Tag Archive | "peter solow"

Sag Harbor Artist Transforms Museum into Busy City Square

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Reduced size frontats

 

A work-in-progress by Peter Solow featuring his mysterious muse, center, a re-working of a painting he did of his daughter many years ago.

By Mara Certic

As fall quickly approaches and crowds thin out across the East End, those craving the bustle of summer need only wander into the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum this weekend to find themselves transported to a busy Florentine piazza.

“City Square,” by artist Peter Solow, will be on display this month. Using cutting edge technology, Mr. Solow has reprinted his sketches, paintings and photographs to create a life-sized multimedia city square within the walls of the whaling museum.

Mr. Solow, a longtime art teacher in the Sag Harbor School District, has taken photographs and sketches that he took and made during trips to Florence over the years to create a wrap-around Little Italy on four walls.

Thanks to money from the Reutershan Trust, art students at Pierson Middle School and High School—and Mr. Solow—have had high-tech printers and scanners at their disposal. “Besides the “wow” effect of digital technology, how should one integrate it into traditional art-making,” Mr. Solow said. “That’s something I’ve been running around in my head for a while.”

He made his first proposal for the exhibition well over a year ago, but the idea for it has been around much longer than that. “It’s sort of an interesting exhibition in that there’s a whole bunch of different things going on at the same time,” Mr. Solow said in his art room at Pierson High School on Monday.

“When I was going to school in New York, one of the first pieces of art that really popped out at me, that really sort of resonated with me was a small piece by Giacometti of a city square,” he said. The figures in the Giacometti sculpture, he said, seemed to be there by fate.

“There have been a series of things since that time that built on that idea of that,” Mr. Solow said. When he first traveled to Italy he was fascinated by the piazzas, he said, which reminded him of a Walt Whitman poem he remembered really speaking to him in his youth. In “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” Mr. Whitman addresses the reader directly, and refers to the shared past, present and future experiences of the Brooklyn ferry:

“Others will see the islands large and small;

Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high,

A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them,

Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide,” the poem reads in part.

On Mr. Solow’s first trip to Italy, he was particular struck by how old all of the open spaces, buildings and art were. “The fact that you walk on the same roads, it’s the past, the present, the future altogether,” he said, “It’s about the timelessness of what it means to be human.”

The other important theme of the show, Mr. Solow said, is the process of making art. “What this show is actually going to show is how, over a period of years, I make a painting,” he said. Mr. Solow has incorporated unfinished paintings, sketches, photographs and has revisited other works he has done into the final piece.

One panel has an unfinished painting he did of his daughter, Kathryn, when she was nine years old, overlaid with a sketch he did of a piazza in Florence during a recent trip. “What I started to do with the images was work back into them and create something else,” he said.

On another wall is a photograph of his daughter, now grown up, sitting in the Spanish Chapel in Florence, looking for a lunch spot on her cell phone. An abstract collage has been scanned onto the picture. His daughter, he explained, is a photographer herself, who introduced Mr. Solow to the art of incorporating painting and various forms of new technology into photography.

Mr. Solow tells all of his advanced photography students the same thing, he said: “Every picture you take is a self-portrait.” Another photograph included in “City Square” is a picture of Mr. Solow’s muse. He doesn’t know her name, who she is or have any idea what her face looks like, but the dark-haired woman in a black dress walking through a Florentine square has been his muse for the past 20 years, he said. “She has been the catalyst, since the early ’90s, for a whole series of paintings and drawings and all kind of stuff.”

The combinations of new and old images mirrors Mr. Solow’s feelings about the shared experiences of public places, he said. “I don’t want to say it’s autobiographic, because that’s not right. But it’s all about processes and experiences,” he said.

City Square opens at the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum at 200 Main Street on Saturday, September 20. For more information call the museum at 725-0770. 

Costs Rise for Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum Restoration Projects

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By Tessa Raebeck

With the first phase of a three-part plan to renovate and restore the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum nearly complete, necessary additional repairs — and fundraising efforts — are on the rise.

Following complaints about the museum’s exterior appearance voiced to building inspector Tim Platt last May, restoration of the historic 1845 building, also the home of the Waponamon Lodge No. 437 Free Masons, began September 15.

“We can certainly say the scope of the project has grown,” Barbara Lobosco, president of the museum board, said Tuesday. “Like most planned undertakings, things crop up during the course of the project.”

The first phase of the plan covers the repairs and painting of the building exterior, including removal of 10 layers of paint — the last being lead.

The contractor, Ince Painting Professional of Westhampton Beach, which has worked on historic buildings like the Hannibal French House in Sag Harbor and the Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, originally estimated the first phase of the project would cost $180,000.

More product removal was required than was originally allotted for and, at this point, the estimated cost for the first phase is closer to $260,000.

“With any project,” Lobosco said Tuesday, “what happens is you underestimate budgets and so on and so forth, other things open up that need to be fixed as well. When you work with an historic building of this age, new doors open up to new repairs.”

The actual application of the new paint is almost entirely completed. The museum is now in the midst of repairs to the porches and gutters, as well as partial repairs to the capital tops of the building columns.

