Tag Archive | "Pierson"

Sag Harbor School Board Approves Field Trip to Cuba

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Cubamap

Map of Cuba courtesy of Google Maps.

By Tessa Raebeck

Following rave reviews from a group of students who recently returned from a field trip to Spain, the Sag Harbor Board of Education on Monday, April 27, approved a Pierson High School extracurricular field trip to Cuba.

Peter Solow, an art teacher at Pierson who was one of the chaperones in Spain during the spring break trip, told the board the same British company that had run the trip to Spain has been offering trips to Cuba for the past 15 years. The company, WorldStrides, specializes in educational student travel and experiential learning across the globe.

The trip would certainly be the first of its kind in Pierson’s history.

Due to mounting tensions between the two neighboring nations, in January 1961, the United States closed its embassy in Havana and withdrew all diplomatic recognition of Cuba. By 1963, President John F. Kennedy had prohibited Americans from trading with or traveling to Cuba.

In the decades since, some Americans have managed to travel to the Caribbean island by way of Canada or other countries and with special State Department permission, but most travel from the United States to Cuba was forbidden until December 2014, when President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced they would work to normalize relations between the neighboring countries.

As long as enough students are interested, the field trip will take place during the school vacation in February 2016.

“We thought this was an extraordinary opportunity… to visit a place that has just opened up to the U.S. that people around the world have been traveling to,” said Mr. Solow.

When the board asked whether there are heightened concerns about security due to the diplomatic history, Mr. Solow replied, “Sure—and there are concerns about security whenever we travel to any of the places we go.”

Acknowledging that the situation makes the circumstances somewhat different, Mr. Solow said both the federal State Department and the Cuban Government have sanctioned the trip, “so to a certain extent the itinerary is an itinerary that’s shaped by both entities.”

Citizens of South American, European and other countries around the world have been continuously traveling to Cuba on a regular basis—without the heightened fear Americans have due to the strained relationship of the two countries for the past 50 years.

“It’s only because of the circumstances between our countries that this is something that has been off limits or not available to us,” said Mr. Solow.

Since the teachers know nothing firsthand about Cuba, as they do when taking students to Spain or Italy, they had some initial concerns about the quality of the country’s accommodations. WorldStride provided information on various hotels, however, and it turns out one is a sister hotel of where the students and teachers stayed while in Barcelona earlier this month—and appears to be the better of the pair.

“I think it’s a great thing…being able to go to a country like Cuba [at this time],” said David Diskin, a member of the school board. “Just when I graduated high school, I did a trip to China when China was [first] opened up [to Americans]. It’s like when you see a work of art in person,” he said, referring to what one student said was special about the Spain trip.

“When you see political persecution and the limitations a society like that has—you can’t believe it ’til you see it.”

“We’re hoping this is going to be both an extraordinary and unique experience because of what you’re talking about,” replied Mr. Solow. “I’m probably one of the only people in the room that’s old enough to remember vividly the Cuban Missile Crisis, so for me, this history of the two countries has some personal note, having lived through it when I was a kid—but yes, I think it would be interesting to get the different take on that event and also the Cuban revolution.”

The board agreed, and the field trip was approved.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the school board accepted a donation of $1,000 from the Sag Harbor American Music Festival. The money will go to the music department at Pierson Middle/High School.

“Not only do they put on wonderful events that are free for the community to attend and inspire our students, but they’ve also donated the money to go back to our music department,” Chris Tice, vice president of the school board, said of the festival, adding she knows the funds will be of good use with all the talented musicians at Pierson.

The Sag Harbor Board of Education will hold a budget hearing and educational meeting on Tuesday, May 5, in the library at Pierson Middle/High School, located at 200 Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor. Also in the library, the Sag Harbor Elementary School PTA and the Pierson Middle and High School PTSA will host a Meet the Candidates Night to better introduce the community to the 2015 candidates for school board, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 7.

The Addams Family Comes to Sag Harbor Tonight

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Colleen Samot and Denis Hartnett as Morticia and Gomez Addams lead the cast in a rehearsal of the Pierson High School musical production of The Addams Family in the school auditorium on Tuesday, April 21. Photo by Michael Heller.

Colleen Samot and Denis Hartnett as Morticia and Gomez Addams lead the cast in a rehearsal of the Pierson High School musical production of The Addams Family in the school auditorium on Tuesday, April 21. Photo by Michael Heller. 

