Tag Archive | "pierson high school"

Pierson Homecoming This Weekend: Rain or Shine

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Homecoming is a much loved fall tradition where football rivalries and school spirit are a source of pride.

Ok, Sag Harbor has no football team — but this is a village with plenty of spirit, and Pierson’s PTSA and the Sag Harbor Booster Foundation are joining forces to make this weekend’s homecoming one to remember.

In addition to time-honored events like Friday’s bonfire at Long Beach, Saturday’s parade, skits at Mashashimuet Park, and varsity games, this year there will be some new homecoming traditions designed to appeal to all ages.

“Homecoming is seen as something for high school students, and some schools will tell you that’s the way it should be,” says Laura Matthers, secretary of the Booster Foundation. “But we’re looking at it as school spirit and we want to transfer it into community spirit. That’s the goal.”

“We’re trying to make it more community oriented so it’s not just a high school event,” adds PTSA president Stacey Britt. “[School board member] Mary Anne Miller said when her daughter was in a stroller they had so much fun going to Long Beach, getting a hot dog and watching the bonfire.”

“We’re trying to go back to that,” she adds.

This year, instead of parents flipping burgers at the beach during Friday’s bonfire, Britt has arranged for two food trucks to handle the hungry masses — Silver Spoon Specialties (which served up food at HarborFest) and an ice cream truck. The PTSA will collect a portion of the food sales.

Perhaps the most noticeable homecoming addition will be at Mashashimuet Park where the Booster Foundation is organizing the “First Annual Night of Lights.” A little tweaking of the field hockey schedule has ensured a nice match up against Port Jefferson Saturday and the Booster Foundation has rented lights to make the game a special event.

The Booster Foundation will also offer a full concession stand at the park and high school varsity athletes will lead soccer and field hockey clinics during the day on Saturday for grades K-6.

“One of our missions is to bring together the schools, and this was the best thing we could think of,” says Matthers. “The kids are enamored of the athletes, and the athletes love to show what they can do.”

“It’s a simple, no brainer kind of thing,” adds Matthers. “The athletes love it, and the kids touch base with players they’ve read about in the newspaper.”

 

Pierson Homecoming 2012 Schedule

Friday, September 28

Boys Varsity Soccer vs Stony Brook – 4:30 p.m.

Bonfire and pep rally at Long Beach – 6 to 9 p.m.

Saturday, September 29

Homecoming Parade – Main Street to Mashashimuet Park followed by skits at the grandstand – 9 to 10:30 a.m.

Field Hockey Clinic for grades 2-6 —12:30-1:30 p.m.

Girls Varsity Soccer vs Port Jefferson – noon

Soccer Clinic for grades K-6 – 2 to 3 p.m.

JV Girls Field Hockey vs Port Jefferson – 5:30 p.m.

Varsity Girls Field Hockey vs Port Jefferson – 7 p.m.

Pierson Gets Out Fast

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Whalers Golf: Best performance in 26 years, says coach.

By Gavin Menu

Sean Crowley has been coaching at Pierson High School for 26 years and has seen his share of impressive athletic achievements. But last week at the Noyac Golf Club he witnesses an especially remarkable performance as his team posted a score of 208 in a 9-0 victory over Westhampton Beach.

“It’s the best I can remember in 26 years,” Crowley said of the performance, which featured three scores of 41 from his top three players – seniors Dillon Decker and Gabe Denon and sophomore Ben Kushner. “I am really pleased how much preseason preparation we put in, which will provide important depth throughout the line up.”

Junior Jack Bori shot a 43 against Westhampton, while seniors Brad Reiner and Jake Bennett shot 42 and 45, respectively. Two days later at Rock Hill Country Club in Manorville, Pierson dominated once again in an 8-1 win over Center Moriches. Decker shot a 45 in the top spot, but posted the team’s lone loss of the day, while Bori shot a 4-under 39 to lead the Whalers.

Denon shot a 41 and Kusher, who played junior varsity as a freshman last year, shot a second straight 41 against Center Moriches to impress his coach. Rounding out the Whalers golf roster are Aidan Kirrane, Liam Doyle and Zack Zimmerman.