The finials on the roof, which resemble blubber spades and whale teeth, are also undergoing restoration.

The building’s interior is covered by the second phase of the restoration project, which is not expected to begin for a year or so. Several issues have already materialized that necessitate projects the museum had planned to address in the future to be confronted within the next few months.

“We’d rather replace the pipes before they burst,” said Lobosco, referring to deteriorating, galvanized pipes in the basement that need to be restored.

Additionally, the entire basement must be cleaned.

“As we get inside the building,” said Lobosco. “We’ll need more [repairs] as well.”

The third phase of the capital campaign addresses repairs to the building grounds and will likely be implemented prior to the second phase of interior renovations.

“We want to finish the outside first so that it’s cohesive,” said Lobosco.

The museum plans to landscape the property before the summer, fix the front and back porches and repair the exterior fencing.

“The fence is going to be another big issue,” said Lobosco. “We’ve cleaned it up now, but it’s going to cost at least $60,000 just to repair.”

With continuous costs and essential repairs yet to be determined, the museum’s fundraising for the capital campaign is ongoing. Close to $180,000 in funding has been raised so far. The total cost is at present around $260,000, which will only cover the cost of painting. More funding is essential for the museum to move forward with the rest of the restoration process.

Last March, the museum’s fundraising efforts for the capital campaign kicked off with a $50,000 matching grant from the Century Arts Foundation earmarked towards the repair work. The Whaling Museum plans to host three fundraising events this holiday season, exhibit several beneficiary shows this spring and continually solicit private donations throughout the course of the project, according to Lobosco.

This Friday, the museum is hosting an auction at the Peter Marcelle Gallery in Bridgehampton. Available items include a 200-year-old woven basket, gift certificates to a variety of restaurants in Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor, donations from In Home and other local stores, and framed film posters from the 1960s and 1970s donated by the notable filmmaking couple Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker, who live down the street from the Whaling Museum. Value of auction items range from $50 to $1,000.

“We’ve been getting local donations which have been great,” said Lobosco. “The community’s been terrific, especially with the auction items. The merchants in town have been very supportive of the museum and our efforts to move forward.”

On December 23, the museum will raffle off a brand new 2013 Fiat 500 Cabrio Pop from Brown’s Fiat in Patchogue. The sleek, black convertible has red and ivory seats and an ivory and black interior. Just 350 tickets are for sale at $100 a piece.

To further aid with fundraising, BookHampton is sponsoring a holiday book sale on the museum’s front lawn on weekends throughout the holiday season. The store will match money raised “dollar for dollar,” said Lobosco.

With its interior closed for the winter, the museum plans to reopen for the season on Earth Day with a show by local artist and Pierson Middle/High School art teacher Peter Solow, with sales from his work also earmarked for the capital campaign.

At the official opening on Memorial Day, “a whale show” is going to be on display. Proceeds from the paintings will be split 50/50 between the artists and the restoration project. Funds raised via three additional shows during Summer 2014 will also go towards the restoration efforts. The exact content of the shows is unannounced at this point, but Lobosco said one show will consist of only Sag Harbor artists.

In addition to special events, the museum continues to raise funds through its mail drive and individual donations. Lobosco is also hopeful for another matching grant.

“It will be ongoing for years,” she said of the restoration projects, “so the fundraising efforts will continue.”

Peter Solow

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The artist and Pierson High School art teacher, who is hosting a benefit art exhibition and sale this weekend to raise funds for the upcoming Pierson trip to Italy, talks about how travel impacts students, why arts education is critical and how Sag Harbor rallies around causes like this.

The artist and Pierson High School art teacher, who is hosting a benefit art exhibition and sale this weekend to raise funds for the upcoming Pierson trip to Italy, talks about how travel impacts students, why arts education is critical and how Sag Harbor rallies around causes like this.


By Kathryn G. Menu

The Pierson Art Department benefit art exhibition and sale this week features a number of celebrated artists like April Gornik, Bill King and John Alexander, as well as alumni. All the artists are donating their work, which will be sold for $100 a piece. Does being in the Sag Harbor community naturally draw this kind of talent, and support, to a cause like this?

I think it is because this is Sag Harbor. I think it is because there is a kind of commitment and concern for education and our community that these people have. They are professional artists, alumni, many who are kids that graduated from this program and are working in the field. I think there is also the concept of the importance of a public school in a community that is being celebrated. The other thing that has happened here is April [Gornik]. Here is a person with an international reputation that has made a commitment to this community in a number of ways. Her impact in helping to pull this together has been extraordinary.


You have organized this student trip to Italy for about 10 years now. How has the experience evolved?

We used to do this trip every year, but now its every other year because it really is so exhausting and time consuming to attempt to defer a portion of the cost of the trip for students. Parents are paying for this trip, but what we are trying to do is knock off a portion of that cost, and also bring some contingency money to cover unforeseen expenses or an activity or program that pops up that we want the kids to participate in.

