Tag Archive | "pierson high school"

IB Pushes Forward Despite Criticism

Tags: , ,


By Claire Walla


Despite some consternation, the International Baccalaureate (IB) program continues to make headway at Pierson High School.

On Monday, May 23 the Sag Harbor School District Board of Education voted unanimously to fund the next two payments (each $9,500) in the ongoing IB application process.

Though these payments are non-refundable, Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols said the district will not be locked into the program until the entire application is due on October 1, 2011. At that point — and should Pierson be accepted as an IB school — the district would pay $10,000 on an annual basis to be a part of the IB program.

The first payment, which was already part of the school board’s regularly scheduled agenda, will result in IB assigning a consultant to the district. According to Nichols, this consultant will guide the school through the rest of the IB authorization process, helping to answer questions such as, for example, what ninth and tenth graders can do to prepare for the diploma program at the junior and senior levels.

The second payment did not need to be approved until sometime before August 31; however, to streamline the process, board member Ed Drohan suggested the board consider passing a walk-on resolution to approve the second payment right then and there.

With both resolutions passed, the board has thus far approved IB expenditures totaling $23,000.

Though some worry about the cost of the program over time — especially in light of the governor’s two-percent property tax cap (which was approved earlier this week in the legislature) — some board members argue that the projected annual costs associated with running the program are marginal.

Based on a projected initial enrollment number of 40, Nichols predicts the program will cost the district about $56,210, a cost that is expected to rise to over $100,000 after two years with the addition of an IB Coordinator, budgeted in at $60,000.

“This cost is minuscule compared to our budget,” said board member Chris Tice. The cost of the IB program in its most expensive year would be about .0003 percent of the district’s $33 million budget.

Much of the concern for parents, at this point, centers on this year’s ninth graders, a point parent Helen Atkinson-Barnes brought up to the board at the start of the meeting.

“I’m concerned about the fast track of IB,” she said. “If we don’t have teachers prepared, 2014 might not be the best year to start IB, since many of those parents [of this year's ninth graders] are not supportive of the program. I would hate to see the program start and fail.”

Nichols said he had met with Atkinson-Barnes earlier in the week to discuss the issue.

“I was very thankful Helen came and had a discussion with me,” he said. “She articulated that a lot of the concerns [parents have].”

One such issue for Laura Matthers, who has twin daughters in ninth grade, is whether or not all students will be ushered into an IB track, even if they do not plan to be IB Diploma students.

But both principal Nichols and district superintendent Dr. John Gratto assured the crowd that all students will have the option to follow the Regents’ track the same way students not taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses do now.

Matthers also wondered whether students will be locked into classes. Former Pierson student, and last year’s valedictorian, Amanda Holder, brought this issue up at the beginning of the meeting, saying she believes AP coursework affords students the flexibility to pursue more activities outside the classroom, and gives students the freedom to be more selective with their classes.

As IB Diploma candidates, students will be expected to take six classes over the course of two years, in addition to the program’s capstone class: Theory of Knowledge (TOK). In order to prepare for such a specific course load, Nichols said students will begin to map-out their classes at the end of their sophomore year.

Nichols said that there would be some flexibility moving forward, but for the most part Diploma students’ schedules will be set at the end of tenth grade.

And while the number of AP classes is projected to go down to four or five after IB has been in place for three years, Dr. Gratto pointed out that this is based on Nichols’ prediction that more students would choose IB over AP.

Parent Tom Gleeson asked what would happen in the even that very few students actually sign-up for an IB class.

Nichols said that he didn’t expect this to be the case. Because IB will begin to take precedence over AP coursework over time, he said he sees the number of students taking IB classes to be comparable to the number of students now taking AP classes.

“I don’t’ think that will happen with IB,” Nichols added. “But, in years past, when only two or three students signed up for an AP class, we wouldn’t run it.”

And for those concerned about earning AP credits that can transfer to college, Nichols reiterated that students in IB courses will still be able to take AP exams. Each IB course typically matches up with one in the AP program — for example, History of the Americas (IB) equates to U.S. History (AP).

Speaking to those who worried about the transition from AP to IB, elementary school parent Julie Hatfield said parents had nothing to be concerned over.

“I was that transition,” said Hatfield, who was a student at Rockville Centre the year the high school adopted IB. ”There were no bumps in the road. What are we afraid of, that we’re going to challenge our students? That we’re going to learn more?”