The win over Center Moriches moved Pierson to 2-0 and set up a huge rivalry week that included a match last night against the Ross School, along with upcoming meetings against Southampton today, September 20 at 4 p.m., and East Hampton this Tuesday, September 25 at 3:30 p.m. Both matches will be held at Noyac.

“The first half of the season we need to win or hold at home, then go on the road in the last week to both Southampton and East Hampton,” Crowley said when asked about the season in general and the hunt for a League VIII crown. “That’s when our senior leadership, depth and maturity will be needed to succeed.”

 

 

 

YARD Summer Program Approved; IB Becomes Official at Pierson

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By David McCabe

During their annual reorganization meeting on Monday, members of the Sag Harbor School Board approved the hiring of personnel for the Youth Advocacy and Resource Development (YARD) summer beach program. They were also informed that Pierson High School has been accepted into the International Baccalaureate (IB) program for next year.

Concerns over whether the beach program would run this summer have plagued the board for months, and had come to a head recently as the proposed start date of the program, Friday, July 6, drew closer. As of Wednesday, YARD representatives confirmed the program would, in fact, begin this Friday at Long Beach in Sag Harbor.

At issue in recent months were a number of problems which an auditor found with the program in 2010, including employees bearing incorrect civil service titles and questions over whether the district should be assuming liability for a recreational program.

During the course of the meeting, some members of the school board objected to approving the personnel actions in the absence of IMA’s (inter-municipal agreements) with the different municipalities who are funding the program. Mary Anne Miller, who ended a one-year term as board president on Monday, but remains a board member, said she believed it was illegal for the program to be operated by the district without those documents in place. She pointed to a memo issued by the district’s outside counsel, attorney Tom Volz

But Sandi Kruel and Chris Tice, two board members who have been vocal proponents of the program, argued Volz’s memo did not preclude the district from running the program without the agreements if they were able to fund the summer program without moneys from the other municipalities. Kruel also sits on the board of Friends of YARD, a non-profit organization created to fundraise for YARD activities.

Currently, Friends of YARD has enough money to fund the summer beach program without assistance from outside municipalities, Kruel said.

Miller said that, as of Tuesday, Volz had clarified his original statements and told board members that at least one municipality must have signed an IMA in order for the district to legally run a recreation program.

Unbeknownst to school board members, this point was likely moot even as they debated it: the North Haven Village Board voted to approve their agreement with the district at a meeting Monday evening. According to Miller, Southampton Town had signed an IMA by Tuesday afternoon.

“I think the board did what was right for children,” said Kruel.

Some board members were once again critical of Friends of YARD, saying that many of the logistical hurdles which stood in the way of the program could have been cleared earlier. In response, Kruel provided the Express with a list of questions the board had presented to the Friends of YARD one year prior, with answers attached.

Monday’s school board meeting also brought news that Pierson High School had been accepted into the International Baccalaureate program, the culmination of a years-long process that was at times contentious.

The IB program is a diploma granting course sequence that is often presented as an alternative to the College Board’s Advanced Placement classes. Students begin taking IB classes during their junior year and receive a diploma when they graduate. Jeff Nichols, principal of Pierson High School, had been credited with being a driving force for bringing the IB curriculum to the school.

Before the foundation that develops the IB curriculum could allow Pierson to offer its diploma, it sent an evaluator to campus to make sure it had the facilities and technology to support the program. Teachers have also attended IB training sessions.

“I think it’s a great positive addition to the district as a whole and I think it’s going to help us grow district wide, I don’t see it as a plus for just juniors and seniors,” said Miller.

Football is Nixed

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By David McCabe


Sag Harbor’s Pierson High School has a history of being too small to field a football team — though up until the 1950s, the Whalers had a six-man squad. In recent years, Pierson students interested in taking the gridiron have been able to do so by playing on the East Hampton High School football team.

But next year, that opportunity will cease to exist — at least at the varsity level.

