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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. 

District Considers New Plans for Auditorium and Parking at Pierson

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The “Facilities Study” of both Sag Harbor Elementary School and Pierson Middle/High School in the Sag Harbor school district is a compilation of different tasks that need to be completed at the schools in order to comply with current codes and standards. At their most recent monthly meeting, however, the district’s Long Range Planning Committee focused more on big-ticket items such as a new auditorium and parking.
If combined, those two projects alone could cost the district as much as $12.7 million — but that is if they include all the bells and whistles. Although the beginning of last Thursday’s meeting focused on parking, the majority of the time was spent discussing the new auditorium. The conversations on Thursday mirrored those of earlier meetings. This time, district architect Larry Salvesen prepared three plans for a new auditorium as requested by committee members during their October meeting.
The three different plans for the auditorium included a basic plan, an improved plan and then the complete plan — costing $900,000, $2 million, and $12 million, respectively. Salvesen explained that the most expensive plan would include the creation of a separate space in the courtyard area, adjacent to where the current auditorium is.
“The art [department] is looking for space,” Salvesen said, “If you added art where the current auditorium is, then the entire center of the building becomes the arts.”
During Thursday’s meeting, some committee members shared their personal feelings from music concerts and plays they have attended in recent weeks. Members of the committee, which is made up of teachers, administrators, parents and other community members, expressed frustration about the lack of air conditioning, ventilation, torn curtains and other issues in the current facility.
Pierson High School Principal Jeff Nichols said that because of the inadequacies of the facility, he schedules “moving up” ceremonies and other similar assemblies in the middle school gymnasium.
Further, members of the committee talked about the vinyl tile that makes up the floor, the risers and issues with the stage itself.
“Why are we are looking at the little details?” committee member and former chemistry and physics teacher Richard Gold asked. “It is such a big project that has such a big impact and I wonder if we should be talking about the dismal feeling of the facility or are we trying to create a place that will give excitement to the facility and the community — and bring possible income to the school?”
“It’s a weird time to say that the energy that can be created by pride and enthusiasm is something that can’t be seen in dollars and cents,” said Gold who also noted that he attended a play the week prior, and there was a contrast as to what was going on on-stage and the actual room it was taking place in.
“It was painful to me,” he said. “This is the center of the school and it’s a shame. It’s a question of motivation and not just economies.”
But others at the meeting had different concerns, and requested more information about the current use of the facility.
One committee member asked how many school-related performances happen in the auditorium, and noted that it seemed like a lot of money to spend on a facility that hosted three performances a year.
Nichols disagreed with that number, saying he hadn’t yet finished tallying up all the performances scheduled for the year, but added that it was more like 20 in a school year.
“Right now the situation is oppressive,” said Nichols. “You can’t enjoy it.”
Pierson art teacher Peter Solow added that the number of performances is misleading.
“You are talking just about the performances, but not utilization,” Solow said. “Right now there is no facility to be used for rehearsal, there is no space for sets and there is no other place for them to go. They are rehearsing in the auditorium, and there are a number of other uses for this space.”
Solow explained that the new space can be used for awards ceremonies and other events, which have been moved due to the failing HVAC system.
“Some of the performances had to be moved. It was too hot, we had to change it. People have fainted in there while watching performances,” Solow said.
The three different alternatives for the auditorium include both minor and major changes.
“Scheme A is small improvements,” Salvesen explained. “Scheme B has everything in A and a little more.”
Plan “C” is a proposal that puts the new auditorium in the court yard and could potentially create more space for additional classrooms and storage.
The arguments bounced back and forth on what a reasonable solution to the pending issue of building a new auditorium should be.
“No one is arguing that the space doesn’t work,” president of the school board Walter Wilcoxen said addressing Solow’s concerns.
“You could say generally it doesn’t work, but we should say that it is fundamentally inadequate if you don’t build storage,” Solow argued.
Questions also raised by members of the committee focused on the idea that the new space may be able to generate income for the school if it is rented out.
“The motivation should not be to make money off of this,” Solow said.
Wilcoxen told members of the committee that the “C” plan may be more of a long term goal.
“It may not be realistic, right now, but start thinking about it as a possibility,” he said.
But Nichols informed the members, “There is another issue, there is an immediacy.”
Parking
The other large project occupying the Long-Range Planning Committee is the issue of parking at both the elementary school and Pierson.
The committee members decided at a previous meeting that the lots at Jermain Avenue, Atlantic Avenue and Hampton Street should be reconfigured to allow for more spaces. At their last meeting, committee members asked Salvesen to create a new plan, this time allowing for even more spaces along Atlantic Avenue by moving the asphalt court closer to Clinton Street and utilizing empty, unused lawn area for an extension of the court additionally providing an extension of the parking lot.
At last week’s meeting, Salvesen showed his plans to move the court and extend the parking lot along with the price tag for each of the three proposed lots. For the lot on Atlantic Avenue it would add an additional 26 spaces and cost the district $340,000. The reconfigured lot off of Jermain Avenue has a $375,000 price tag and would add an additional 17 spaces. And the lot on Hampton Street would cost $320,000 and add 25 spaces — but none of these estimates included contingencies and fees, according to Salvesen.