She added that Pierson is actually “smoothing it over” by providing a three-year transition.

In addition, teacher Ruth White-Dunne — who attended IB teacher training in the fall — added that the IB curriculum is flexible, and largely accessible to a wide variety of students.

“It’s open to a lot of levels of students because it’s problem-based, research-based and performance-based,” she said. “The first year will be a learning process for everybody,” continued White-Dunne, a big proponent of the IB program. “But if that’s how we want to teach, then please let us do it.”

Men Closing in on Play-offs

Tags: , ,


Heller_Whalers-Smithtown Christian Baseball '11_2348


By E. J. Yennie

After officials ruled that the bat used by Pierson Freshman Aaron Schiavoni on May 10 in the first of a three game series with Smithtown Christian was legal, the game (4-3) was officially called a win for Pierson.

Smithtown Christian evened the series up with a 10-8 win on Wednesday, May 11.

On Friday, May 13, Pierson finished the series with a 3-0 win, clinching the series and keeping their chances of a playoff berth alive.

Pierson scored their first run on Friday in the bottom of the second. A base hit by Gavin Kudlak followed by a sacrifice out by Forrest Loesch, put Kudlak in scoring position.

Brendan Hemby’s base hit scored Kudlak, giving Pierson a 1-0 lead.

Solid fielding by both teams kept either team from scoring again until the bottom of the fifth. Pierson’s Colman Vila was walked, and then advanced to second on a base hit by Hunter Leyser.

Jake Weingartner singled, scoring the fast–running Vila. Leyser attempted to take an extra base but was tagged out in a run down between second and third.

The bottom of the sixth started with an Aaron Schiavoni walk. A Kudlak base hit advanced Schiavoni to second, where he was replaced by pinch runner Kyle Sturmann.

Loesch’s sac-fly advanced both runners, putting them in scoring position. A base hit by Hemby loaded the bases with no one scoring. After a pop out by Vila, with bases loaded, Mike Heller was walked, scoring pinch runner Sturmann who walked in his first varsity run.

Forest Loesch, pitching his first complete game, allowed no hits in the seventh, giving Pierson-Bridgehampton the win, 3-0.


Whalers Start Last Series with an 11-2 Win: Need One More Win For Play Off Berth


The Whalers (9-7) won the first of a three game series against Stony Brook on Monday, May 16, with a score of 11-2.


According to Whalers’ coach John Tortorella, Tyler Gilbride, Aaron Schiavoni, Jake Weingartner and Gavin Kudlak all contributed offensively.

The freshman duo of Colman Vila at the mound and Aaron Schiavoni at the plate were instrumental in the win.

“Aaron called a great game and they really worked well together today. He kept everything in front of him,” said the coach. “Colman hit his spots and really pitched well. He was confident and very effective.”

Vila pitched six innings, had fifteen strike outs and allowed only two hits. Tyler Gilbride pitched the seventh with two strike outs.

The coach remained positive about the team’s playoff possibilities stating, “We are now one win away from the playoffs with two games to play against Stony Brook. We are currently 9 – 7.”

“All League VIII teams need to finish above .500 to qualify for playoffs. Since we play an 18-game schedule, 9 – 9 will not cut it so we need to finish 10 – 8 or better.”

“As of now, Mercy and Port Jeff have clinched playoff spots with Pierson and Greenport looking to clinch this week.”

Both Tuesday and Wednesday games were cancelled because of rain.

Pierson is scheduled to play its final regular season home game today, Thursday, May 19. Their final regular season game, against McGann Mercy, is scheduled for Friday, May 20 in Riverhead.

Post season games begin next week. Pierson and Greenport are both one game away from being in the playoffs; both have two games left to play against the two weakest teams in the league.

For updated information about the playoff schedule, which is not yet available, readers can go to the Sag Harbor School Web site and look under “Athletics.”


Lady Whalers Set for Play-Offs

Tags: , , ,


Heller_LWhalers-Port Jeff at PJ '11_2485

By E. J. Yennie

The Pierson/Bridgehampton Lady Whalers finished their regular season with a sound thumping of the McGann Mercy Lady Monarchs last night, 13-3 in a game cut short due to rain.

But perhaps the most important game of the week was beating their chief rivals, Port Jefferson on Monday night, 4-3, on the Royals home turf.

In Monday’s game, the Lady Whalers (11-5) gave up two runs to the Lady Royals (14-3) in the first inning.