By Tessa Raebeck

A man wearing a white fur toga and an Einstein-esque wig is stroking something. Earlier, he was a tree, dancing around with branches alongside a flapper, a Native-American woman, a woman resembling Marie Antoinette, and others, all dressed eerily in white. The man is neither Socrates nor Einstein, but is in fact a “Cave Man Ancestor”—or, in reality, Pierson High School student Nick Knab. He is one of the many unnerving, yet strangely comedic, “ancestors” in “The Addams Family,” the latest theatrical production at Pierson High School.

Pierson’s take on the musical comedy will come alive this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, under the leadership of musical director Paula Brannon and producer Melissa Luppi, who also teaches sixth grade English at Pierson Middle School.

Based on the characters in the classic comic strip by Charles Addams, the show was first staged in 2009. Written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, it opened on Broadway in 2010 starring Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia.

The talented cast of Sag Harbor actors, musicians and stagehands was at school late in the evening on Tuesday, April 21, to work out the final kinks, which always seem to magically disappear come opening night. During the cast’s last run-through before Wednesday’s dress rehearsal—the culmination of near-daily rehearsals since February—students appeared from all sides in between scenes, expertly weaving among one another to pull props and erect elaborate sets.

Ms. Brannon designed the set and the costume concepts, with Ms. Luppi—“seamstress extraordinaire,” according to Ms. Brannon—in charge of costume construction. In addition to the creative duo, many hands are on deck to ensure the music, set and performances run smoothly. Pierson student Jennifer Hall is the assistant director, and her classmate Christen Heine is stage manager. Former Sag Harbor students have returned to their alma mater, helping as make-up artists and teaching workshops on props construction and various elements of entertainment.

Pierson chorus director Suzanne Nicoletti is the vocal coach for the production. Oscar Gonzalez, called the “Zumba king” by Ms. Brannon, is the choreographer. The tech director is Doug Alnwick, a shop teacher at Pierson. Some of the student actors also act in roles behind scenes: Shane Hennessy is the lighting designer, Paul Hartman is student choreographer and Zoe Vatash designed the playbill.

The play has the classic characters of “The Addams Family,” but with modern jokes about pat-downs by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), thyroids and healthcare, and even Jews living in Florida. The comic relief is not reserved to a few staple characters; the whole cast, from leads to extras, adds to the show’s humor and entertainment.

As in most tales, the plot revolves around love. Wednesday, the morbid daughter of the morbid family, has fallen in love with Lucas, the cheery son of a nice, “normal” family from Ohio.

When Wednesday, played by Rebecca Dwoskin, is pleading with her father, Gomez, begging him to act more like a Fred or a Joe in order to impress her new fiancé and his family, she tells him, “We’re who we are and they’re from Ohio.”

“Ohio—a swing state! Monsters!” replies Gomez, with an eerily on-point vampire accent portrayed by actor Denis Hartnett.

Morticia, played by Colleen Samot, swishes around the stage in an elaborate gown of black and crimson. Even with the knowledge that Ms. Samot is a high school student without an extensive rap sheet or a gang of ghosts, the audience will undoubtedly be intimidated by her portrayal of Morticia.

All the classic characters are easy to recognize as their singing selves in the play. There’s gargling, mumbling Lurch, played by Oree Livni, and creepily hilarious Fester and Grandma Addams, played by Matt Shiavoni and Shannon Keane, respectively.

In one scene, a giant set of wood and chains suddenly appears from behind the curtain. Gomez and Morticia’s son, Pugsly, portrayed by Emma McMahon in the classic black and white t-shirt, is on a contraption, holding chains that his sister Wednesday is using to playfully torture him.

Later, the curtains open to reveal the Addams house, complete with the white-clad ancestors—Yani Bitis, Hope Brindle, Alexandra Dudley, Natalie Federico, Jennifer Hall, Charlotte Johnson, Sofia Karamolegou, Zeb Kinney, Courtney Kinsella, Nick Knab, Phoebe Madison Miller, Rachael Miller and Zoe Vatash—crawling in and out of picture frames and acting as picturesque statues on podiums. In the corner, Kerrie Vila acts as a somehow charming “Thing,” sitting in a box as her hands dance on top of it.

After asking the audience for directions, the “normal” family of Wednesday’s love-interest, Lucas, portrayed by Paul Hartman, makes it to the Addams house. Lucas’s parents, Alice and Mal, or Audrey Owen and Shane Hennessy, are apprehensively in tow, dressed in beiges and yellows and slightly skeptical of Wednesday’s accessory choice: a crossbow.