The East Hampton School District has made the decision to terminate the long-standing agreement between the schools because, when Pierson and East Hampton field a combined team, they are bumped up to a higher class and face much tougher competitors. The class system groups teams based on school enrollment numbers, and the addition of the Pierson students would cause East Hampton to move up this fall from Class B to Class A. With Pierson onboard, East Hampton, which already struggles against Class B competitors, would have had to face teams from much larger schools.

“It’s not a pleasant thing to have happen but I understand the rationale,” Pierson High School Athletics Director Montgomery Granger said, “because they’re [East Hampton] already not very competitive and to put them in a more competitive class would be unhealthy for the kids.”

Pierson students will still be able to play football at the middle school and junior varsity level, Granger said. This academic year, two freshmen played on the junior varsity team. The decision to discontinue the combined team at the varsity level could affect those two students should they try out for the higher-level squad during their junior year. Granger said decisions on what sports teams will be combined between Pierson and East Hampton high schools for the 2013-2014 school year will be made in March 2013.

Granger notes that Pierson students can still play with East Hampton High School athletes on a number of other varsity sports teams next year, including tennis, wrestling, lacrosse and swimming.

District to Lease Lots to Ferry Operator

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By David McCabe


Despite opposition from neighbors, the Sag Harbor Board of Education has unanimously decided to lease two of the parking lots at Pierson High School to Peconic Jitney, the new company seeking to operate a ferry service between Sag Harbor and Greenport this summer.

The company, which is largely financed by Hampton Jitney, will run a shuttle between Long Wharf and Pierson, allowing ferry passengers to park their cars in the school lots while they travel to the North Fork for the day.

The decision came during Monday’s school board meeting, which stretched on for three and a half hours — largely because of discussions unrelated to the parking lots.

A group of about 40 area residents, calling themselves Neighbors of Pierson, had voiced opposition to the initial plan — which would have used the school’s Montauk Avenue lot, on the grounds that it would increase traffic and noise in the primarily residential area.

In an attempt to resolve these issues, prior to the meeting Sag Harbor School District  Superintendent Dr. John Gratto met with Steven Reiner, who represents Neighbors of Pierson, and Geoffrey Lynch, the President of Hampton Jitney. As a result of that meeting, Dr. Gratto adjusted elements of the proposal in an attempt to satisfy residents complaints. Most significantly, Peconic Jitney will lease the Jermain Street lot instead of the Montauk Avenue space, while the school’s Division Street lot will act as overflow parking for passengers.

Since the Jermain Street lot is already in a high traffic area, Dr. Gratto said, the influx of vehicles is less likely to disturb neighbors. But despite the alterations to the proposed contracts, members of the public and board members grilled Lynch and Dr. Gratto for about 45 minutes.

“This is the opportunity for the board and the public to discuss this for the first time,” board member Chris Tice said.

Much of the concern for those present stemmed from the proposal’s stipulation that the final shuttle would arrive in the lot at midnight on the weekends. Tice, as well as Reiner, raised the possibility this might be too late for neighbors.

Lynch noted the schedule is only tentative and could be changed if there is no demand for an 11 p.m. ferry from Greenport.

He also said the driver of the shuttle, an 11-passenger van, will be responsible for removing garbage from the lot after he or she drops off the final group of passengers.

Dr. Gratto and others on the board argued that the additional traffic brought to the neighborhood as a result of the deal is outweighed by the $20,000 in revenue the lease will generate for the district.

“The school district does have an interest in revenue producing ideas that allow us to maintain programs and services for students,” Dr. Gratto said.

Reiner countered that though the school’s neighbors were not pleased about the proposal, they understood the need for additional revenue in fiscally lean times.

“There are good reasons for the school district to want to make a couple of bucks out of this,” he said.

The contract between Peconic Jitney and the district will only be enforced if the ferry service receives approval from a variety of other authorities, including, said Lynch, the state, the county, the Coast Guard, the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) and the Village of Sag Harbor Board of Trustees. Lynch added that of those groups, the village trustees would be the most likely to shut the project down if there are major concerns at the end of the ferry’s trial run period this summer.

