Tag Archive | "Pierson"

Niche Ranking Names Pierson 49th Best Public High School in New York State

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Pierson seniors celebrate their graduation following the Pierson High School commencement ceremony on June 28, 2014. Photo by Michael Heller.

Pierson seniors celebrate their graduation following the Pierson High School commencement ceremony on June 28, 2014. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Sag Harbor’s Pierson Middle/High School was ranked the 49th best public high school in New York State in the Niche list, a national rating determined not just by statistics, but also alumni, parent and student survey responses. Pierson’s grade, of which academics account for 50 percent, was an “A+” overall.

“A high ranking indicates that the school is an exceptional academic institution with a diverse set of high-achieving students who rate their experience very highly,” Niche said of its annual list, which looked at statistics and survey results at 14,431 high schools nationwide. Magnet, charter and online schools are not eligible for ranking.

In 35th place in New York, Westhampton Beach Senior High School was the top high school on the East End, followed by Pierson at 49, East Hampton at 58, Southampton at 65, Shelter Island at 213 and Greenport at 236.

On Monday, Sag Harbor Superintendent Katy Graves attributed Pierson’s strong showing to its “strength of schedule,” strong course offerings like Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes. The school started offering IB in September 2012 and Pierson’s first diploma candidates in the program graduated last year.

“This reinforces again that our overall rankings keep coming out clearly—our students are doing such an outstanding job,” said Ms. Graves, comparing the Niche grade to Pierson’s strong test scores.

Government and other public data, Niche’s data and over 4 million surveys, which asked parents, alumni and students to rate their schools, determined the rankings.

“They feel like the academics, the administration, the policies and our educational outcomes are really outstanding,” Ms. Graves said of the survey respondents, adding that Pierson was given a top score of A+ for the quality of Sag Harbor teachers. “That resonates. I think that really sends a great message out to keep doing what we’re doing and to continue doing our personal best to give that Sag Harbor experience to all of our students,” she said.

Half of a school’s score is based on academics, 10 percent each on health and safety, student culture and diversity, survey responses and the teachers’ grades, 5 percent on resources and facilities, and 2.5 percent each for sports and extracurricular activities.

Pierson was given a top score of A+ for teachers and resources and facilities and A’s in academics and health and safety. Extracurriculars and activities received a B+, sports and fitness a B-.

Pierson’s lowest score was in student culture and diversity, which received a C+. Eighty-two percent of Pierson students are white, 14 percent are Hispanic and 2 percent are black, according to Niche.

Much of the data came from statistics reported by the schools to the U.S. Department of Education from 2011 to 2012. Some schools that scored well did not qualify for an official ranking due to insufficient data.

Many of the schools on the list are science and technical institutes. High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey, came in first in the country, followed by Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois, International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and two New York schools, Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and Staten Island Technical High School.

Pierson Senior Selected out of Thousands to Sing at All-State Festival

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By Tessa Raebeck

When Megan Beedenbender sings, everything in the room aside from her voice disappears. The listener becomes mesmerized, further enthralled with each captivating note.

“It’s my way of expressing myself,” Megan said on Wednesday, December 17, in between classes at Pierson High School. “Through music, I feel like I communicate my emotions well.”

Megan’s singing has become more than a form of self-expression for the high school senior, it is now an official point of pride for the Sag Harbor School District. As a result of a perfect score in last year’s auditions, Megan, an alto who can also sing soprano, was selected to perform in the Women’s Chorus at the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) All-State Festival, December 4 through 7.

The Sag Harbor student was chosen from among 6,000 students who auditioned across the state. Of those, nearly 900 students were chosen for eight different performing groups; she was one of about 120 in women’s chorus.

With a love for singing that began when she as a toddler singing along to Disney songs, Megan started honing her hobby in the third grade, as part of the small chorus at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Since sixth grade, she has been working with Suzanne Nicoletti in Pierson’s middle and high school choruses.

“Megan’s first year,” recalled Ms. Nicoletti of the then sixth grader, “I handed her a NYSSMA sheet and I said, ‘You’re doing this,’ because I saw potential and I knew she could greatly improve.”

Since that day, Megan has performed at festivals and solo competitions, “and has always been kind of like the rock of whatever section she’s in,” added Ms. Nicoletti. “I always could depend on Megan to know her part, to be there both with a positive attitude and with the right frame of mind to just do her best. And it’s been wonderful having her in chorus all these years.”

Ms. Nicoletti and Megan bonded over their shared love for what some may consider a broad musical taste: Classical greats like Bach and Mozart mixed with Def Leppard, Journey and other 1980s hair bands.

“If you don’t really care about singing, then it’s not going to be your thing,” said Ms. Nicoletti, adding that somewhere in between her sophomore and junior years, Megan seemed to decide, “Yes, I’m really moving forward with this and this is going to be my thing and my focus, and it was very inspiring. When she started taking private lessons, then things really got even better.”

