them off, to exterminate them—and I don’t think we have one here,” he said, calling the plan “extreme.” The aggression shown by swans is evident in all mammals when they feel threatened and it’s arbitrary to call a species “alien” when it has been present for over 130 years, he added.

“If you’ve got a system such as nature—which is the most extreme system, with countless variables changing just about every second—we’re very limited in our ability to predict it,” he said, referring to the chaos theory.

Comments can be sent to the DEC by email to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us with “Swan Plan” in the subject line by February 21.

The Great Prom Debate Heats Up in Sag Harbor; School Board Considers Veterans Tax Exemptions

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Pierson Middle/High School

Pierson Middle/High School

By Tessa Raebeck

The Prom

The debate continues at Pierson High School, as students and administrators dispute the balance between autonomy and security at the prom.

At the Board of Education meeting February 10, Pierson Middle-High School Principal Jeff Nichols stood by a recommendation made by the school’s Shared Decision Making Committee to require students who want to attend the prom—predominantly 17 and 18-year-old seniors—to take school-sponsored coach buses to the event and be subjected to a search conducted by an outside security firm before being allowed on the bus, as a means of curbing drug and alcohol use at the event.

The details of the plan and the specific parameters of the search, which Mr. Nichols called “more thorough” than those conducted by himself and other school officials in the past, have not yet been determined.

Various groups from the school community form the shared decision committee: parents, staff members, administrators, community members and students. According to Mr. Nichols, the adult SDM members supported the recommendation, but the two student representatives “were not enamored with that process.”

Mr. Nichols said he discussed four options at an assembly with the entire senior class.

The first option is to leave everything it has been; students would be free to take limos, drive themselves or even get a ride from a parent and be subject to the administrators’ security protocol. The second is the proposed plan to put students on coaches after being searched by an outside firm. The third option would allow students to rent “party buses” (a chauffeured vehicle furnished like a limousine but larger in size, although not as large as a school bus) but require each of those party buses to have school-sponsored security on board.  Under the fourth and final option, students would be free to choose their own transportation to the prom, but prior to entering the actual dance (the school-sponsored portion of the event) they would be subjected to a search process administered by an outside firm.

A final decision has not been made, but Mr. Nichols, board vice president Chris Tice and Dr. Carl Bonuso, the district’s interim superintendent, expressed their agreement with the SDM recommendation.

“You can set a lot of trap doors, buses and that, but at the end of the day, my biggest concern is sometimes when you deny too much, the kids want to get over that fence even more,” David Diskin, a board member, said at the meeting.

The six members of the senior class in attendance asked whether they could get a party bus after the prom. Mr. Nichols replied, “Once you leave you can do anything you want.”

 

Veterans Tax Exemption

In December, Governor Cuomo signed a law authorizing school districts to provide veterans with as much as $40,000 in property tax exemptions.

The law leaves school boards with the decision of whether or not to offer the exemptions, which would increase the school taxes of non-veteran residents, who would need to absorb the loss in revenue.

For a house valued at $500,000 in Southampton the annual cost to non-veterans  would be $8.62; for a house valued at the same amount in East Hampton, the cost would be $10.84 annually, according to John O’Keefe, the school’s business administrator.

The exemptions include reductions in assessed value of 15 percent for veterans who served during wartime (an $8,000 cap), 10 percent for those who were in combat zones (a $12,000 cap) and an additional, variable reduction for those with disabilities connected to their service (a $40,000 cap).

School districts must decide whether to offer the exemptions by March 1. The district must first hold a public hearing on the base exemption, and then adopt the resolution by a simple majority vote. If the district wishes to change the caps, another public hearing and vote is required. If the district wishes to enact extensions, such as the “Gold Star Parents” provision to also include parents of a soldier who died in service, it must adopt a separate resolution, although a public hearing is not required.

At the February 10 meeting, the school board appeared unclear on the procedure, as it adopted a  resolution to approve the veterans tax exemption prior to holding a public hearing.

Four days later, the district announced it would hold the required public hearings on the base exemption and cap changes, as well as a hearing on the “Gold Star Parents” provision, on Thursday, February 27, starting at 7 p.m. in the Pierson library.