“This is how they live in New York,” remarks Alice, decked from head to toe in yellow, when she enters the Addams house. “They spend all their money on rent and have nothing left for furniture.”

Show dates for “The Addams Family” are at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 23, Friday, April 24, and Saturday, April 25, with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 25, in the auditorium of Pierson Middle/High School, located at 200 Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor. Tickets are available through the main office or by emailing agalanty@sagharborschools.org.

Pierson Robotics Team Wins 3D Printer to Help with Bot Building

Tags: , , , , , , ,


A member of the Pierson Robotics Team works on Sag Harbor's robot. Photo courtesy Gayle Pickering.

A member of the Pierson Robotics Team works on Sag Harbor’s robot. Photo courtesy Gayle Pickering.

By Tessa Raebeck

In a contest with more than 4,000 competitors, the Pierson High School Robotics Team has won a 3-dimensional printer, which is already being used to make parts for this year’s robot.

Each year, the robotics team, First Robotics Competition (FRC) Team 28, competes in an international competition at Hofstra University against teams from other Long Island high schools but from as far away as Canada, Brazil, and Israel.  Last year’s team went to the finals in St. Louis, and this year’s team is working hard in hopes of repeating the fate.

The robotics team meets twice a week for most of the year, but in January ramps it up to meetings every day for six weeks, leading up to “Stop Build Day” on February 17, when the completed robot is shipped to FIRST. The team continues to meet every day in preparation of the regional competition, held March 26 through 28.

The new EKOCYCLE 3D Printer, won by the Pierson Robotics Team. Photo courtesy Gayle Pickering.

The new EKOCYCLE 3D Printer, won by the Pierson Robotics Team. Photo courtesy Gayle Pickering.

This year’s competition, “Recycle Rush,” is focused on combining technology with environmental responsibility.

“Recycle Rush is a recycling-themed game played by two alliances of three robots each,” according to FIRST. “Robots score points by stacking totes on scoring platforms, capping those stacks with recycling containers, and properly disposing of pool noodles, representing litter. In keeping with the recycling theme of the game, all game pieces used are reusable or recyclable by teams in their home locations or by FIRST at the end of the season.”

To win the contest, two members of the team, Abigail Gianis and Clara Oppenheimer, wrote an essay explaining why Sag Harbor’s student engineers deserved the printer, an EKOCYCLE Cube Printer that uses a filament cartridge made with recycled material.

The FIRST Robotics Competition, which Pierson competes in annually, invited all registered teams to apply for one of approximately 1,600 printers, donated by 3D Systems and the Coca-Cola Company.

“They had basically a grant, that if you wrote a proposal and justified your need,” you would be awarded a printer, said Rob Coe, one of the team’s mentors.

“We went into detail about how we would incorporate it into our school to show both students and teachers the new kind of technology coming out,” said Abigail.

“We spoke about how our school embraces being eco-friendly,” she added. “The biggest point we made was regarding our robot. We spoke about how we would be able to print parts for our robot, so we could have the part we need in hours, as opposed to what could be weeks if we ordered a part.”

The essay competition is one example of how the robotics program doesn’t just teach students to manufacture robots, but also provides hands-on experience in marketing, teamwork, and real-world applications.

“There’s lots of talk about jobs and all the jobs are in technology and engineering and the U.S. is behind and we’re not putting out enough students to be able to fill those jobs—so this is a program that enables kids to gain that experience and go out into the real world and perform,” Clint Schulman, the faculty advisor to the robotics program, told the Sag Harbor Board of Education last month.

Already being used in the team’s shop, the printer immediately saved the team money and time, easing the robot-building process.

“We’ve been making a lot of parts for the robot,” Mr. Coe said, as the Ekocycle printed fervently. “We’re making hubs for motors, we’re making hooks for picking up the trash cans.”

“There’s already a bunch of printed parts in our robot,” added Abigail. “The printed parts allowed us to implement things into our bot that we haven’t been able to before because we lack a connector part—all we had to do is print out the connector and now it’s perfect.”

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

Tags: , , , , , ,


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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


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

Tags: , ,


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

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


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.

DCIM100MEDIA

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:

DCIM100MEDIA

DCIM100MEDIA

unnamed-3

unnamed-4

Pierson’s Class of 2014 Graduates

Tags: , ,


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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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.