This isn’t a boilerplate trip through Italy. We do traditional mask making in Venice, we will have a cooking class in Florence, we are going to a soccer game in Florence, which is a spectacle and for a lot of the kids a high point of the trip.

This year we are going to experience agritourism at a brilliant place outside of San Giuliano Treme that has been a family farm for five generations. They produce their own wine, their own saffron, raise their own beef, grow their own vegetables. It gives the kids an opportunity to see a different approach to organizing ones life. There are a wealth of experiences we have. It’s not just about art.


Does the diversity of Italian culture, with strong roots in the arts, culinary traditions and obviously history, make it an ideal travel abroad destination for students?

The original reason we went to Italy was because of my own predilection, and we used to have a curriculum at Pierson associated with the Italian Renaissance.

That being said, the answer is yes.

I think the most important thing when you go to a place like this with a culture like this is it gives you things. It gives you a profoundly more deep and rich understanding about things that you may understand academically, whether it is Slow Food or architecture or how we organize ourselves, politics, city-states.

One time we were there at the height of the second invasion into Iraq and there was a big protest and what the kids learned was the protesters were fond of our country but disagreed with us in this instance. Our kids were able to have conversations with these older students who were protesting and that was an incredible experience. It gives you a texture that is real — these are not experiences you are just reading about in a book. It also affords everyone the opportunity to look at our own country, where we come from, and understand it better.


You and I have talked about a number of stories where students lives changed after this trip. Can you pick one to share?

We have had so many kids tell me that this was the most important experience they had in school. Jackie Dowling was a tremendous student here, and a very good art student, but not really involved in photography. We were headed from Venice to Florence to Rome and we stopped for lunch in Mantua, which is known for its food and Jackie started looking around for a bathroom. So she is wandering these streets in Mantua and starts taking pictures. She spent the rest of the trip taking pictures and it was a revelation for her that happened by accident while she was trying to find a bathroom in Mantua. And her photography was extraordinary. It changed her life. She is still focused on her photography to this day.


What is it about Sag Harbor that makes it the kind of community that supports programming like this?

I pulled this out of The Sag Harbor Express from 1982 when the school was being rededicated. This was read by John Jermain Slocum from a letter he received from his cousin.

“It is interesting that Sag Harbor has not just let the Pierson High School crumble down. They could have knocked it down. We live in a society now that believes in knocking things down, throwing things away. But no, Sag Harbor chose to rebuild at great expense this high school with no sacrifice in quality. Every detail has been attended to and I think the reason for this is that people here still believe in Mrs. Sage’s feeling that this is a very special place. In Sag Harbor they value the best and finest. These people believe their children are the best and finest, and this school will help them to believe in the importance of the place where they grew up before they go out into the world.”

If you believe we have the best and finest, as I do, you understand that the education these kids need is not limited to a classroom. They have to understand and experience the world and they have to have these kinds of authentic experiences.



The Pierson Art Department benefit art exhibition and sale will be held on Saturday, March 3 and Sunday, March 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Pierson High School (200 Jermain Avenue, Sag Harbor). The exhibition will feature art by April Gornik, John Alexander, Bill King, Rick Gold, Lynn Matsuoka, Josh Dayton, Kathryn Solow, Vito DeVito, among others. Each piece will be sold for $100.


Potential Bond Between Theater and School

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By Claire Walla

As the community searches high and low for ways to keep Bay Street Theatre, Sag Harbor’s only live theatre venue, here in the village, some say there’s a viable option — and it’s right under our noses.

For many in the village, it’s no surprise that the Sag Harbor School District has had plans in the works since at least 2006 to redesign the Pierson Auditorium. (In fact, a new design for the auditorium had been part of the facilities bond proposal that was voted down in 2009.)

But, what many may not know is that, as recently as last year, the idea of making the proposed auditorium a joint venture between Pierson High School and the Bay Street Theatre was already in the works.

Bay Street Theatre’s Executive Director Tracy Mitchell brought the idea to the district’s Facilities Planning Committee last year, of which she was a member. Bay Street was already beginning to set its sights on a new location, so she casually suggested the school team-up with the independent theatre company.

According to Pierson art teacher Peter Solow, who had discussed the idea with Mitchell last year, “There are many of us who believe the school should be one of the centers of the community, a place where people congregate.”

The union of Pierson and Bay Street, he added, would be a step in the right direction.

“We should be actively participating and trying to help our neighbors as much as possible,” he said.

Though Solow admitted there was no real substantive discussion about the nuts and bolts of how a partnership would unfold, he declared, “It was clear to the members of the Facilities Committee that Bay Street was reaching out to do this. And it was articulated to the board of education that there was an immediacy to this.”

But, as Solow tells it, the discussion hit a standstill — before it even got off the ground.

“Since last spring, nothing has happened,” he lamented.

The proposed $12 million design for a new auditorium, drafted by district architect Larry Salvesen, would completely replace the existing theater space, giving the auditorium a more sophisticated look, complete with a lobby and a separate entrance. (The current auditorium — a refurbished high school gym — is only accessible from within the Pierson building.)