“If there are too many negatives that are outweighing any positive benefit that this ferry may bring, then they will kill it,” he said.

If they don’t, the ferry’s financers are hoping that the service will begin no later than the last week of June — allowing the route to be operational during the busy July 4 holiday weekend and remaining up and running through Labor Day.

Self-Taught Gymnast Thrives At Pierson

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Gymnast adjusted

By Claire Walla

To some, 15-year-old Rojdrefa Patterson is known as the girl who flips.

If you’ve been to a Pierson High School basketball games, you’ve probably seen it. In a black-and-red mini-skirt and knit top with the initials “PHS,” Patterson flips not once, not twice, but several times in rapid succession down the length of the wooden court. Sometimes she ends her impromptu routines with the splits, which she sinks into effortlessly, the way anyone else might sink into a chair.

Of course, acrobatics are nothing new for high school cheerleading, a sport which has garnered a respectable reputation in the sports world in the last few years.

But Patterson’s case is unique. Her talent comes not from cheer camp or gymnastics classes; she learned from watching YouTube clips, and by copying her Dad.

A native of the island of Jamaica — where gymnastics is a common form of physical education — Roj Patterson taught his daughter how to flip at a young age.

“The first time I tried to do a flip, I knocked my two front teeth out,” Patterson said with a grin. “I was four.”

Since then, Patterson has gone to Marine Park here in Sag Harbor to hone her skills. She’s taught herself how to do a front handspring, a double back handspring, a triple toe touch and even a back tuck.  (The latter she even taught to her recently acquired gymnastics coach, a retired Level Ten gymnast, who was once captain of the Empire State Games.)

Last year, Patterson’s self-taught skills led her to victory at the annual Cheer for a Cure event held in Hampton Bays, where she walked away with Best Double Touch for the jumping sequence competition. Patterson recalled competing against girls who had had formal training.

By comparison, Patterson uses her 14-year-old brother as a spotter.

“One day, it was winter, and I was cold, but I was like: I don’t care, I’m going to do something really stupid,” Patterson remembered. Her brother had been spotting her as she attempted to complete a full back tuck, supporting her with his hand while in the air. “I told him to remove his hand… and I got it!”

Patterson came to Pierson as a freshman after graduating from Stella Maris in 2010. When she learned of the cheerleading team, she quickly got on board.

Again, she said inherent fearlessness lead the way.

“When I first started, I didn’t know how to do a flip on the wooden floor,” Patterson said. “So one day I just winged it, and I got it,” she continued nonchalantly. (Patterson did, however, also admit to having crossed her heart before she took the leap.)

Patterson’s self-taught acrobatics was something Anjela Krsikapa said she was shocked to discover.

At 25-years-old, Krsikapa is already a retired Level 10 gymnast (the highest possible ranking) and now teaches cheerleading and coaches gymnastics for the Ross School.

Krsikapa first saw “the girl who flips” when she went with her team to a Ross/Pierson basketball game last year. Although, it took her a year to figure out who she was.

While dining at Tapas in Bridgehampton recently, Krsikapa had a chance encounter with Patterson’s mother (unbeknownst to her at the time), who spoke of her cheerleading daughter, and showed video on her camera phone of Patterson propelling her body across half-court.

“Oh my God, I’ve been looking for that girl!” Krsikapa recalled. “Her mother told me that, by some miracle, that girl was all self-taught — I called her the very next day.”

Krsikapa said there is no one else like Patterson here on the East End. In fact, she said, it’s almost serendipitous she and Patterson should find each other.

As it so happens, Krsikapa first learned how to flip by watching her parents, for whom gymnastics was a routine part of physical education, as kids growing up in Montenegro.

“There’s a real lack of gymnastics out here,” Krsikapa explained.

But since she’s started the program at Ross, she said interest has been steadily increasing, adding that she’s noticed “a real demand for it.”

Krsikapa mostly works with younger kids who take gymnastics as an after-school activity and are still learning the basics. She said she’s thrilled to have found Rojdrefa.