But the Lady Whalers responded in the second when Kaci Koehne doubled, advanced to third on a stolen base, and then scored the first run for Pierson. Samantha James scored after her, on a throwing error to tie the score.

Port Jefferson regained the lead in the third.

Down 3-2 in the fifth, with two outs, Alexa Lantiere reached first on a throwing error. Kasey Gilbride tripled to left field, scoring Lantiere for the tying run. Koehne was walked. In a double steal attempt, Gilbride headed home as Koehne reached second. The Royals made a play for the plate too late and Gilbride scored the go ahead run.

Pierson, now 11-5, is guaranteed a bid in the play offs. Port Jefferson and Pierson-Bridgehampton are the only two teams in League VIII with a .500 record needed to clinch a spot in the play offs.


Win over McGann Mercy 13-3

The Lady Whalers final regular season game was cut short in the fifth, this time because of rain, but they still dominated, with a 13-3 victory against McGann Mercy(6-8-0).

With only five innings of play, Sariah Cafiero had three RBIs. Kaci Koehne scored four runs for the Lady Whalers, including a solo home run. Melanie Stafford was 2 for 3 with two RBIs.

Play-off Bids

On Tuesday, Coach Melissa Edwards said “Mercy may get a bid if they petition, depending on the seedings meeting on Friday.”

But on Wednesday, according to Ted Stafford, the Lady Whalers score keeper, the Mercy coach has decided not to petition for a right to play in the playoffs, leaving Port Jefferson and Pierson to challenge each other for the championship.

The schedules and fields for playoffs will be posted on the Sag Harbor School web site early next week.


Sag School Budget

Tags: , , ,


By Claire Walla

On Tuesday, Sag Harbor School District residents will go to the polls where they will vote on a proposed budget of $33,226,084 for the 2011-12 school year. This represents a spending increase of 5.48 percent over this year’s budget.

“It maintains all programs in the district, as it is now,” said the district’s director of business operations Janet Verneuille. With a tax levy increase of 4.69 percent, the board of education aims to increase spending for three key initiatives: energy conservation measures and a new elementary school playground (together estimated to cost $701,723) and a universal pre-K program (estimated to cost $180,000).

Together with fixed increases for benefit costs ($605,688) and salaries ($546,726), district spending will increase a total of $1,725,273.

At Monday’s school board meeting, Verneuille briefly spoke to the importance of the new programs built into the proposed budget, explaining that the current elementary school playground is nearly 20 years old.  

“It’s time for a new one,” she continued.  “We have to make sure it’s safe for our kids.”

As for pre-K, she said the benefits are a little less indirect, but still important.

“If we can address [academic or social] problems at an earlier age, research shows we will save money in the long run,” said Verneuille.

According to school superintendent Dr. John Gratto, the budget would be 2.3 percent less without these added expenditures.

“But, indeed those things need to be done,” he said.  “For many years we’ve been putting off building improvement projects.”

The proposed budget represents a projected tax rate increase of 5.85 percent for East Hampton (or $256 for a home worth $1 million), and 6.07 in Southampton (or $284 or a home worth $1 million).  However, Verneuille was quick to add that she received a new estimate recently that projects this figure to be under six percent in both towns.

Verneuille added that one of the important components of this budget package is the creation of a reserve fund, to be called the “Facilities Renovation Capital Reserve Fund.”  If created, the school would be able to add up to $500,000 of savings a year, and the fund would not be able to exceed $5 million at any point in time.

“It’s not something the school would be committed to.  If you don’t have the money, you can’t do it,” Verneuille noted.

Dr. Gratto explained that this year, for example, the district has $500,000 in savings from teachers’ retirements and transportation savings that would be eligible to go into such a fund.  Verneuille added that because this fund would only be sustained by surplus funds at the end of the year — should they exist —it would have no effect on taxes.

“I think it’s a very positive thing for the district,” she concluded.  “It’s kind of like a savings account.”

The budget vote will take place Tuesday, May 17 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Pierson High School Gym.

In other news…

As of this week, the middle school sailing club is not continuing as a program this spring.  According to Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols, the school advertised within the district for a teacher who would be willing to commit two hours, two days a week for eight weeks — but no one stepped forward.  

He said if any parents or community members are interested in the supervisory position, it still may be possible to get the program up and running.

Anyone interested in helping with the Middle School Sailing Club has been requested to contact Jeff Nichols.