The issue was brought to the attention of the Sag Harbor School Board again at a regularly scheduled meeting last Monday, January 9 when board member Ed Drohan urged the board to attend tonight’s “community meeting” at the Bay Street Theatre. It begins at 7 p.m.

“Having been on this school board now for a while, I realize we often refer to ourselves as a community,” Drohan said of the school’s attempts to integrate with the village. “This might be the last opportunity we have to get out of this small community and address the community as a whole.”

School board president Mary Anne Miller, who had been part of the Facilities Planning Committee last year when Mitchell first raised the idea of collaboration, said she would attend, as well.

In fact, she said the model for a community co-op theater is out there.

“But somebody needs to step up and take this on. It seems like an amazing opportunity to do something great, I just don’t know who has the wherewithal, time, connections, or the money to do it.” She continued, “We need to be doing things like this, but boy is it a big job!”

Miller concluded by saying it’s not too late to make this happen. And even Mitchell said Bay Street is open to the option.

Though Bay Street’s lease will run out in May of 2013, she said the theater is hard-pressed to stay in Sag Harbor.

“I live in the town,” Mitchell said. “I’m very concerned with what would happen to this little [community] if Bay Street left.”

And while the school does not yet have the ball rolling on its proposed theatre construction project, Mitchell said it’s still possible for Bay Street to consider moving into a temporary space while a more permanent location at the school was being prepared. But, it’s just a possibility at this point. A joint project proposal has not yet been drafted or presented.

“It is interesting,” Mitchell continued. “I’m certainly not discounting anything at this point. We want to hear from everyone in the community.”

As far as Solow’s concerned, however, Monday’s school board meeting sealed the deal. To him, that Bay Street was not made a priority during discussions indicates the worst.

“If there was anyone who held out any hope that this could happen, last night’s meeting demonstrated that it’s never going to happen,” Solow said on Tuesday. “There was an opportunity, but I can’t conceive of how it can happen now.”

Pierson/Whaling Museum To Team-Up for Art Installation

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By Claire Walla


You’re probably familiar with the old philosophical conundrum: If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one around to hear it, does it still make a sound?

Well, here’s another: Does art still exist in the community if nobody gets to see it?

Lately, members of the Pierson High School art department and the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum have wondered. For both organizations, one of the most difficult aspects of their art programs and exhibits has been getting the larger community to actually see them.

But, both organizations are hoping to change that this spring.

“We’re going to do something really cool and striking that’s a collaboration between the school (the Reutershan Trust) and the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum,” explained Pierson Middle/High School art teacher Peter Solow. Solow said the school will use Reutershan Trust monies to hire local artist Scott Sandell to work with Pierson students to create site-specific artwork that will be displayed on the front lawn of the museum.

“The kids have done magical work in the past, but nobody’s seen it,” Solow continued. “Because of the generosity from the museum, now we’re able to demonstrate that in a public way. I think that’s extremely important.”

While Solow admitted the idea for the installation hasn’t been fully realized, he did say that the inspiration for the project will dovetail with the museum’s overall mission; a mission that, according to museum director Zach Studenroth, is beginning to transform. The point, he clarified, is not to change the mission of the museum, but to broaden it to encompass more contemporary works of art.

He explained that there are many practicing artists using all different mediums who live and work in Sag Harbor. And he pointed out that while East Hampton has Guild Hall, Southampton has the Parrish Art Museum and even the hamlet of Water Mill has its own community center, there isn’t a community gathering space in Sag Harbor.

“It’s a void that needs to be filled in this community,” Studenroth said. “And — given the setting that we have, both structurally and with the grounds — we feel that we can.”

Both organizations are hoping that an eye-catching artistic display on Main Street will put the community in touch with what the students are doing, while breathing some life into that old, white, box-of-a-Masonic Temple at the top of Main Street.

“Most people living in Sag Harbor don’t think about the museum,” added Whaling Museum staff member Lynette Pintauro. “I think it needs to become useful for the community instead of being this building that just sits there slumbering.”

While the essence of the student art project is yet to be fully determined, Studenroth said it will be in line with the greater theme of the museum, which he added is not necessarily strictly limited to the village’s whaling history.

“It’s the whole maritime environment,” he said. “Not just hand-wrought harpoons.”

According to Solow, this collaboration allows for the kind of real-world art project the Reutershan Trust was created to foster. Already, he said he and artist Scott Sandell — who also helped students transform the courtyard at Pierson — have spoken with up to 40 students who are interested in working on the spring project. (Though Solow said he doesn’t expect that many to actually partake.)

Both Solow and Sandell have explained what site-specific art is by discussing works by Christo, who created a series of orange “gates” in Central Park in 2005, and British artist Andy Goldsworthy, whose artwork — Including large, rock cairns and leafy nautiluses — are famous for being constructed outdoors, by hand, with nature as the only medium.