Southampton Rally Remembers Sandy Hook Victims, Protests Lack of Federal Legislation a Year After Tragedy

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Gun control advocates in front of Congressman Tim Bishop's Southampton office at Sandy Hook Remembrance Rally Saturday.

Gun control advocates in front of Congressman Tim Bishop’s Southampton office at Sandy Hook Remembrance Rally Saturday. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

A year after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut took the lives of 20 first graders and six school employees, New York State has some of the toughest laws on gun control in the country.

But with no legislative action yet taken on the federal level, groups advocating for gun control are continuing their fight for safety laws.

Chanting “We will not forget!” members of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, States United Against Gun Violence and Organizing for Action, an advocacy group supporting President Obama’s legislative agenda, held a Sandy Hook Remembrance Rally outside Congressman Tim Bishop’s Southampton office Saturday afternoon.

Decked in hats, gloves and posters, a group of 17 advocates for gun control braved the snow to honor the victims, survivors and families of the Sandy Hook tragedy, commemorate the actions of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Congressman Bishop in the past year and call on legislators — particularly at the federal level — to do more.

Sue Hornik from States United Against Gun Violence and Sag Harbor’s Jackie Hilly, of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, spoke at the rally. They called for closing background check “loopholes,” banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, making schools safer and increasing access to mental health services.

“While sadness can be unbearable,” Hilly told the crowd, “it should also serve to embolden us to speak out against gun violence.”

The event marked the one-year anniversary of the school shooting at Sandy Hook. After Hilly and Hornik spoke, those in attendance read the names of the 26 victims, along with personal anecdotes, and rang a bell after each reading.

Ann Howard from Cutchogue read the name of Dylan Hockley, a six-year-old killed in his classroom who had “beautiful eyes and a mischievous grin” and “a love of bouncing on trampolines.”

Hilly thanked Governor Cuomo for making New York the first state to take decisive action after Newtown. The AR-15, the assault weapon used at Sandy Hook, can no longer legally be purchased in New York. Banning such weapons was one of the provisions of the New York SAFE Act, which was proposed by Governor Cuomo and adopted by the state legislature in January, less than a month after the tragedy.

“Now with the new regulations that were adopted in New York State,” explained Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., “if we don’t have the most stringent gun control measures, we’re in the top two.”

State Senator Kenneth LaValle agreed New York has some of the strongest gun control laws in the nation.

“Right after Sandy Hook I think there was a sense of purpose, because young people were killed — senseless murder — in an elementary school by an individual who had mental health issues,” said LaValle, “ and indeed in every one of these mass shootings, the shooter has a mental health issue.”RaebeckSandyHookRally2

The SAFE Act established provisions to help identify individuals with mental illnesses and correlate reporting of such illnesses with reporting of firearm ownership. Under the new law, a gun owner living with someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness has a responsibility to make sure his or her guns are not available to that person.

“That’s kind of a good balancing, we believe, between rights and responsibilities,” said Hilly, “because you know, the other side is always talking about rights and rarely are they mentioning responsibilities.”

Additionally, mental health professionals are now required by law to alert police if they believe one of their patients is likely to hurt themselves or others — and that patient has a gun permit.

The SAFE Act also standardized the time period for renewal of permits across the state. Previously, Long Island and Westchester required gun owners to renew their permits every five years and New York City had a three-year requirement. Now, all of New York — including areas upstate that required renewal less frequently — has a maximum five-year permit renewal requirement (New York City can keep their three-year restriction). This sanction requires permit holders to reaffirm the facts of their permit, for example that they have not been convicted of a felony or diagnosed with a mental illness.

The SAFE Act enhanced the breadth and prevalence of background checks, limited the capacity of magazines from 10 rounds to seven and expanded the definition of assault weapons, such as the AR-15.

The law also aims to end the anonymous purchasing of large stocks of ammunition on the Internet. Rather than going online and having weapons delivered to your home with no regulation, ammunition must now be delivered to a gun dealer, who will then ask for identification (a permit is not required for ammunition).

Although the SAFE Act is a huge victory for gun control advocates, proponents say the state measures are limited by the lack of similar federal legislation. Although criminals are faced with these restrictions in New York, they can easily travel across state lines to purchase weapons and ammunition.

Since Sandy Hook, according to Congressman Bishop, on the federal level, “the short answer is nothing has happened.”