Art Students Get Field Trip at Home

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perico pastor visits pierson

There is no school trip planned to Italy this year, and a trip to Spain is highly unlikely — but teachers in the Sag Harbor School District are still working hard to get the best education and experience for their students.
Peter Solow, the high school art teacher at Pierson knows a very influential person in his industry — artist Perico Pastor of Barcelona, Spain. Pastor is been staying with Solow for two weeks in his Sag Harbor home and is working with the art students at Pierson who are reaping the benefits of studying alongside this widely-experienced and well-traveled artist.
“I used to live in New York City,” Pastor said on Monday. “I lived there for 12 years, it is like a second home to me.”
Pastor, who brought his wife and son along on this visit, has produced numerous illustrations for the New York Times and now works for a newspaper in Spain.
“I haven’t had any formal training,” Pastor said, “I just look at other people’s work.”
Though he never went to art school nor sat as an art student, Pastor seemed thrilled with the opportunity to teach the kids in Sag Harbor. He has taught in other areas across the globe, including most recently Cairo and Tokyo.
While Pastor is here, Solow is holding workshops after school for up to 15 interested kids, teachers and administrators. At one point, Solow said there were as many as 22 attendees at the workshop.
He said perhaps the best thing the kids will get from Pastor is learning how to take care of art supplies. Pastor teaches the kids that materials are extremely valuable. He explains that even drying the brushes is important in keeping them for a number of years.
Solow explained on Monday that some of the materials the students were using, paid for through the school’s Reutershan Trust, were costly and materials that Solow, himself, has never had the privilege of using before. This includes Japanese brushes, Sumi ink and homemade oriental paper — Pastor’s materials of choice for watercolor painting — his technique of choice.
Pastor asked the kids to be courageous in their work, and told them that art is an eye-opening experience — similar to that of bull fighting. Pastor said his philosophy is about taking care of what’s important and valuable.

“We live in a disposable society,” Solow said on Monday. “He explained that it is important for the kids to realize that everything should not be replaceable.”
Solow said that Pastor’s workshops are also great discipline for the art students.
“This two-and-a-half-hour shot can be exhausting, and requires a tremendous amount of commitment,” says Solow. “But the kids will look back on it and we will still have these brushes from the workshops.”
Pastor told the students to learn to take chances and more importantly, with watercolor, learn to live with the mistakes they make. He also told them to lose pre-conceived notions of what the final product will look like.
“I always try to achieve maximum results with minimum effort,” said Pastor on Monday. “I’m impressed with the students in all levels and how quickly they work. They have had very good training in art and they are very thorough.”
Pastor told the students that less is often more, and that adding more does not necessarily make a better piece of art. Pastor also talked to the students about looking at artwork as symbols. Pastor has created massive pieces of work on paper that can be up to 12-feet long, with a simple message or symbol. His business card reflects this idea – the card is a copy of his six-foot long piece of paper with two eyes featured painted in black.
At the end of the week, when the workshops close, Pastor will have one big piece of work completed with the students that will show a simple symbol.
“This type of art is like putting on a performance,” said Solow.