“We’re talking about students elevating what they’re doing to be something serious, this really cool thing that can get a lot of buzz in town,” Solow continued. Not only will they learn about art, but Solow imagines giving students the opportunity to design posters, brochures and press releases for the show, allowing them to develop marketing and business skills to add to their artistic inclinations (a tactic Pintauro, an artist herself, said is “invaluable”).

“We’re all going to meet [in January] and try to develop the ideas that are still only theoretical now,” Solow added. “Even the way we present this, the way that it falls out to the community, that’s going to be part of the performance. We don’t want to give away the punch line too quickly.”

Peering Into the Reutershan Trust

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Hobie Betts

By Claire Walla


What is the Reutershan Trust and how does it work? That was the discussion at Monday’s Sag Harbor Board of Education meeting which focused on the nature of the trust and was initially spurred by questions stemming from board members. Specifically, board members wanted to know what role does the school plays in overseeing costs related to the trust.

In the end, however, the presentation — given by Reutershan trustees Bob Schneider and Peter Solow — had little to do with funding. Schneider and Solow instead spoke at length on the merits of the privately funded art program created by Sag Harbor resident and architect Hobart “Hobie” Betts.

But it was just as well, said school board member Walter Wilcoxen, who in a follow-up interview noted that, coincidentally, Betts passed away Monday, the same day the trust was being presented to the school board. Wilcoxen felt it important to point out the program’s merits.

“Our art program would be decimated without it,” Wilcoxen said. “It’s so important that Hobie stepped up [to create the trust].”

The Reutershan Trust — named for Betts’ close friend Donald Reutershan, who until his death had been actively involved in the Sag Harbor School District — was established in 2000 with an endowment of $1.8 million. Each year, the fund generates somewhere between $40,000 and $80,000 in interest which is used for the sole purpose of fostering artistic programs within the Sag Harbor School District.

According to Solow, who administers the program for the district, “The thing that makes the program effective is that, from the very beginning, there was a vision provided by Hobie of what art education should be — and that vision was connected to the idea of bringing professional artists into the district. The program was really designed to create authentic artistic experiences for kids.”

Solow proceeded to run through 60 slides featuring images of Pierson students making, presenting, or discussing artwork — from photography projects like “Me By the Sea,” in which students documented their lives in Sag Harbor; to drafting projects, like the Bell Monument; discussions with professionals in the art world such as Vogue editor Andrew Leon Talley and workshops with world-renowned Spanish painter Perico Pastor and Condé Nast photographer Francine Fleischer.

Earlier this year, board members discussed the program’s financial structure, questioning whether or not the program met state regulations and how the trust should be classified under the purview of the school.

“In a sense, it’s a little similar to Y.A.R.D. [Youth Advocacy and Resource Development],” Wilcoxen explained. “If the money is run through our accounts at the school” — as had been the case with Reutershan until this year — “then the purchasing policies have to follow our purchasing guidelines, and they’re pretty strict.”

For example, Wilcoxen noted that the school requires administrators to go out to bid before purchasing any goods or services. But for a service like the Reutershan Trust, which uses money to bring artistic professionals to the school to work with students, Wilcoxen said it simply doesn’t make sense to bid-out services.

“How do you put out three bids for an artist,” he asked.

In the end, the board decided to keep all financial transactions with the trustees themselves, rather than with the school’s business office. Trustees Bob Schneider, Greg Ferraris and Marsha Heffner now have the authority to sign-off on all expenditures, with financial decisions guided largely by Ferraris who is a certified accountant.

“With regard to the trust, that’s not really our money, so we didn’t feel that we should have to oversee that money as closely as the money that the taxpayers give us,” Wilcoxen continued. “We suggested that the fund itself approve the money [it spends], and in that way they can act however they see best.”

As Schneider pointed out, the program functions according to the vision and the values initially set forth by Betts: “Pride of Place, Service, Commitment to Community, Citizenship, Good Works, and Engagement with the Greater World.” And in the wake of Betts’ death, Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto said he didn’t see the trust functioning any differently in the future.

For Schneider, the value of the trust is clear. He noted the courtyard at the middle/high school — which took four years to construct and is still an ongoing project — and the fact that students can do photography, printmaking and drafting work as examples of opportunities the trust has provided.

“Students get to work with materials that would otherwise be too expensive for the school district to get,” explained Schneider, who was principal of Pierson Middle/High School when the Reutershan Trust was founded. He continued, “The art program without the benefit of the trust would not be the vibrant program that it is today. It really has distinguished the Pierson art program from any other art program that I know of.”

Principal Presses for OK on IB Plan

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By Claire Walla

It’s been nearly five years since the Sag Harbor School District began exploring the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, and about a year since the district started pursuing the program in earnest. But the board of education has yet to formally take a stance on IB — a detail Pierson High School Principal Jeff Nichols hopes will be remedied sooner rather than later.

“I would like the board to formally take a position on IB in the next month,” Nichols declared at a school board meeting last Monday, October 17. More specifically, he continued, “I’d like the board to say that, if this school receives the OK from the IB administration, we will offer IB diploma program courses next fall.”