Of a number of bills introduced in the House of Representatives to help provide for gun safety, “none of them have moved at all,” said Bishop, who sponsored most of them.

In the Senate, an effort to bring up a bipartisan bill to expand background checks for people who wish to purchase firearms failed to garner the 60 votes necessary for it to be considered.

“You can still go on the Internet and buy firearms,” Bishop said Monday, “you can still go on the Internet and buy mass quantities of ammunition, you can still purchase a gun at a gun show without undergoing a background check, so basic things that ought to be put in place are not being put in place.”

“It pretty much breaks down on party lines,” added the Democratic congressman, “Democrats want to pass gun safety legislation, Republicans refuse to.”

Bishop said much of the proposed legislation has bipartisan support, “but the leadership of the House of Representatives refuses to move any of them.”

“I don’t want to say that there’s no hope,” he said, “but I do think that the track record of the house thus far does not give cause for optimism.”

John Jermain Memorial Library Accepts Vast Collection of Native American Research Books

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Mac Griswold, Richard Buckley and Catherine Creedon pose with books from Buckley's collection at the library's storage unit.

Sag Harbor Historian Mac Griswold, Collector Richard Buckley and JJML Director Catherine Creedon pose with books from Buckley’s collection at the library’s storage unit November 12.

By Tessa Raebeck

As a child growing up in Little Falls, New York, Richard Buckley was eager to learn about the Native American tribes that lived nearby, but the materials he could find were minimal, ill advised and uninformed.

“It didn’t seem right to me the way they were describing it,” explained Buckley, who, rather than settling for subpar information, spent the next 40 years compiling an extensive collection of books, journals and other research on — and by — Native Americans.

On November 13, Buckley and his wife, former United States Ambassador Prudence Bushnell, packed his entire collection of 23 boxes into the back of their pick-up truck and drove from their home in Northern Virginia to Despatch Self Storage in Bridgehampton, where Catherine Creedon excitedly awaited their arrival.Richard Buckley

After a deliberate screening process of potential libraries in New York State, Buckley decided to donate his collection to the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) in Sag Harbor, where Creedon is director, because he knew they would be appreciated, complemented and, most importantly, used.

Buckley, who worked as a lawyer before concentrating primarily on his research and academic lecturing, estimates his collection includes some 350 materials. The most historically significant part of the collection is the inclusion of four journals on Native American history, to which Buckley has subscribed since their respective inceptions.

He began subscribing to the American Indian Culture and Research Journal when it was first published in 1979, and the journals now fill four boxes.

The journals “give an incredible amount of new history,” said Buckley. “History that had never been written from the viewpoint of American Indians.”

“These journals,” he continued, “have covered everything from the history to the current preservation of Native American tribes throughout the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, 2000s. If someone were to read those journals, they could write a thesis.”

The collection also includes 15 boxes of books on Native Americans, separated by topics such as women, Iroquois and “Excellent/General Overviews.”

In compiling his collection, Buckley first tackled the Native American history of New York State, moving on to the entire continental United States and eventually to Alaska and Latin America. The collection also includes extensive documentation of the present condition of Native Americans.

“That is probably the underlying value of the collection,” explained Buckley, “to have that approach of — both historically and currently — the ongoing evolution of American Indian history…. The collection’s value is to show that American Indians are not only here, but they’re living out their history, they’re living out their story.”

Once his collection was complete with an extensive variety of viewpoints from both men and women across different regions, tribes and cultures, Buckley faced the daunting task of deciding where his work belonged.

“What I did was,” he explained, “because I didn’t want these to go anywhere, I wanted them to be in a certain library — when I contacted [the libraries], I’d then know whether it was the right fit.”

Former Ambassador Prudence Bushnell, JJML Director Catherine Creedon and Richard Buckley in the midst of delivering the collection November 12.

Former Ambassador Prudence Bushnell, JJML Director Catherine Creedon and Richard Buckley in the midst of delivering the collection November 12.

At first, Buckley put a notice in the regional library system of central New York, where he grew up. Without any quick responses, he sent the notice to the statewide system.

Within a few days, he was on the phone with Cathy Creedon.

“By the initial interest,” he said, “I could see that she was really interested and they were looking for something to complement the new renovation and the newly restored old beautiful building.”