With Krsikapa’s guidance, Patterson is learning how to do what she already does, but with proper form.

Patterson is essentially going back to basics, to learn the fundamentals of balance and form that Krsikapa said will prevent injuries in the future. She’s even had to learn how to stretch — that quick back bend she would do before a sequence of flips was just not cutting it.

(Before a cheerleading competition called Cheer for a Cure last year, for example, Patterson won several contests, including one for completing the most back handsprings in a row: 10. Not having stretched before the routine, Patterson said she woke up the next day and could barely get out of bed.)

Krsikapa has put a major emphasis on proper preparation.

“The first two weeks of practice I was just learning stretches,” Patterson exclaimed with wide-eyed emphasis. “I was so sore I was crying!”

According to Krsikapa, if Patterson continues to train, at the rate she will be able to compete as a Level 8 gymnast. In a nutshell, a Level 8 gymnast is one who can perform in all four events — balance beam, uneven bars, floor and vault — without a spotter, and bring some creativity to each routine.

Krsikapa said she could be ready for competition by the fall.

When asked where she gets the motivation and the courage try new stunts, Patterson said she likes to prove people wrong. (Sometimes her younger brother likes to wager what she can and can’t do.)

A self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, Patterson continued, “I just put it in my mind that I can do this, and I do.”


Raising the Bar for ESL Students at Pierson

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Above: Pierson Senior Ronald Aucapina and his award.

By Claire Walla


Last month, Pierson High School senior Ronald Aucapina was issued an award for stellar academic achievement.

“Across the board, Ronald was recognized by the faculty as being a successful student,” said Pierson High School Vice Principal Gary Kalish, who added that Aucapina currently maintains a grade point average of 93 percent.

Aucapina, who works part-time at Schiavoni’s Market and has been described as “studious, quiet and calm,” is well deserving of praise, Kalish continued. But, his achievements are particularly worth noting for one important reason: Aucapina is a former ESL (English as a Second Language) student.

In fact, he’s the only former ESL student graduating from Pierson with honors this year.

Aucapina received his award at a special meeting last month, which was conducted in Spanish for parents of ESL students, or former ESL students like Aucapina. This was the second Spanish-language meeting held this year.

According to Pierson ESL Teaching Assistant Fausto Hinojosa, Aucapina’s recognition marks a great achievement.

Hinojosa noted the glaring absence of former ESL students who have managed to make the Pierson honor roll in the past five years. While in 2011 two students earned honors status, in 2008 and 2009 only one former ESL student made honor roll. And in 2010 that number was zero.

Since returning to the Sag Harbor School district last January after spending four years on the West Coast, Hinojosa has worked with the ESL population (including non-ESL students from Spanish-speaking homes) to try to improve these statistics.

“It’s my tremendous desire to see Spanish kids reach those levels,” he said.

On a daily basis, Hinojosa floats between classrooms during the school’s academic support period to check-in with students whom he knows may need extra help. He may stop off in a classroom to talk to a teacher about a particular student’s performance, or check in with the school guidance counselor along the way, but he ultimately ends up in the library. There, he sits down with students to make sure they’re doing their homework and — most importantly — that they understand their assignments.

Sometimes he helps students who are simply struggling academically. However, Hinojosa said he often faces a much bigger problem.

“There’s a philosophical issue here,” he began. “For many reasons — reasons I don’t understand — when many of these kids reach that level [of academic achievement], they feel uncomfortable and they don’t want to be there.”

Hinojosa, who also taught in Newport Beach, Calif., said this problem is not restricted to Pierson, though it’s certainly felt in the district.

“We’re working so hard to get these kids to produce,” he added. “It’s an unbelievable struggle.”

As for Ronald Aucapina, Hinojosa said the honor roll student rose through the academic ranks in part because of his desire to do well, but also because he had a great deal of family support. This is where the Spanish-language meetings come into play.

Making sure parents are involved in their children’s academic lives is a “crucial” part of success, Hinojosa said. And for roughly 50 ESL families at Pierson Middle/High School, engaging directly in the school community would not be possible without the ability to overcome the language barrier.