Seventh Inning Rally For Lady Whalers Win

Tags: , ,


Down two runs, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, it looked like the Pierson-Bridgehampton Lady Whalers were facing their third loss of the season last Friday, April 15. The Ladies rallied to a 7-6 victory against the Hampton Bays Lady Baymen, sparked by Kasey Gilbride’s first homer of the season.
Hampton Bays was up two runs by the bottom of the second. Kasey Gilbride had a single, but stretched it out to steal both second then third. Samantha Duchemin’s single brought in Gilbride for the Whalers’ first run of the afternoon. A single by Emma Romeo brought in Duchemin, tying up the game. Sariah Cafiero’s single scored Romeo, giving the Lady Whalers a 3-2 lead.
With two runs scored by Hampton Bays in the top of the fourth, Pierson first baseman Samantha James singled. Rebecca Speckenbach’s double advanced James who then scored off a pop fly by Duchemin , tying the score, 4-4.
In the top of the fifth, a Lady Baymen drive was fielded by Pierson and thrown to third, where the ball bounced off the runner’s helmet as she dove to the bag. As the umpire called safe, the runner recovered, jumped up, ran towards home, scoring the fifth run for Hampton Bays.
The Lady Whalers stranded two on base in the fifth and sixth, allowing a run in both innings, to bring them into the seventh down 6-4.
The bottom of the seventh started with a home run by Gilbride, her first of the season. With two outs, needing two runs to win, eighth grader Duchemin came to bat. Duchemin singled and advanced to second on an error. She was replaced by pinch runner India Hemby. Romeo doubled, bringing in a racing Hemby, who slid into home just before the ball arrived, tying the score. A Cafiero base hit scored Romeo, giving the Lady Whalers the win, 7-6.
The Lady Whalers, holding on to their number two spot in League VIII traveled to Mt. Sinai on Monday for a non-league game. They faced the Suffolk County League VI Leader, who, with an 8-2-0 overall record and a 7-1-0 league record stunned the Whalers, 10-0. Pierson’s overall record, 5-3-0 reflects just one league loss.
The Lady Whalers will be traveling to Center Moriches on Tuesday, April 26. They will be playing Bayport-Blue Point at home on Wednesday, April 27 at 4:30.

Pierson Baseball Sweeps Southold but Falls to the Porters

Tags: , ,


Heller_Whalers-Greenport Baseball '11_0110

By E.J. Yennie

The Pierson Whalers (5-2-0) won their second straight series, sweeping Southold to put them in second place in the league behind Port Jefferson (6-1-0). After pounding the Settlers in Southold, 8-3 on Tuesday, April 12, the Whalers did it again on Thursday at home, winning 9-3. Friday, they traveled back to Southold, winning 8-3 again. In a surprise upset, Pierson lost to Greenport on Monday, 3-2, giving the Porters their first win of the season.

Pre-game on Thursday, senior Frank Romeo declared, “If we stay focused and play the way we can, we should be able to beat any team we play.”
The Whalers did just that, staying focused throughout the game,
hammering base hit after base hit. After the Settlers scored one run in the first, the Whalers quickly got down to business. Hits by Tyler Gilbride and Sean Hartnett were followed by a Jake Weingartner sacrifice pop, scoring Gilbride, tying the game. Gavin Kudlak’s drive to centerfield scored Hartnett. Frank Romeo popped a ball to left field, which was dropped, bringing in Kudlak. By the end of the first, Pierson was up 3-1.

Southold scored two times in the top of the fifth, tying the score. In the bottom of the inning, Kudlak was walked, followed by Frank Romeo, who was hit by a pitch. Forrest Loesch singled, scoring Kudlak. A base hit by Colman Vila loaded the bases. Gilbride’s hit scored Romeo for Pierson’s second run of the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, with bases loaded, Southold brought in a new pitcher, Lucas Hokansor to replace their starter, Anthony Fedele. A double by Whaler Hunter Leyser scored Emet Evjen and Loesch. Next at bat, Gilbride doubled, scoring Mike Heller and Leyser. At the top of the seventh, the Whalers retired the inning with three plays to first base, for a 9-3 win.
The Whalers had their second league loss on Monday, a surprise upset to the Greenport Porters, 3-2. The Porters fielding their first team in 20 years, were 0-3-0 in league play and 0-5-0 overall before Monday’s victory over the Whalers.