Megan took her music a step further last year by adding private lessons with Amanda Jones in East Hampton in both voice and piano. She also performs with the Choral Society of the Hamptons, which recently awarded her with a scholarship for vocal training.

As a junior last spring, Megan earned a perfect score of 100 at the NYSSMA Solo Festival in Level VI, the highest class. The score enabled her to apply for the all-state festival, but her position was solidified by character recommendations from Pierson faculty and her participation in local music groups.

“NYSSMA requires a lot of outside time, it requires a lot of self-direction, self-motivation, private lessons, practicing at home—it’s really college-level,” Eric Reynolds, a music teacher at Pierson, said of his student’s accomplishments. Mr. Reynolds, who taught her as a junior in IB music last year, now teaches Megan in AP Music Theory.

“In theory we’re going to start composition, but I love being handed a piece and I love being able to interpret it in my way,” Megan said.

While singing in English is a feat in and of itself for many people, Megan can also sing in German, Italian, French and Chinese.

“I love singing in German, which is really weird. It’s really random, but I like taking those kinds of songs and just making it my own,” she said.

Known for its guttural, deep sounds, German is “just a powerful language,” she said, “and being an alto, when you have a powerful, deep voice and a powerful language—it’s just so good together….what I enjoy about singing in a different language is that when someone’s listening, they’re not focusing on the words, they’re focusing on what it sounds like.”

When she sings, be it the ‘sh’ syllables of Chinese or the flowery rhythms of Italian, Megan’s strong voice is showcased first and foremost.

Her teachers, who she said, “know my voice, which is really cool,” have helped her to focus her breath and tone quality, shape her mouth and sing from her diaphragm. “It’s almost singing from the heart,” she said of how her voice has matured.

Although she was just selected as one of the top singers in New York’s high schools, Megan is not dwelling on her accomplishments. Like most high school seniors, she is more concerned with getting into college than giving private concerts in German.

Through “discovering how much I really loved music,” she has figured out which path to pursue after Pierson, and is well on her way to becoming a music education teacher. She has already been accepted to one of the country’s top music programs and will audition for a different program at her dream school in February.

“I’ve been given so much love through music, so I just want to share my love with everyone else through music, that’s a big thing—and I can’t picture myself doing anything else,” she said.

“Music has been my therapy,” Megan continued, as she sat, surrounded by instruments in Mr. Reynolds’s office at Pierson, “like my guiding light, it’s gotten me through everything…basically, it’s like music speaks when I can’t.”

Sag Harbor’s Eighth Graders Host Book Drive to Aid Middle School Affected by Hurricane Katrina

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Students in Christine Farrell's eighth grade English class at Pierson with books they're donating to Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Kenner, Louisiana, which lost all its supplies due to flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina. Photo courtesy Christine Farrell.

Students in Christine Farrell’s eighth grade English class at Pierson with books they’re donating to Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Kenner, Louisiana, which lost all its supplies due to flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina. Courtesy Christine Farrell.

By Tessa Raebeck

When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005, it looked like the flooded Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Kenner, Louisiana, would close its doors forever. Nine years later, the school has a brand new building, but its desks, bookshelves and supply cabinets remain empty.

Sag Harbor students are determined to help fill those shelves. Eighth graders in Christine Farrell’s English classes at Pierson Middle School are collecting books to send down to Kenner, a small city in the New Orleans suburbs.

“They are very happy to pay it forward,” Ms. Farrell said of her students, who have plastered posters around Pierson’s halls asking classmates for donations.

Superintendent Katy Graves connected the middle schools after hearing from a former student of hers, Katy Clayton. Ms. Clayton began teaching at Roosevelt Middle School this year, with six classes, including eighth grade English.

“She started the year with no paper for the copy machine, no books,” Ms. Graves explained. “Literally, the school was gutted. They built the school where the flood had come in, but they had no resources at all.”

Ms. Graves quickly got on the phone with John Olson, the principal at Roosevelt Middle School. Mr. Olson had worked in some of the highest performing schools in the south, but, rather than pursuing a lucrative interim job, after retirement he decided to return to work in his hometown. His hometown needed his experience: Before its doors opened for classes this fall, the middle school was already in the red, with no money for such basic supplies as pens and paper.

Ms. Katy Clayton and her eighth grade English Language Arts students at Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Kenner, Louisiana.

Ms. Katy Clayton and her eighth grade English Language Arts students at Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Kenner, Louisiana.

“They have a brand new building and it’s all pretty, but they have literally next to nothing for the classroom, they don’t have even white Xerox paper,” explained Ms. Farrell.