To date, Hinojosa has been able to organize three meetings in Spanish at Pierson: one in the 2010-11 school year and two in this academic year. The meetings are modeled after standards adopted in California, where Spanish-language meetings are mandatory for any public school with a student body with over 25 percent Spanish speakers or students from a household where Spanish is the primary language. (Spanish-language meetings are not mandated in the state of New York.)

Drawing a regular crowd of about 20 parents, Hinojosa said the meetings have been very successful so far, and he hopes the trend continues. Hopefully, he added, there will be more students like Ronald Aucapina in the future.

In an interview last month, Aucapina said he will attend the University of Rhode Island in the fall, where he’ll study biology. He hopes to eventually study medicine and become a physician.

Sag School Board Approves $34 Million Budget

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By Claire Walla

Pulling no surprises, the Sag Harbor Board of Education voted on Monday, March 26 to approve the district’s proposed $34 million budget for the 2012-2013 school year.

“I want to thank the district for all its hard work,” said board member Chris Tice. Because this is the first year the district has had to make allowances for the state-imposed two-percent tax-levy cap, Tice said the budget process “was particularly rigorous this year.”

Passed by Congress last spring, tax cap legislation has caused most school districts across the state to search for ways of trimming expenditures—Sag Harbor not excluded.

With the rising cost of health insurance and increases for teachers’ retirement plans to contend with, the Sag Harbor School District ended up with a proposed budget up 2.88 percent from this year’s operating budget, which represents only a 1.94 percent tax-levy increase.

According to the district’s budget presentations, Sag Harbor has managed to maintain a budget that keeps all programs in place thanks to significant savings in several key areas.

According to numbers compiled by Dr. Lisa Scheffer, the district’s director of pupil personnel services, the special education department has shed nearly $500,000 in expenses, which is reflected in next year’s budget. The decrease is due to program changes, including the elimination this year of three staff members.

The school has also seen nearly $400,000 in savings from the district business office, as well as $60,000 in savings in transportation. While the budget calls for $500,000 of the district’s fund balance to be put toward energy conservation measures, District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto pointed out that there will be a bond measure tied to the budget vote in May that—if passed—is estimated to generate significant savings for the district.

Proposition #2 would allow the school to purchase six busses at a cost of $575,000. The district estimates that by bringing transportation costs in-house, it will be able to save roughly $170,000 over the next seven years.

However, while the district was able to squeeze the budget beneath the tax cap this year, school board member Walter Wilcoxen expressed some trepidation about the future.

“You’ve taken so much slack out of the budget it’s laudable,” he began. “But, down the road, how are we going to get the big nut? The problem is, I don’t’ see any major change coming. And that creates some discomfort.”

What Wilcoxen was referring to, specifically, were labor negotiations.

According to Verneuille, teachers’ retirement benefits have not yet been quantified for the coming school year, but last year health expenses went up 13.5 percent. And with a two-percent tax levy cap in the mix, expenditures will inevitably outpace revenues. In other words, the school will eventually be forced to look at ways of cutting costs more dramatically.

“You’re absolutely right, the driver of our budget is labor costs,” Dr. Gratto responded. But, he said the situation might not be so grim. Later that evening, the school board voted to approve bus-driver salaries, which had been negotiated down from its 3.5-percent raise this year to a two-percent raise for next year, with no step increases.

“I think what you’re seeing is a trend,” Gratto added.

Though good news, board members seemed to sympathize with Wilcoxen’s less-than-enthusiastic response.

“This is sort of like the fly on the tail of an elephant,” he joked. “But, at least it’s a start.”

The budget vote will be Tuesday, May 15 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Pierson High School Gym. Should the budget not pass by simple majority, the district would go to its contingency budget, which would strip $551,510 from the proposed budget, which—according to the district—would eliminate the $500,000 set aside for building improvement projects off-the-bat.

Peter Solow

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

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


By Kathryn G. Menu

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

That being said, the answer is yes.

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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



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


Potential Bond Between Theater and School

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By Claire Walla

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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