Since JJML opened in 1910, the History Room has been an integral part of the library. It started with rare materials from the personal library of William Wallace Tooker, a Sag Harbor pharmacist who was also an ethnographer with an interest in Algonquin history. Tooker’s collection in JJML includes the Eliot Indian Bible, a bible in the Algonquin language that was the first bible printed in the colonies.

After unloading the 23 boxes into a storage unit, Creedon gave Buckley a tour of the new building, including the history room, which once completed will be climate-controlled, humidity-controlled and temperature-controlled.

“The tour of the library was the final proof that my donation will ‘fit’ with the future use of the library — particularly the special research room,” said Buckley. “The primary reason for donating the collection to [JJML] is Cathy. She will ensure that the collection is used in the most effective manner.”

In a message to Creedon, Buckley envisioned his collection in Sag Harbor.

“I imagined,” he wrote, “that you would have at the opening of your beautiful library — a researcher would be reserving the special room and using the American Indian collection. She will complete a new powerful book about the contributions of Indian women.”

“I thought that was a real tribute to the role of a public library,” said Creedon.

Investing in Public and Private Education — One Charitable Contribution at a Time

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By Annette Hinkle

In recent years, the recession has taken a heavy toll on many businesses, individuals and institutions throughout the state — both public and private. Along the way, New York’s schools have not been immune to the effects of the struggling economy.

In order to keep property tax increases in check, the state has instituted the two percent tax cap levy, which limits the dollar amount public schools may raise their budgets in any given year. But it’s not just the recession — educational institutions are also being effected by changing demographics as well as cost of living increases, and private schools have taken a hit too, with a number of parochial schools on Long Island closing, including Stella Maris in Sag Harbor which shut its doors at the end of the school year in 2011 after 134 years.

But a new bill introduced by the state assembly could change the way many aspects of educational programming is financed in the future — both for public and private schools.

Bill A.1826, known as the Education Investment Incentives Act, seeks to reduce the tax burden for state residents by allowing a tax credit for individual and corporate charitable giving to non-profit organizations that support educational programs and initiatives.

This could be anything from after school arts programming for public schools to scholarships for students attending private or parochial schools. As drafted, the bill would be capped at $300 million in tax credits per calendar year. It also provides the state’s teachers with an annual $75 tax credit for out-of-pocket expenses related to supplies and materials they purchase for use in their classrooms.

New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), a co-sponsor of the bill, feels at a time when both public and private schools on Long Island are feeling the pinch of the tax cap and declining enrollment, this bill goes a long way toward supplementing the ability of schools to serve their students.

“On the public school side, with the tax cap in place while we’ve been increasing funding for education for the last couple years, it’s been tough with the recession,” said Thiele. “Though a lot of the focus with this bill has been on the private schools, this can be used to augment public education.”

“The whole idea is to encourage charitable giving to education in general,” he adds.

Though the bill is expected to give a huge boost to private and Catholic schools, Thiele notes because public schools also benefit, it does not violate issues of constitutionality like school vouchers, which have come under fire parts of the country where they are used.

“People who don’t like the bill like to say it’s vouchers or supportive of parochial or private education,” says Thiele. “But this is very carefully drafted in that what it does is provide a tax credit to those making a contribution to education.”

“It’s broadly drafted, so it’s not focused on Catholic or private schools — its focused on education,” he adds. “That’s why it passes constitutional muster. It clearly supports education across the board. Why wouldn’t we want to support charitable giving to supplement whatever support we get from local tax dollars?”

Thiele explains the range of educational initiatives the Education Investment Incentives Act could support include everything from local educational foundations, like the Reutershan Trust in Sag Harbor which supports art programs at Pierson Middle/High School, to scholarship programs for students attending private schools.

“During these times every bit helps. It’s getting the private sector involved and replacing money lost through the tax cap,” said Thiele who notes that 103 of the state’s 150 assembly members have already signed onto the bill.

“Judging from the number of sponsors, it demonstrates a great deal of interest. There are few bills that have had this kind of support,” said Thiele who adds, “No money goes directly to a public or private school, it goes to not-for-profit entities that support education.”