“The kids,” she said of her eighth grade students in Sag Harbor, “ have an abundance of books and typically for eighth grade, I ask them to read independent books on their own and usually they read it once and then nothing happens—it gets lost under their beds.”

The eighth grade ran a “very successful” book drive for the Little Flower School in Shoreham several years ago, so Ms. Farrell said she knows “Pierson will definitely come through with this.”

Although the focus is on the eighth grade at Roosevelt Middle School, Sag Harbor students have been collecting non-fiction, fiction and picture books for all students in the school, which has students in grades six through eight. “They need really everything,” said Ms. Farrell.

The drive has only been running about three weeks, but Pierson students have seen ample donations from parents and community members since word got out.

Eighth grade students bringing donated books into Pierson. Photo courtesy Christine Farrell.

Eighth grade students bringing donated books into Pierson. Courtesy Christine Farrell.

“We have all this stuff collecting in our house,” Ms. Farrell said, “but you don’t want to throw it out, it’s a book.” Families who may have overdone it on the school supplies shopping this fall can bring any extra items to the school. “Whatever they’re not using can be donated,” she said. They are still working out the logistics of how to transport boxes of heavy books to Louisiana.

Although Pierson students are starting with the book drive, they hope to continue working to support the southern school in various ways throughout the year.

“We want these kids to develop; we’re really working hard on character and empathy and thoughtfulness and really reaching outside yourself,” said Ms. Graves, adding, “I’m so proud of them.”

Ms. Farrell hopes to connect her eighth graders with their southern counterparts more directly by establishing literary pen pals; students would write letters to each other based on the books they’re reading in class.

When Ms. Carlson, the teacher at Roosevelt Middle School, accepted Pierson’s offer to help, Ms. Graves gave her one condition: The Yale graduate will be coming to Sag Harbor to speak with students about getting into a top school from a small town later in the year—and she’ll likely be returning south with plenty of boxes.

If you’d like to donate books or school supplies to the Theodore Roosevelt Middle School, please drop items off at the main office at Pierson Middle/High School, with an attention to detail for Christine Farrell.

Homecoming Success for Whalers Athletic Teams

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Senior Javier Martinez battling for control during Pierson's 5-0 win over Greenport on Saturday.

Senior Javier Martinez battling for control during Pierson’s 5-0 win over Greenport on Saturday.

By Gavin Menu; photography by Michael Heller

Pierson High School celebrated homecoming over the weekend with a full schedule of games and success across many different playing fields.

The school’s boys soccer team continued its streak of unbeaten play in League VIII, improving to 4-0  atop the league standings with a 5-0 win over Greenport on Friday. Cameron Burton scored twice for the Whalers and Jack Fitzpatrick had a goal and two assists.

Two days earlier, on September 17, Pierson beat Port Jefferson, 4-1, for the first time in four years behind  two goals and two assists from Fitzpatrick, a senior who is once again leading the offensive attack for the Whalers, the undefeated league champions from a season ago.

“We’ve been both fortunate and the team is improving,” head coach Peter Solow said this week. “And there has been much more intensity recently.”

Solow said Fitzpatrick has “the capacity to take a game over” and that his speed, along with that of fellow senior Johnny Chisholm, is hard for most teams to contend with. Solow also praised the play of sophomore Chase Zimmerman, who in his first year as goalie made eight saves against Greenport to post a shutout on homecoming weekend.

“He’s the most courageous guy we have on our team,” Solow said of Zimmerman, who stepped up in the preseason after the presumed starting goalie decided to play another sport. “We were desperate and I asked him to go in goal. He has the potential over time to become a tremendous goalie.”

Jesus Padilla scored goals against Port Jeff and Greenport, while Charlie Pintado added a goal against Port Jeff and Chisholm against Greenport.

Pierson will travel for a re-match with Greenport on Monday under the lights at 6:15 p.m.  A date with second-place Smithtown Christian is scheduled for Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in Mashashimuet Park.

“The next three games will tell a lot about how we’re going to be this year,” Solow said on Monday. “We have to go out every game with intensity, work hard and do the best we can. “

Pierson senior Johnny Chisholm battling for a loose ball against Greenport on Monday.

Pierson senior Johnny Chisholm battling for a loose ball against Greenport on Monday.

Up and Down Week for Field Hockey

The Lady Whalers field hockey team posted a 1-2 record over the last week, with a homecoming weekend win over Hampton Bays as a highlight on Saturday.

Sophomore phenom Ana Sherwood scored five goals and had two assists to lead Pierson in a 8-0 romp over the Lady Baymen.  Cali Cafiero had two goals and Hollie Schleicher had one.

The offensive explosion was welcome after a 1-0 loss to Shoreham-Wading River three days earlier on September 17. Shoreham’s Emily DeGenarro is one of the best goalies on Long Island, according to Pierson coach Shannon Judge, and made 10 saves in the game, which Pierson played once again without senior defender Rachel Miller, who has been out sick but returned to the lineup on Saturday.