To date, the district has spent about $23,000 to participate in the IB application process. This money has covered the base application fee and paid for an IB consultant to visit the school — a mandatory part of the application process. The next and final deadline for Pierson High School’s IB application is Tuesday, November 1, when those teachers tentatively slated to teach IB programs next fall will submit sample course outlines to the IB board.

Nichols explained that Pierson administrators plan to meet with the handful of those teachers crafting IB course outlines this week so that the district will be able to submit the final step of its application well before the November 1 deadline.

At this point, support from the board is imperative, Nichols explained, because should the school follow through with plans to introduce IB in the fall of 2012, Pierson administrators will need to reach out to the students who would potentially participate in the IB diploma program next year.

“If we’re successful in bringing the program here, we’ll meet with students in the coming months and start to map out their junior and senior year schedules,” Nichols clarified.

The IB program has been contentious for some in the community who have criticized its cost (roughly $10,200 annual base fee), perceived exclusivity and questionable reputation within the college admissions process as compared to the more standard Advanced Placement (AP) program.

Nichols disputed this claim. While IB credits are not accepted for credit at every university — though he said they are recognized by many schools — he explained that many institutions of higher learning are beginning to discount AP credits, as well.

But Nichols insisted this is beside he point. He has maintained from the get-go that the IB program is, in fact, more rigorous and rewarding than the AP program because it emphasizes critical thinking skills, and it’s more versatile than AP because it encourages a range of learning styles that push students to absorb and communicate information without relying on rote memorization (which is sometimes associated with AP). Furthermore, he looks forward to implementing new learning styles within the classroom that will challenge all teachers to think outside-of-the-box when administering lessons.

Parent Tom Gleason said at the meeting that he worries about introducing a new curriculum while the district currently lacks a K through 12 curriculum coordinator.

“We haven’t had any of that curriculum going on [prior to IB],” argued Gleason argued who wondered whether students in the lower grades will be adequately prepared for IB coursework.

Pierson High School Vice Principal Gary Kalish countered that the IB curriculum — which focuses on more broad-based and internationally focused learning — is a step-up from what the district currently teaches. Furthermore, he said teachers have reported that IB “has more flexibility” when it comes to designing lesson plans than courses purely designed according to state requirements.

Parent Laura Matthers expressed her concern for this year’s tenth grade class, which she referred to as the veritable “guinea pig” class: the first Pierson class with the opportunity to graduate students with IB diplomas.

“I want to make sure you’re going to be leaving a lot of options available for these kids coming up the pike,” she said.

Nichols estimated that in its first year, the IB program would probably only have 10 to 15 diploma candidates, a figure based on the current number of students who take five to seven AP classes before graduation. But this leaves several dozen other students who currently take advanced coursework to a lesser degree.

While Nichols mapped out a three-year plan that would reduce the school’s AP offerings to three courses by 2015, he assured Matthers that students in next year’s eleventh grade class would have the opportunity to take up to seven AP courses by the time they graduate. And gradually, as AP courses are pared down, Nichols said he’s confident that the school will be able to grow its number of IB diploma candidates, the same way it grew the number of students taking AP courses.

As for the cost of the program, Nichols said he hoped to put some rumors to rest Monday night.

“A lot of people have concerns about the tax cap, and justifiably,” he began. “But the primary cost [of the IB program] would be an IB coordinator. But we’re of the opinion here that we don’t need to assign a teacher to do that. Mr. Kalish and I can just fold [those duties] into what we do, which would [garner] a savings of $60,000.”

With that cost out of the picture, the school would have to pay $10,200 annually, plus a one-time cost of $135 per diploma student and the $92 test fee, which Nichols said is comparable to the fees associated with individual AP exams.

“Certainly, every dollar counts,” Nichols continued, but with an overall budget set at roughly $33 million, he added, “that’s a very small number.”



“It is my opinion, and the opinion of others who have looked at both programs, that IB allows us the opportunity to raise our standards even higher,” Nichols said. “The skills emphasized in IB will allow us to serve our students better.”


With the exception of one to two teachers, Nichols said the Pierson faculty largely supports IB. Teacher Peter Solow, who attended last Monday’s meeting and is slated to go to IB training this year, told the board he has a positive outlook on the program. “Without having gone to training, [Art Teacher Elizabeth Marchisella] had a very positive reaction to the training that she got,” he relayed. “I’m looking forward to seeing more of what it’s about.”