Pierson’s only two runs came in the second inning, with Aaron Schiavoni scoring off a base hit by Sean Romeo. Romeo scored off a sacrifice fly by Weingartner.

Romeo reported, “We played clean; we just didn’t get the hits.”

Pierson traveled to Greenport on Wednesday, to face the Porters for the second game of the series. Hunter Leyser scored the only run for Pierson, who lost 2-1 in nine innings. With the score 1-1 tied after seven, the game went into extra inning.

A Porter double endsed the game in the eighth, 2-1.

“Pierson just couldn’t get the hits” said Romeo.

Pierson’s two league losses to Greenport dropped Pierson to third place in the standings behind Southold and McGann-Mercy. The Whalers will finish the series with Greenport at home on Saturday at 2 p.m.

The team travels to Riverhead next to play a series against first ranked Mercy, who bested Greenport 12-2, on Tuesday, April 26 and again on Wednesday, April 27, at home at 4:30 p.m.

According to assistant coach Benito Vila, “The team is doing great on defense. If they keep doing the little things without pushing too far, they will be successful.”

Coming Face to Face With IB

Tags: , , , ,


Nichols

By Claire Walla

Over the summer, administrators at the Sag Harbor School District began discussing the possibility of implementing a new program, called the International Baccalaureate (IB).

Founded in Switzerland in 1968, IB was created as a global education initiative meant to bring writing, critical thinking and worldly perspectives to the forefront of elementary and high school education.

Currently, over 3,000 schools use the program worldwide, including six here on Long Island.

“For me, IB embodies the best current practices in education,” said Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols, noting its emphasis is project-based assessments rather than multiple-choice tests.

But as a program that seems to encourage more questions than answers, many are still wondering what it’s really all about.

Robin Caltri, an independent consultant who promotes what he sees as the benefits of IB, came to Pierson two weeks ago to talk with parents and staff about the program. For Calitri, former principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, the value of IB is that it surpasses traditional ways of measuring intelligence.

“A gifted kid is one who reads well, thinks logically, does what the teacher wants and can do well on an exam,” Calitri said. “Others of us don’t have the gift of that intelligence. It takes us other ways to show what we know.”

IB draws from the teaching methods of Howard Gardner, a widely influential educator who proposed a method of education based on multiple intelligences: visual, spatial, kinesthetic, musical, logical, etc. And in an IB classroom, as many of these perspectives are drawn upon as possible. This may require teachers to assign more group assignments, skits and art projects, or even take more field trips.

“Students should not passively take notes and then regurgitate [that information] on a test,” Calitri added.

There may also be some change in content. But, while IB offers its own list of courses, it won’t exactly require teachers to reinvent the wheel.

For example, New York State requires eleventh graders to take U.S. history. In order to meet the state standards as well as IB requirements, diploma students would take an IB course called “History in America.” While it covers the United States, Calitri said this IB course also challenges students to think beyond their own borders, to consider a wider scope of American history that includes Mexico, Canada and Latin America.

“There may be some teachers who will have to redo their curriculum, and sometimes that’s a difficult thing for some teachers,” Calitri added. “They will have to broaden the scope of what they teach because a lecture course just doesn’t work.”

Representing the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH), Pierson math teacher Jim Kinnier addressed IB at last Monday’s education forum by reading from a statement drafted by TASH, essentially stating that teachers are open to exploring new ways of enhancing the curriculum.

“There’s some thought that teachers here are not open to improvement, and that’s absolutely not true,” he said later.

As for how IB would affect his classes, Kinnier was “intrigued” by learning about new ways to improve students’ abilities to think; but, he added, “I can’t make a decision myself as to whether or not IB is good until I go to the training.” Kinnier will be attending a seminar later this month in Houston, Texas.

Pierson history teacher Frank Atkinson-Barnes, who has already been through the three-day training program, said he still favors AP.

“I really like my AP World class,” he said. “I just wish we could tweak it a bit.”

Atkinson-Barnes did admit that there are some things IB does well.

“It’s not always a matter of apples and oranges,” he added.

The two-year IB format, for example, would allow teachers to teach more in-depth writing and research methods, which currently “I just don’t have time to do.”

However, he believes AP courses, which tend to survey a wider range of information, often better serve high school students. In his opinion, the school should keep AP classes, but spice them up with IB principles.

“Whether or not we go to IB, these [IB training] days weren’t wasted,” he said.