“It was definitely an evenly matched game,” Judge said about facing Shoreham. “Their goalie was excellent and came up with two huge saves within the last three minutes of play which could have been goals.”

Pierson (3-3) also lost to Sayville on Monday by a score of 3-1, which dropped the team’s overall record to 3-3, good for ninth place in Division III with 96.870 power points. The Lady Whalers play at Babylon, a fellow Class C school, this Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. The game is a crucial one since only the top three schools out of five from Class C will advance to the postseason.

“Generally speaking, we are playing well, but are very young,” Judge said. “We just need a little more time to find our ebb and flow.”

East Hampton Tennis Beats Rival

The East Hampton girls tennis team, which features players from Pierson and Bridgehampton, avenged a loss from earlier this season with a 4-3 win over Westhampton at home on Saturday, which was also part of homecoming weekend at East Hampton High School.

Pierson’s Isabel Peters and Cece Combemale won at second and fourth singles, respectively, with dominant straight-set wins as the Lady Bonackers took three out of the four singles matches. Harriet DeGroot, from Bridgehampton, and Pierson’s Lily Kot also cruised in their match, winning 6-1, 6-1 at first doubles to clinch the win for East Hampton, which also beat McGann Mercy this week to improve to 3-3 in League VII play.

The Lady Bonackers will host Miller Place on Monday at 4 p.m.

Surprising Result for Girls Swimming

The East Hampton girls swim team, which includes a handful of students from Pierson, picked up a surprising win over visiting Smithtown on Friday, winning 92-76 in front of a capacity crowd at the YMCA aquatic center.

“After just four weeks of training, the girls are quickly improving their times,” head coach Craig Brierley said. “They are beginning to realize that their hard work is paying off.”

The team will host two consecutive League II meets at the YMCA, starting with Harborfields on Wednesday, October 1, at 5 p.m., to be followed by a meet with Huntington on October 7, also at 5 p.m.

Whalers Golf Bounces Back With Win

After falling to perennial League VII powerhouse Southampton last Thursday, September 18, the Pierson golf team bounced back with an 8-1 win over Westhampton at the Noyac Golf Club on Monday afternoon and a huge win over East Hampton on Tuesday, the first over the Bonackers since 2012.

Ben Kushner dropped his match in the number-one spot against Westhampton, shooting a 49 compared to the 48 from Bobby Joyce of Westhampton. Pierson golfers dominated the remaining matches, with Charles Canavan (43), Matt Burke (47) and Jack Brown (42) winning in the next three spots. Freshman Tyler LaBorne shot a team-best 41 to win his match in the fifth spot, while Greg Baum (52) and Theo Gray (56) won matches as well. As a team, Pierson outshot Westhampton 222-250.

Canavan (42), Kushner (41), Burke (43) all picked up points and LaBorne (51) halved his match against East Hampton. As a team, the Whalers narrowly edged the Bonackers 223-224 and improved their overall record to 4-1 overall

The Whalers will face Westhampton again on Tuesday, this time at the Westhampton Country Club, at 3:30 p.m.

 Girls Soccer Drops a Pair

The Pierson-Bridgehampton girls soccer team dropped two games over the last week, including a 3-0 loss to Southold at home on Saturday as part of the school’s homecoming festivities. Earlier in the week, on Thursday, September 18, the Lady Whalers (0-4, League VII) fell to Mattituck on the road by a score of 4-1.

Next up is a game at Stony Brook on Monday at 4:30 p.m. , with a home game against Port Jefferson scheduled for Wednesday, October 1, at  4:30 p.m.

Volleyball Showdown at Ross on Monday

The Pierson-Bridgehampton girls volleyball team also dropped a pair of matches this week, losing in straight sets to both Stony Brook on Friday, September 19, and Port Jefferson on Monday. The Lady Whalers dropped to 1-4 in the League VIII standings.

The Lady Whalers will have an opportunity to get back into the winning column when they play at the winless Ross School on Monday at 4 p.m.

Drone Spotted Flying Over Sag Harbor

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An aerial view of Sag Harbor taken by Pierson Middle/High School students with the school's new drone, donated by the Reutershan Educational Trust. Photo courtesy Peter Solow.

An aerial view of Sag Harbor taken by Pierson Middle/High School students with the school’s new drone, donated by the Reutershan Educational Trust. Courtesy Peter Solow.

By Tessa Raebeck 

At the signal from Theo Gray, Isabella di Russa sprinted down Pierson Hill, a streak of pink and red as a long Chinese dragon kite trailed behind her. Darting among a triangle of bright beach umbrellas held by classmates at the bottom of the hill, she weaved the dragon between them.