Bell Will Get A New Purpose

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By Claire Walla

High schoolers are often told that what they are learning will have greater application in the world at-large. But for a group of Pierson High School students this year, their hard work will pay off in a very tangible way.
With help from teacher Peter Solow and funding from The Reutershan Educational Trust, students have helped design an architectural plan for and will hopefully help to construct a new monument on their campus, which would prominently display the historic bell that’s been sitting relatively unseen in the Pierson building for years. (Originally part of the Presbyterian Church, the bell was moved to Pierson when it was built in 1907.)
During a presentation for the Sag Harbor Board of Education on Monday, August 1, Solow explained that the goal of this project is “to take students through the concepts of design.” While he said students have ventured into similar design projects in the past, this plan is different in the sense that “this time, we are actually intending to construct what we design.”
The group drafted a plan that depicts a hexagonal pillar, atop of which the bell would sit in an arched frame. The pillar itself has six solid faces on which plaques could theoretically be placed. The structure, which would be placed at the corner of Division Street and Jermain Avenue, would be made of concrete and would call for a ring of benches to be built around the pillar. The original concept imagined a raised structure with ramps and handrails so as to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, but this aspect of the plan has since been redrafted.
On the advice of architect Larry Salvesen, who donated his time to help the students with their project, the design will now lay level with the ground. This essentially eliminates the need for ramps and handrails, which will limit construction costs, and Salvesen pointed out that it restricts the amount of surface area vulnerable to graffiti.
Plus, as district Superintendent Dr. John Gratto added, without handrails “it’s no longer a skateboard attraction.”
Solow said one of the first big practical decisions the design team faced was where to put the structure. At one point the group considered putting the structure at the entrance to Pierson High School, but it was eventually determined that the monument should be placed at the corner of Jermain and Division near the “Welcome” sign at the north-west corner of school property. Unlike the concrete covered walkways by the front of the school, that area “provides a park-like setting,” Solow said.
It also creates “additional usage for part of the Pierson grounds that haven’t been used at all. The idea was also for [the monument] to be in a place that could also be used by the broader Sag Harbor community; that location is pretty prominent because of all the people driving by,” he added. “It would be seen by literally thousands of people every day.”
Board member Chris Tice looked favorably on the current location, saying “it’d actually be a great place to watch your kids go sledding” in the winter.
The impediments to the project now involve several fixed structures that are currently at the corner site. While there was talk of relocating the sign at the front of the school to give the monument prominent positioning, Solow pointed out that there is a tree just behind the sign that needs to be removed anyway. After speaking with local arborists, Solow said two of the trees at the foot of the school’s property “are in bad shape,” even “hazardous.”
In order to avoid dangerous conditions before the start of the school year, board members agreed to remove the tree, in addition to another adjacent to the front parking lot, which was also deemed hazardous by local experts.
While the final steps in the monument construction process have yet to be laid out, the structure is now set to rest set back from the corner of the property where a large oak now sits; it would still be visible beneath the canopy of a Linden trees that dot the land.
The board plans to hold at least one public forum on the bell monument and will invite community members to take part in the conversation before plans are solidified.
“The community is very strong about Pierson Hill,” said School Board President Mary Anne Miller. “We need to come to some kind of consensus before we sign-off on this.”
Because of the Reutershan grant — which has amounted to $60,000 — Solow pointed out that this project will be funded independently, without tax-payer dollars.
“We have no estimates yet on what the overall thing is going to cost,” Solow said. “But this is going to be paid for by the trust and other private sources, if necessary.”

In other news…
Dr. Gratto announced the board’s goals for the year, which address academic excellence, effective communication and fiscal responsibility, in addition to a fourth goal added this year: implementing a comprehensive wellness program. District administrators outlined 35 specific objectives under the umbrella of these four goals, including unifying the district’s athletic programs under “a systematic plan,” an add-on objective suggested by board member Chris Tice that evening.
Director of Business Operations Janet Verneuille announced that the district will change its bus routes this year, condensing six routes into five. The changes will save the district about $50,000. Verneuille said the plan was mainly implemented in an attempt for busses to avoid driving down narrow roads.