Even though the number of IB diploma and certificate students should roughly equate to the number of students currently taking AP courses, the idea — should the diploma program be a success — is for IB principles to trickle into many Pierson classes, and for the school to eventually grow the amount of IB participation.

And while many parents are enthusiastic for this change, some are still on the fence.

“You’re talking about changing the whole curriculum. This is going to be something that’s going to affect everyone in this school,” said Laura Matthers, whose twin daughters are currently freshmen at Pierson.

The school is considering implementing the program in fall 2012, so Matthers’ daughters will be among the first Pierson students eligible to receive IB diplomas. But, she added that as a parent of two children with different passions, she is concerned that IB might affect one child differently than the other.

For her daughter who is more artistically inclined, Matthers said IB pedagogy might suit her needs well. She welcomes the opportunity to enrich standard-level courses with more activities and to emphasize different ways of learning.

On the other hand, her other daughter is on-track to take Advanced Placement (AP) scholar courses, a track she worries might get bumpy should IB get in the way.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” she said, including whether or not IB credits will transfer over to university, or even whether IB would make it more difficult for her daughter to qualify for a merit-based scholarship. (Administrators have said that many schools do recognize and give credit for IB coursework.)

According to Nichols, should IB get introduced to the curriculum, AP options would not diminish, in fact AP courses might even be taught alongside IB. He also reiterated IB’s claim that any student who has completed IB coursework will do well on an AP exam in that same subject — the reverse is apparently not true.

Though it’s a hot topic at Pierson, elementary school parents have IB on their radars as well.

As her fifth-grade daughter nears her transition from Sag Harbor Elementary School to Pierson Middle School, Joan Dudley said she actually started considering moving back to Westchester County and sending her daughter to a private school in the city. She wondered whether a move to the private sector might give her children the more challenging curriculum she feels they need.

She’s since reconsidered.

“The thought of IB coming has made me stop thinking about other options,” she said.

Dudley is excited for the prospect of introducing IB to the curriculum not just for the opportunity students will have to receive an IB diploma, but for the work ethic that goes hand in hand with the program’s ideals.

“Whether they’re [teaching for] the diploma, the certificate, AP or regular courses, teachers will be teaching at a higher level,” she said.

Julie Hatfield, another fifth-grade parent at Sag Harbor Elementary School, also attributes her success to IB. Hatfield was accepted into the University of Pennsylvania as a Benjamin Franklin Scholar, and ultimately earned her masters degree in architecture from Harvard.

One of only two students who participated in the IB program in its inaugural year at South Side High School, Hatfield praises IB for bringing the idea of critical questioning to the forefront of her education.

“I don’t even think I knew that was an option before,” she said.

Hatfield is sometimes frustrated by her daughter’s assignments — like “mad-minute math,” meant to test her ability to recall information quickly — and hopes the district will continue to explore IB, which hinges on more critical thinking.

“I have noticed that there are some teachers who are comfortable differentiating between students’ abilities, and some who aren’t,” she said. “And the ones who are, do more project-based learning. They are the ones my children are most engaged by, and I think IB is an extension of that.”

Nothing is set in stone, but the district will continue to consider the IB program for fall 2012. Principal Jeff Nichols will give a presentation on IB at the next board of education meeting on Monday, February 7.

Make Way for the Music Man

Tags: , , , ,


Heller_Music Man Rehearsal_6039
Rae Keakulina LaBourne and Denis Hartnett during rehearsals at Pierson auditorium.

By Annette Hinkle

“We got trouble, right here in River City!”

Well, not trouble exactly, and not quite River City. What we actually have is the “Music Man” in Sag Harbor presented by the students of Pierson Middle School all this weekend.

Getting a group of 55 sixth through eighth graders up to speed on a musical written more than 40 years before most of them were born can be a challenge. But director Paula Brannon and producer Melissa Luppi have been down this road before — many times.

“I don’t worry anymore because they always pull it off,” said Luppi during rehearsals on Tuesday as she calmly watched the students give it their all. And part of encouraging them to do that involves making sure they understand the lines they are saying (and singing) on stage.

“If you want them to get excited about it they have to know what it means, and like in many shows, you have to step back and clarify,” says Luppi. “For example, the Wells Fargo wagon is unknown to them, and the concept of ordering something — like a double boiler, which they’d also never heard of — and then having to wait for it to show up.”

Despite the dated references, these students are obviously thoroughly enjoying the play.