From Theo’s view at the top of the hill, the colorful umbrella tops were hardly visible, but he had a better vantage point. A drone, hardly noticeable except for the humming of its engine, whirred above Isabella’s head, capturing the scene below.

A small, remote-controlled aircraft with a camera attached to its base, the drone is the latest instrument of Sag Harbor’s student artists. Donated by the Reutershan Educational Trust, a privately funded art program created by Sag Harbor resident and architect Hobart “Hobie” Betts, the drone is being piloted in a weeklong workshop at Pierson High School.

On Wednesday, August 6, five students, Theo, Isabella, Danielle Schoenfeld, Joy Tagliasachhi and Zoe Vatash, two visiting artists, Francine Fleischer and Scott Sandell, both from Sag Harbor, and art teacher Peter Solow experimented with their new tool.

Mr. Sandell manned a remote control that operated the white drone, an alien-like aircraft with four propellers that move simultaneously in different directions. To capture photos and videos, students took turns controlling an iPhone connected simply by Wifi to the drone’s camera.

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Sag Harbor students took photos with their new drone on Pierson Hill on Wednesday, August 6. Photo by Theo Gray.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, were until recently used primarily for military operations and by the occasional pioneering photographer. The technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, with the once pricey gadgets (some of which still cost as much as $30,000) now available from vendors like Amazon for less than $75.

As with most new technology, drones are proliferating too fast for laws and regulations to keep up. On Sunday, August 3, Senator Charles Schumer urged the Federal Aviation Association and the U.S. Commerce Department to regulate the use of drones for both commercial and hobby purposes. New York City, the senator said, is the “Wild West for drones,” with multiple instances of the devices crashing into trees, apartment terraces and hovering outside windows reported this summer.

But on Pierson Hill Wednesday, the need was not for regulations nor drone policy, but for a way to master the new technology while also figuring out how to create art that is unique, inspiring and innovative, despite the gadgets’ soaring popularity.

“When people initially started to use computers to make artwork, they didn’t know what to do and everything they did was bad,” said Mr. Sandell, an artist and printmaker, who, like Ms. Fleischer, has worked with Sag Harbor students for years doing site-specific artwork and photography projects through the Reutershan Trust. “But now, people have learned how to use it and control it and software has caught up to the ideas and so, now you can create beautiful things with your computer.”

“So,” he added, “this is just another tool and that’s what’s really important here—taking that experience and putting it into your school of thought, your sensibilities, in terms of what’s possible.”

Pierson's new drone hovers over student Zoe Vatash on Wednesday, August 6. Courtesy Peter Solow.

Pierson’s new drone hovers over student Zoe Vatash on Wednesday, August 6. Courtesy Peter Solow.

“There’s a wow factor to the technology,” added Mr. Solow. “And this is the essential question that we’ve challenged the kids with and the thing that’s really tough—how do you take this technology and make art?”

Now that most people have cell phones with strong camera capabilities, everyone is constantly taking snapshots, Mr. Solow said, “so what’s the difference between a really great photograph and a snapshot? Everybody is going to have drones, what is the difference between what everybody will do with a drone and having some sort of artistic merit to what we’re doing?”

With just three days of drone experimentation under their belt, on Wednesday, the students appeared to have risen to the challenge. They had dozens of photographs and videos, including aerial shots of Sag Harbor Village with the harbor and North Haven in the distance, videos looking down on Zoe doing cartwheels and Isabella dribbling a soccer ball, and even a video of the drone crashing into a tree.

The drone, Theo said, allows the young artists to “do things that we really can’t do with a normal camera, with angles and views…it’s interesting just to see what we can do with photography.”

In one video, Zoe worked the camera while Danielle, Isabella, Joy and Theo rolled down the hill.

In a “self-portrait,” as Mr. Solow called it, the drone captured its own shadow reflected on the hill, a slightly eerie shot for anyone familiar with movies featuring rebellious robots.

“It’s awesome,” said Ms. Fleischer, a portrait, landscape and fine art photographer, “because you can use the ground as your canvas. So, with that in mind, it just gives you another perspective.”

A video taken in the Pierson gymnasium looks directly down onto the lines of the basketball court, with Mr. Solow and the students standing around a circle juggling and passing a soccer ball. As the drone hovers, figures move in and out of the shot. As Theo does a header, the ball comes dangerously close to the camera.

Pierson student Theo Gray and visiting artist Scott Sandell have a flight consultation on Wednesday, August 6. Photo by Peter Solow.

Pierson student Theo Gray and visiting artist Scott Sandell have a flight consultation on Wednesday, August 6. Photo by Peter Solow.

Filming indoors poses an additional challenge, as “the drone is so powerful that the propellers create a great deal of turbulence,” said Mr. Sandell. “When you’re inside, the turbulence bounces off the walls and comes back at the drone so you create a wind shear.”