School to Save a Bundle on Bus and Van Purchase

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Like any household strained by the economy, the Sag Harbor School District continues to scrutinize spending to find ways of cutting costs. The imminent purchase of a school bus and van, a provision voted through by the community on May 19, is expected to save the district an additional $56,000, reported school business manager Len Bernard at the board of education meeting on Monday, June 8.
Originally, Bernard and superintendent Dr. John Gratto predicted the purchase would cut transportation spending by $125,000, but by combining the responsibilities of the full time bus driver, the measure is expected to save the district $181,000 next year.
“The savings will be outstanding,” declared Bernard. “The first year our net savings will be about $181,000. Once our debt services [for the bus and van] kicks in [next year] the savings will probably be around $140,000 per year [for the next five years]. After debt service is finished we will be back up to savings around $180,000 to $190,000.”
Bernard reported that the full time bus driver employed by the district will also conduct lunch duty around 150 days and will do spot monitoring for two hours per week. The plan of doubling up the responsibilities of the full time driver, said Bernard, would save the district nearly $12,250 overall. Bernard added that the school already has a trained and certified candidate for the position, who is also familiar with the area.
The school will also combine several bus routes, slashing district spending by around $255,000. The morning and afternoon bus routes for Ross School students living in the district will be synched with the bus schedule of the Sag Harbor Elementary School, totaling almost $100,000 in savings. Other combined routes include the morning buses for Stella Maris, Ross School and Hayground, and the afternoon buses for Hayground, the Ross Lower School, Our Lady of the Hamptons and the Montessori school.
In addition, the school is eying a plan to team up with the Bridgehampton and Springs school district to share transportation costs in the summer. Two Sag Harbor students are attending a “Life Skills” course over the summer in Springs and the Springs School District is willing to pick up these students, reported Bernard, saving the school around $4,500.
Last week, Dr. Gratto reported that the school would jointly transport students to the BOCES Riverhead location for summer classes with Bridgehampton School, but after further review the schools discovered a New York State law prohibiting school districts from sharing the services of private companies. In the original plan, Pierson kids were to be transported to Bridgehampton where a private bus company was to take the Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor students to Riverhead.
Among the laundry list of items mulled over by the BOE on Monday night was an idea to implement a student and staff recognition program. Board president Walter Wilcoxen said the school already had avenues to recognize achievements in sports and scholastics, but wanted to see students receive school appreciation for community projects and artistic accomplishments. Dr. Gratto noted that three Pierson students had recently performed at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City.
“Testing isn’t everything. We are also making community members out of our students and this is another way to re-enforce that role,” said Wilcoxen.
Dr. Gratto suggested the school hand out certificates to student and staff with the words “We’re proud of …” printed on them and filled in with the persons name and their accomplishment.
Sprucing up Pierson
Over the summer, the school plans to beautify the Division Street side of the exterior landscape with the help of students and art teachers Peter Solow and Joe Bartolotto. According to Solow, the students hope to construct a small brick wall along the grassy knoll leading up to the main side entrance. Bartolotto, who is also a professional mason, will teach the students basic masonry skill as part of a service learning project. Although the school has agreed to pay for the materials, Solow says the group is still looking for additional outside funding for Bartolotto’s time and are waiting for cost estimates for the brick.

Difference of Opinion in Noyac

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By Bryan Boyhan

Following an informative, but uneventful presentation on the benefits of becoming more environmentally sensitive, things erupted at the monthly meeting of the Noyac Civic Council on Tuesday night when a sharply divided room of Noyacans argued over whether or not there was to be a discussion about the proposed Sag Harbor school budget.

Chuck Schwartz, and environmental engineer and executive director of LI Green was the guest speaker at Tuesday’s meeting and offered a slide presentation that focused on how individuals can be more responsible in conservation and protecting the environment. It was a healthy choice, Schwartz told the audience of about 40, for both the individual and the planet.

Among his suggestions was getting a free energy audit from his organization, which is funded by Stony Brook University, consider alternative ways of heating and powering residences with geothermal or solar energy, and being careful not to use toxic materials when landscaping, instead using organic fertilizers or pesticides — or even learning to be tolerant about pests.

“I believe there is a great opportunity for growth opportunities in green businesses,” said an optimistic Schwartz.

But it wasn’t the environment that many in the audience had come to talk about.

As civic council president Chuck Neuman was about to call for a motion to close the meeting following Schwartz’s presentation, Peter Solow, a teacher at Pierson High School and Noyac resident, stood and wanted to know what had happened to a discussion about the school budget.

The council had intended to have the discussion and take a straw poll at their last meeting, in April, but Neuman demurred at the time, saying instead he would try to reach out to the membership through email to take a survey.

And here’s where things got confusing.

“I’m concerned,” said Solow to Neuman. “I received an email from you saying that there would be a discussion of school matters tonight.”

Neuman then apparently glanced at a copy of the email that had been sent to civic council members and asked Solow: “Tell me where it says we’re going to talk about school?”

What followed was a heated debate about whether Neuman had intended to have a discussion about the school’s budget, or if Solow and others — many of them part of a growing membership of parents with children in the district — had simply misunderstood. At the April meeting there were several dozen parents and others in the school community who had attended, clearly expecting a discussion about the budget.

They were attracted, said Solow, by an email sent to council membership by Neuman urging their attendance that read, in part:

“But, please, one more time, your presence is needed at our upcoming meeting on the 14th, so that we may discuss our stand on this school budget. Do we either accept it as an exercise in futility, or openly voice our opposition with the intention to vote against it?”

That discussion never happened, and instead Neuman said he would take a poll using his email list, but conceded this week, it was not particularly successful, receiving only slightly more than 20 responses, only 16 from dues-paying council members.

“If you care to participate in this poll – unscientific and not confidential – please, do so,” he wrote in the email that accompanied the survey and meeting announcement. Neither indicated there would actually be a discussion of the results or a straw poll.

 “I think it would be beneficial to have a public and open discussion to share our thoughts,” urged Solow. “We came to the last meeting thinking there would be some discussion of the school and budget. And we came to this meeting thinking there would be a discussion.”

Neuman indicated the results of the poll were not significant and added, “I was asked to take a poll, but those who asked did not understand the ramifications, that it would not be private.” He said later the civic council was taking steps to find a more private way of conducting an electronic survey.

Gary Goldstein asked the council to refrain from announcing or declaring a position until there can be an open discussion about the budget.

“Does the Noyac Civic Council have an official position about voting for the school budget,”saked Tice.

“No,” declared Neuman.

Following the meeting Neuman revealed that the votes he had received from his email survey resulted in eight in favor of the budget and eight opposed.