“I love the idea of dressing up and being someone else up on stage,” says eighth grader Rae Keakulina LaBourne, who plays the female lead, Marion (the librarian). “At first when I was reading my character’s lines, I thought she was very stuck up. But then she shows she does have a personality. In the song ‘My White Knight’ she talks about wanting someone who’s not so simple. She lets the audience peer into her thoughts.”

Playing Marion’s love interest, Harold Hill, is seventh grader Denis Hartnett who, like many of the young actors, comes to the show with lots of experience in Stages productions.

“I like the relationship between our characters,” says Hartnett of his co-star. “In the beginning she hates me because she thinks I’m a fraud — and I am a fraud. I like how it grows, and we go from hating to loving each other.”

Added into the mix is sixth grader Myles Stokowski (he’s the grandson of conductor Leopold Stokowski) who plays Winthrop, the little brother of Marion. Fans of the movie version of the musical might remember young Ron Howard in that role. And given his lineage, perhaps it’s no surprise that the music is this young actor’s favorite part of the show.

“I like musicals because I love to sing,” says Stokowski. “I don’t take singing lessons, but I’d like to.”

In addition to honing their acting skills, all three students have come to appreciate new friendships formed as a result of being in the play, and are now more comfortable on stage together.

“At first I had no idea who Denis was and I thought ‘I have to hug him and put my head on his shoulder? I don’t know you, this is awkward,’” recalls LaBourne. “We’d say our lines standing about five feet apart and facing opposite directions.”

“But now, we have bonded by going over our lines and talking about the play,” says LaBourne. “And Myles, he’s just the cutest thing ever.”

“Music Man” by Pierson Middle School will be performed Thursday through Saturday, February 3 through 5 at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the school auditorium. Tickets are $7 in the main office, or email agalanty@sagharborschools.org to reserve.

Lady Whalers Return to Winning Ways

Tags: , ,


Heller_LWhalers-Ross Basketball '11_6187

By Jake Sisson

The Pierson/Bridgehampton Lady Whalers returned to their winning ways against Ross (1-5, 1-5) after suffering their first Suffolk County League VIII defeat against Southold (6-6, 4-3). The loss against Southold dropped the Lady Whalers into a tie atop the League VIII standings with Stony Brook (7-4, 6-1) but the win against Ross meant they kept pace ahead of the team’s matchup against Stony Brook on February 8.

The Lady Whaler defense was the real star of the show against Ross as the team tried to reset after having its six game winning streak snapped against Southold. Ross was held to a mere 17 points across the game’s first three quarters en route to giving up just 28 total points. By halftime, the score was 24-11 and the Lady Whalers were not looking back.

The offense was again led by senior guard Sarah Barrett, who added to her already impressive season totals by scoring 18 points. Fellow senior Amanda Busiello continued a strong week by contributing 11 points while another senior, Samantha James, put home 10 points to power Pierson/Bridgehampton to a 26-point victory.

By outscoring Ross 8-5 in the first quarter, 16-6 in the second quarter, 18-6 in the third quarter and 12-11 in the fourth quarter, the Lady Whalers made sure they nearly repeated their performance of January 25 where they bested Ross by 29.

The team could not repeat their performance against Southold, however, as the Lady Whalers stuttered to their first League VIII loss and their first defeat in 2011. Despite a season high from Amanda Busiello, the Lady Whalers could not generate enough fourth quarter offense to hold off a determined Southold comeback.

Things were looking good for Pierson/Bridgehampton as they entered the fourth quarter ahead 34-27. Thanks to a strong third period, in which the Lady Whalers outscored Southold by seven points, all that remained was to limit Southold’s scoring chances and hold on for the win.

It was not to be, as Southold took the lead with two minutes left in the game and held on to win 40-38. Pierson/Bridgehampton could only muster four points in the final eight minutes to leave a bitter taste in the team’s mouth and end a six-game winning run.

The loss was not for lack of effort, however, as Busiello had the best offensive game of her season, picking up 17 points for a team- and game-high. Not far behind was Sarah Barrett, who again scored in double digits, with 11 points. Also getting on the score sheet were Samantha James with six points and Emily Hinz with four points.