When inside, the drone can be knocked around by the reflection of its own turbulence and harder to control. Outside, a gust of wind or an ill-advised bird could send it whirring away.

Despite the turbulence, the camera is generally still and focused, which is a good thing, as the students’ ideas of how to push the boundaries—and thus create innovative art—keep coming.

While brainstorming for new means of experimentation with the drone, Zoe asked, “Could we fill water balloons with paint and drop them from it?” No one denied the request.

 

More photos taken with Sag Harbor’s new drone:

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Pierson’s Class of 2014 Graduates

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Pierson girls celebrate their graduation following the Pierson High School 2014 commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 28. Photo by Michael Heller.

Pierson girls celebrate their graduation following the Pierson High School 2014 commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 28. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Genevieve Kotz

On a warm Saturday evening, the 79 members of the class of 2014 walked across the grassy lawn of Sag Harbor’s Pierson High School to receive their diplomas.

The ceremony began as the graduates—girls in white, boys in black—proceeded down the hill and to their seats as the band played “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Hundreds of people filled audience, either sitting in seats reserved for families or sitting on the lawn under the shade of trees.

Salutatorian Marley Holder was the first to address the crowd. She began her speech by noting how her fellow students made her work extremely hard to obtain her position as salutatorian. In her speech, she applauded her classmates’ work ethic and character.

“Most of my classmates and I have known each other since kindergarten and being in such a small school, we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well,” she said.

She went on to describe how character, something each member of her graduating class exemplified, is defined by the way one deals with the challenges one faces.

“I want us to face our obstacles with honesty and courage,” She said. “I want us to strive for goals we think are far beyond our reach, and I especially want each of us to remember the importance of preserving good character as we achieve these goals.”

Valedictorian Cole Severance also had a similar theme in his speech. He began by noting the hard work he and his classmates had put in and the accomplishments they achieved. He advised his classmates to be themselves, comparing life to prom, which he said was one of the most memorable moments from high school.

“The more you let go and be yourself, the happier you will be,” Cole said. He noted that the future is difficult to predict and that no one really knows where he or she will be in 10 years.

“If we all continue to be ourselves and to pursue the things that genuinely interest us, we will find our callings and lead fulfilling lives,” he said.

Before Cole finished, however, he explained how he wanted to remember graduation forever, before pulling out a smartphone to snap the perfect “selfie” with first his peers and then the audience.

Principal Jeff Nichols then awarded the Principal’s Award to Aaron J. Schiavoni, noting that the decision to give the award to Aaron was unanimous among the faculty. Mr. Nichols then handed out a slew of other awards, including community scholarships such as the Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter United States Marine Scholarship and the Sag Harbor Fire Department Scholarship.

Following the awards, Kevin O’Connor took the podium to give the 2014 commencement address. Mr. O’Connor, who is the president of the Bridgehampton National Bank, urged the students to be passionate about the decisions they make, noting that the common trait of all the successful people he knows is the passion they have for their craft.

“Passion motivates you, passion makes you work harder, passion inspires others,” Mr. O’Connor explained, “Passion makes you successful.”

Before concluding, he noted how many people were pessimistic about the future of the country, but he said he believed that this generation has the potential to be the next greatest generation.

“Please go out and seize this opportunity, build on the successes you’ve had, become the leaders this country needs, have the vision of the success,” he said, “and the passion to achieve it.”

Following his speech, the students thanked several teachers who had helped them the most throughout their high school careers. The senior members of the chorus then gave a rendition of the song “Keep Holding On.”

Before the diplomas were distributed, interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso gave a few remarks to the class. In his talk, he compared the school to a cathedral, as the center of a community, built by and for the community. The school, he said, will always be there for them.

“What kind of cathedrals will you build? What kind of cathedrals will you be?” He asked the students.

The ceremony concluded with the awarding of diplomas. After singing the alma mater, the students filed down the aisle. In a Pierson tradition, they ran up the hill to the school, throwing their caps in the air before being joined by their families and friends.

Pierson Parents and School at Odds Over Recognizing Sag Harbor’s Salutatorians

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A student navigates the halls of Pierson High School. Photo by Michael Heller.

A student navigates the halls of Pierson High School. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

The parents of a Pierson High School senior say their daughter was unjustly denied recognition for her academic performance and that the Sag Harbor School District is doing nothing about it.

Kristin and Paul Davey maintain their daughter deserves to be recognized as a co-salutatorian of the graduating class of 2014 because the district uses faulty guidelines and does not have a clear policy for how valedictorians and salutatorians are named.

Pierson administrators, however, say the district is using the same guidelines it has used for decades and, although they may enact a board-level policy in the future, that change will not happen in the days leading up to graduation.