On Long Island, one organization that would likely benefit should this bill become law is Tomorrow’s Hope Foundation, which provides scholarships for Catholic school students. Sag Harbor’s Michael Taglich is on the board of Tomorrow’s Hope, and he sees this bill — and the resulting choices in educational options it might bring — as a way of raising the bar for all students and schools in the state.

“There are 11 states that already offer educational tax credits, and they are seen as effective and popular,” notes Taglich. “This bill is critical for Catholic schools.”

For Taglich, this is an issue that hits close to home. A strong supporter of Catholic education, all four of his daughters attended Stella Maris Regional School in Sag Harbor until it closed in the face of financial and enrollment pressures. At that point, he moved his children to Our Lady of the Hamptons (OLH) in Southampton, the next closest K-8 Catholic School.

“Stella Maris didn’t close for lack of demand, but because lower and middle income people couldn’t afford the $4,000 Stella Maris was charging,” says Taglich. “That decline coincided with the recession, which hit hard out here among the working folks.”

“My frustration as a Sag Harbor resident is that we had a wonderfully effective school system that was shut down,” he explains. “We’ve had to close schools that are very efficient for lack of an extremely small amount of money and it’s hurting our society.”

Taglich explains that at Our Lady of the Hamptons, close to 20 percent of the students currently receive scholarships from Tomorrow’s Hope. But he feels should the Education Investment Incentives Act become law, it has the potential to do far more for East End students.

“Generally these are kids from lower income, or middle income families whose parents think it’s in their kids best interest to go to OLH,” says Taglich. “If approved, this bill will greatly expand the amount of help we give these people.”

“That is very good for these children and for the taxpayers.”

While there are those who worry that programs which help private schools have the potential to siphon resources away from public education, Taglich feels the focus should really be on ensuring New York State has a range of high quality schools — whether they be private or public.

“Our state and our community are attractive to the extent we have good schools that are easily accessible to our community’s children,” says Taglich. “It’s important to make these kinds of schools available to all.”

“Good, private school alternatives raise the bar for all schools,” he says. “Left wing bill, right wing bill — it’s a center bill. It already enjoys broad sponsorship by legislators who put the education of children first.”

“This bill will have a positive effect on the state and help public schools too.” He adds. “It’s not designed to be bureaucratic, it’s designed to be democratic — and help local people fund public schools.”

“This is a well designed bill because there’s something in it for everybody and in the end, society really wins by helping schools,” adds Taglich, “especially private schools.”

Thiele says the Education Investment Incentives Act will likely be included in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget when he puts it together next January, and he expects the legislation to be in place for 2015.

Thiele: Montauk Highway Rehab Clears Major Huddle

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced on Monday that the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) has granted his request and that of 10 other elected officials representing areas traversed by Montauk Highway, the key South Fork arterial. The agency has agreed to amend the State Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) to include reconstruction of a 10-mile stretch of Montauk Highway from CR 39 to Stephen Hands Path. The proposed construction would cost approximately $12.53 million. State DOT already had scheduled the reconstruction of a 2.3 mile stretch of the highway from SR 114 to Stephen Hands Path for the spring of this year.

“Congressman Bishop, State Senator Ken LaValle, County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, and every South Fork supervisor and mayor joined with me to request the reconstruction of Montauk Highway,” said Thiele, referencing a February letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state DOT. “Not only did the Governor and Commissioner Joan McDonald respond favorably, they were quick in responding so that this project can get underway in 2013. I thank them for their fast action.”

The project would be funded by federal and state funds. The comment period on the proposed amendment to the TIP will end on March 22. After that, the project will be included in the TIP and detailed design work will begin. The construction of the segment between SR 114 and Stephen Hands Path will begin this spring and the remaining work from Stephen Hands Path to CR 39 will commence after Labor Day this year.

“I urge all local elected officials and the public to weigh in with the State DOT before the Friday deadline,” said Thiele.

Comments should be submitted to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, Attn: David Drits 199 Water Street, 22nd Floor New York, New York 10038 or email davis.drits@dot.ny.gov

“The importance of this highway cannot be underestimated. It is the only major road bringing people to and from the South Fork of Long Island,” said Thiele. “There is no alternative route. It is the most highly trafficked road on eastern Long Island. It is essential for both local residents and the substantial second home industry. It is important for business and commerce in that the delivery of goods and services as well as the transportation of workers and tradesmen depend on this road.”