After the quick return to form, Pierson/Bridgehampton faces Mercy in a game they need to win to keep their spot at the top of League VIII. From there, Pierson faces Stony Brook in a game that could decide the future league champion. In the two teams’ last meeting, the Lady Whalers ran out 35-33 winners and needed a layup inside the final 30 seconds to finally shake a tenacious Stony Brook side. Pierson/ Bridgehampton will look to some of the momentum gained against Ross to dispatch Stony Brook, and the take home the League VIII title, more quickly this time around.

Question Arise Over IB Program

Tags: , , ,


By Claire Walla

Don’t know much about IB?

That was the premise of last week’s International Baccalaureate (IB) information session, held Wednesday, January 19 in the Pierson Middle/High School auditorium.

IB, which is already used widely in Europe, is gaining popularity in the United States where it is replacing or being offered alongside AP programs and is seen by many administrators as offering students a wider world view.

According to Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto, administrators had decided over the summer to closely examine the IB program and how it might fit in to the academic curriculum at Pierson. While Dr. Gratto told those at last week’s meeting this is something that is “still in the exploratory phase,” he said administrators are working with potential plans to implement IB beginning in fall 2012.

A group of about 50 parents, teachers and administrators gathered to learn about the program from Robin Calitri, former principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, which has the longest history of IB on Long Island. Calitri also held an information session for parents the following day.

Calitri touted IB for challenging both teachers and students to think outside the box.

“IB values global or international mindedness,” he said, adding that while IB students are given assessment tests throughout their time in the program, one of the capstones for IB diploma students is a 4,000-word essay, which forces students to use critical thinking skills rather than fact-based recall methods to test their knowledge.

Ok, but how does it all work?

For the Sag Harbor School District, which is considering introducing an IB diploma program for eleventh and twelfth graders, participating students will take a total of six IB courses, revolving around what’s known as “the hexagon.”

Students will choose study topics that stem from six main subject areas — language, individuals and societies, mathematics and computer science, the arts, environmental sciences and second language. In addition, these courses are bolstered by the program’s three core requirements: Creativity Action Service (CAS), which encourages learning outside the classroom; the 4,000-word extended essay; and a vaguely titled course called Theory of Knowledge (TOK).

Some parents at the meeting expressed concern over the cost of a program that will potentially affect a select few.

Calitri was very frank: “[IB] can cost taxpayers anywhere from $30,000 to $200,000 a year,” he said.

While the Sag Harbor School District should not expect to see costs reach anywhere near the six-figure range — these estimates apply to schools implementing IB at all levels of education, from elementary school up — IB does have a price tag.

In addition to the $7,000 application fee and the fees associated with joining the worldwide IB network, it costs about $1,500 to $2,000 for Pierson to send each teacher to IB teachers training conferences. (This year the district set aside all of its professional development funds for this purpose.)

Parent Tom Gleason shared his doubts about the program. “I worry about the percent of students who will actually be in IB courses,” he said, adding that the school has already invested money in an AP curriculum. “To me, I’d rather put money into raising all students to a higher level.”

According to Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols, IB would function similar to the way AP already does. He estimated there are typically eight to 14 students who take more than five AP courses at Pierson during the course of their studies, a work load similar to that required of those pursuing an IB diploma. And just as certain students already take individual AP courses, those same students would be able to take single IB courses for certificate credit.

At eight to 14, the number of potential diploma students represents roughly 20 to 30 percent. But, Nichols added, “Just like we did with AP, we’ll grow that number.”

Pierson math teacher Jim Kinnier asked about the more practical implications for teachers, questions concerning the content matter of an IB class versus an AP class, as well as the instruction time necessary for IB students. Standard level IB classes require 150 hours of instruction, while higher-level classes require 240.

To the former, Calitri was vague. He said it’s up to the teacher and the school to choose the specific content of the course.

“The [administrators] will design the program for the school based on the strengths of its faculty,” he explained.

And to the latter, he said 40-minute class periods, like those at Pierson, are standard.

“Schools just have to figure out a way to get 150 hours of instruction,” he added, which can be difficult if schools lose teaching time to snow days or teachers conferences, or if individual students miss class periods. In these instances at Rockville Centre, Calitri continued, sometimes teachers scheduled additional instruction for after-school hours.

School board member Chris Tice asked Calitri how sophomores who currently take AP classes but would not be able to partake in the IB program until their junior year factor into the equation.

Calitri spoke well of AP classes, saying “Sometimes AP is used as a set-up for students on-track to do IB.”

In a later interview, Dr. Gratto mentioned that AP would most likely still be an option for students, should plans for the IB program come to fruition.