After taking the complaints to Facebook, Kristin Davey said in a phone interview Wednesday, June 25, that her daughter was in third place by 7/100ths of a point when the grade point average rankings were calculated in January. When the grades were recalculated in April, Ms. Davey said, her daughter had pulled into second by a full point.

Dr. Paul Davey in a statement to the board on June 18 said their daughter was then “invited by State Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s office to a luncheon honoring Long Island’s valedictorians and salutatorians.”

Ms. Davey said on Wednesday, June 25, that several days after they received the invitation, Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols informed her that her daughter had been invited in error.

She was told, she said, that “they were not using those grades, they were using the grades in January, as has been their tradition, and that [my daughter] was not the salutatorian.”

“We asked several times for the school to recognize [our daughter] as co-salutatorian and not to take anything away from the other student, but to recognize them both,” she said.

“I feel that we were misled and it’s gotten kind of worse from there,” said Ms. Davey, adding that she has sent many letters and made many phone calls to administrators that have gone unanswered.

“We’ve had very, very clear guidelines with regard to that, my understanding is certainly for the 17 years I’ve been here and for decades preceding that,” Mr. Nichols said when the issue was brought up at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, June 24.

The guidelines are on page 17 of the student handbook, which is given to every student and available on the district website.

Mr. Nichols read from the policy Tuesday, which states: “To validate who has earned the highest (valedictorian) and the second highest (salutatorian) ranks in a graduating class, students’ grades are re-averaged at the end of the first semester of the year in which the class graduates. Such determination is final and no adjustment thereafter will take place.”

In a phone conversation Wednesday, June 25, Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the district, said, “There was something where I believe some temporary word was passed along that [Ms. Davey’s] daughter was ranked second in the class, but when we checked it was an error.”

“While at the time of the ranking—that is at the end of the seventh semester in the middle of the year that they’re graduating, which is what Jeff read last night [at the school board meeting]—in fact, it was not her daughter,” he said.

“I’d rather not discuss a specific case or a specific child,” he added, “so I can only say that Mr. Nichols clarified it as much as possible additionally last night and no further comment.”

In his statement read on June 18, Dr. Davey questioned the lack of “a formal policy” and asked the board to vote that evening to recognize co-salutatorians for the class of 2014.

“The only thing they keep reciting in this refusal is traditionally they have never done that before and I don’t find that a good enough answer,” Ms. Davey said.

“Because they are lacking this formal policy,” she said, “I just don’t understand why they will not recognize both students…I just really hope that moving forward, the district writes a clear, comprehensive and specific policy so this does not happen in the future to any student graduating from Pierson. I will say that [my daughter] is beyond devastated that her school will not recognize her academic achievement.”

“There has been some discussion about having a more formal policy, there are districts that have board-level policies on it,” BOE Vice President Chris Tice said. “I would suggest at a future board meeting, we discuss whether we want to have that sort of policy on it.”

Later Start Times?

In other school board news, the board agreed to appoint a task force to examine the plausibility of starting school at later times, a move that is gaining traction across the country.

“There’s research that has come out that says if you could do one thing to help your kids do better in school—one thing—it would be to get our kids to school later,” said Ms. Tice.

Board member Susan Kinsella also brought up the idea of allowing varsity athletes to have study hall instead of gym class while in season.

“They certainly don’t need the gym class if they’re playing a varsity sport. Let them have that time to do homework,” she said.

“I think this makes a lot of sense,” agreed Ms. Tice, adding the district could see more athletes participating in International Baccalaureate (IB) and other challenging classes “if they knew they’d have more time to get the work done.”

The board will start its trial of videotaping meetings in July. The first meeting of the month will be taped but not broadcast to figure out some sound and technical kinks and the second meeting will be fully broadcast on LTV and SEA-TV.

Move Over Sag Harbor Express, The Pierson Press Has Arrived

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Students read the Pierson Press in Sag Harbor Village. Photo by Kelli Delaney Kot.

Students read the Pierson Press in Sag Harbor Village. Photo by Kelli Delaney Kot.

By Tessa Raebeck

They conducted interviews, took photographs and wrote various forms of editorial content—and they did it all before summer vacation.

The first issue of the Pierson Press was distributed to students and businesses around town last week, six glossy pages featuring business stories about local restaurants, columns on talented Pierson alumni, and will-be recurring feature pages like “Sag Harbor Style.”

Nine students, three from Pierson Middle School and six from the high school, worked on the paper alongside math teacher Jason LaBatti and parent Kelli Delaney Kot, a club advisor. Judy Clempner of The Sag Harbor Express helped with layout and art teacher Peter Solow also provided assistance.

“I’m excited,” said cultural editor Ella Parker, who is going into her sophomore year at Pierson, adding that the paper is more kid-oriented and appealing than your standard student newspaper.