“Most important, local fire, ambulance, and emergency service workers depend on this road to do their jobs, particularly to transport patients to Southampton Hospital,” added Thiele. “Finally, in the case of an emergency or disaster, this road is the only evacuation route for the region. At a time when the economy has suffered from a deep recession, this project will mean not only construction jobs but will also foster the tourism/second home based economy of the region. Now, the entire stretch from Southampton to East Hampton will be repaved.”

Bridgehampton Community Conversation Focuses on Budget Cuts

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Residents gathered at the Bridgehampton School last Wednesday, March 13, to discuss the proposed 2013-2014 budget and where cuts can be made. Photo by Amanda Wyatt

By Amanda Wyatt

With less than two months until its spring budget and board of education vote, the Bridgehampton School held its second annual “community conversation” last Wednesday for the public to help the district explore ways of trimming the proposed 2013-2014 budget.

“Tonight we’re looking for input, ideas and suggestions on how we might strategize as a board and as an administrative team if we have to make some difficult cuts,” said Dr. Lois Favre, superintendent.

During the opening presentation, Dr. Favre revealed that next year’s draft budget is $11,456,039, which is$759,675 or about seven percent higher than last year’s budget. Much of this increase can be attributed to rising costs in health care and retirement, step increases, increased technology needs and out-of-district tuitions.

The proposed tax levy for next year is $10,181,467, which is $747,221 or 8.13 percent greater than in 2012-2013.

Still, budgeting remains a tricky task, given that Bridgehampton and other school districts are once again facing a state-mandated two percent tax levy cap, which limits the amount of money they can raise through taxes.

But as Dr. Favre noted, it does not mean that taxes can only go up by two percent. For Bridgehampton specifically, the overall tax levy cannot exceed 4.48 percent. Exempt from the cap are the capital projects and increases in the teachers’ retirement system.

To stay within the cap, the school can only raise the budget by $423,036. This means that as it stands now, the school must trim $324,185 from its proposed budget or ask voters to support the district in piercing the tax cap, which would require at least 60 percent of all votes cast for the budget to be in favor of the spending plan.

And while the school has not ruled out the possibility of piercing the cap, administrators and board of education members have expressed a desire to “whittle down” the budget as much as possible.

“If we have to make cuts to make our tax levy limit, what are we willing to give up?” asked Dr. Favre.

“We built a wonderful program here for our kids. I’m the first one to tell you, I don’t want to live without any of it,” she added.

After the presentation, the audience split into six groups to discuss what they felt were priorities in the budget, and what cuts they would and would not make. Responses were, indeed, varied, but there were some items that several groups agreed were “non-negotiable.”

For example, several groups believed that keeping the cafeteria stocked with healthy, organic food was a priority and did not want to make any cuts in that category. Some groups emphasized the school needed to update its technology, and others said sports programs needed to be kept intact. For others, not cutting any programs or teachers was important.

When it came to making cuts, many of the groups agreed the number of school administrators could be reduced. According to literature given out at the meeting, Bridgehampton has four administrative positions, and cutting one administrator could save the district $150,000.

As one parent said, “In comparison to other districts, we are totally top-heavy…We have a district this size; do we really need a superintendent and a principal, both full-time positions?”

Making cuts in the areas of transportation, homework club, summer programs and summer curriculum work were all brought up in several other groups.

But as some participants pointed out, making stringent budget cuts would not be necessary if the school were to ask taxpayers to pierce the cap during the spring budget vote. Piercing the cap would mean not having to cut faculty/staff or programs, and not jeopardizing the quality of education at Bridgehampton, they said.

On the flip side, other groups pointed out the school could receive backlash from the community if they asked voters to pierce the cap. Furthermore, it would need 60 percent of voters to approve the budget and if the school’s request was rejected by voters, the consequences would be dire: Bridgehampton would not be allowed to raise the tax levy at all, and even more severe budget cuts would have to be made.

In related news, Bridgehampton School held a public vote on March 20 in order to establish a five year capital reserve fund. The fund — which comes from unanticipated savings and revenues received by the school — is intended to provide the district with monies for repairs outlined in its Five Year Plan.