“There’s more pictures and I think people respond to color and large print… Unfortunately, I think we’ve hit an age where we’re so drawn to Instagram and to social media and I think this really appeals to what kids want now,” added Ella, proudly holding up the issue.

Sag Harbor’s official student newspaper is printed on glossy pages in full color. The front page grabs readers’ attention with a large photo of sophomores above the fold and, to its right, “Pierson Paparazzi,” a reel of pictures taken “out and about on campus.”

Also on the front page, is a feature written by Ella on Doppio East, Sag Harbor’s newest restaurant.

“Part of the learning curve,” said Ms. Delaney Kot, “was seeing how to create a story from start to finish and calling people for quotes—not being shy walking into Doppio and saying, ‘Could this be the new hotspot? I’m going to write about it.’ All that stuff’s not so easy when you’re 14, 15, 16.”

Ms. Delaney Kot, whose daughter Lily is in Ella’s class and also worked on the paper, is the founder and editor in chief of KDHamptons.com, “the luxury lifestyle diary of the Hamptons,” and has worked as a fashion editor for Condé Nast and at Us Weekly.

“They’re all reading Us Weekly, whether their parents really want them to or not,” she said of high school students, saying the goal was “to create something that was completely different from any other high school student newspaper and something that was glossy and color-driven and photo-driven.”

A goal of Pierson Press, in addition to setting itself apart from your standard run-of-the-mill, black-and-white and boring student newspaper, was to include shared experiences alongside “info snacks,” as the editorial team calls them.

For “info snacking,” they have tidbits “where kids can jump in, it’s easy to understand what the piece is about, cool picture, maybe you have a laugh and then you can move onto another piece,” said Ms. Delaney Kot. “It was important to have a balance where this was a fun read.”

“Yeah, it’s not so heavy on information, I agree, it’s not too serious,” added Ella.

“Sag Harbor Speak” features common language among teenagers, “a cheat sheet to understand the vernacular of Pierson students.” Though is “doe,” you’re crazy is “u cray,” and yes is “yewwwww.”

Pierson student Eve Bishop wrote a travel diary about her trip to New Orleans and a student trip to Washington, D.C., with Mr. LaBatti was featured, bringing the paper beyond Sag Harbor.

“I think what I like best about the paper,” said Mr. LaBatti, “when it was finally finished and I looked over it, is that it celebrates what they did.”

“There was some information about stuff going on outside of the school, but it was mostly about their lives,” he added.

Following the first issue’s success, the staff at the Pierson Press is optimistic about next year, during which they hope to put out not one issue but 10, with a full paper coming out each month of the school year and continual updates to a page for the paper on the school’s website, which is set to be revamped.

“Also, have the kids manage it and do the editing and proofing,” said Mr. LaBatti, adding that in the long run he hopes to incorporate the paper into an expanded computer science curriculum.

Recurring features in the paper will be the “Teacher Feature,” a Q&A with a Pierson teacher, Pierson Paparazzi, Featured Athlete, Awesome Instagrams, Sag Harbor Style, and Featured Alumnus, which this time around highlighted celebrated musician Rafaela Gurtler of the class of 2009.

“To have a handful of teenagers working on this once a week over a two-to-three month period and to have this result look so professional and perfect—not one typo—is really a testament to how hard everybody worked on it,” Ms. Delaney Kot said.

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.”

Pierson Cast of “A Chorus Line” Wins “Best Ensemble” on the East End at the 2014 Teeny Awards

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Pierson's production of "A Chorus Line" took home the highest award, "Best Ensemble," at the 2014 Teeny Awards.

Pierson’s production of “A Chorus Line” took home the highest award, “Best Ensemble,” at the 2014 Teeny Awards. Photo by Zoe Vatash.

By Tessa Raebeck

A testament to both their talent and their teamwork, the cast of “A Chorus Line” at Pierson High School took home the highest honor at the 2014 Teeny Awards, “Best Ensemble.”

Held Sunday, June 8, at Longwood High School, the Teeny Awards are put on by the East End Arts Council to recognize the talent of local actors, musicians, technicians and all other artists of the theater.

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Photo by Zoe Vatash.

“As ‘A Chorus Line’ is a musical about the ensemble–about them as individuals, who make up the chorus as a unit–this is the ultimate compliment to our group,” Pierson Theatre Director Paula Brannon said. “It means we did it right.”

“As their director, I am extremely proud of these young thespians for not just their talent, but [their] dedication and extremely hard work as a unit,” said Ms. Brannon. “They were truly an ensemble and we are honored to have been recognized for that work.”

 

For a full list of the Teeny Awards taken home to Sag Harbor, click here.

To read more about Pierson’s production of “A Chorus Line,” click here.