Tag Archive | "Pierson Middle-High School"

Pierson Robotics Team Heads to FIRST Competition with Confidence

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The 2013-2014 Pierson Whalers Robotics team. Photo courtesy of Gayle Pickering.

The Pierson Robotics Team placed second at the Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics Competition Saturday and will head to the national championship in St. Louis in April. Photo courtesy of Gayle Pickering.

By Tessa Raebeck

After coming in second place last year—and losing the championship on a technicality—the Pierson High School Robotics Team is returning to the FIRST Robotics Competition this year with a vengeance—and a “very fast robot,” according to Shane Hennessy, a junior who is in his fourth season with the team.

This weekend, the 30 members of the Pierson Whalers team will attend the 2014 Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics Competition at Hofstra University. An international program, FIRST challenges student teams, aided by mentors, to build a 130-pound robot in six weeks using a standard “kit of parts” and common guidelines.

This year’s game, Aerial Assist, is similar to basketball. The robot must be able to lift, throw and catch a “yoga ball,” 2 feet in diameter.  Compared to previous competitions, Aerial Assist has a catch: The team must form an alliance with two other competitors, resulting in two teams of three robots each competing against each other on the court.

The competition is more challenging this year, said Abi Gianis, a junior who is in her second year on the team.

“We have to build a robot that is capable of not only completing the task, but also can cooperate and work with other robots that we will have had never worked with before,” she said. “Teamwork between different teams is really focused on this year.”

The Whalers' robot poses in the Pierson gymnasium. Photo by Gayle Pickering.

The Whalers’ robot poses in the Pierson gymnasium. Photo by Gayle Pickering.

Abi said the Whalers have scouted other team’s websites and YouTube pages, but cannot form official alliances until they arrive at the competition today, Thursday, March 27

As leader of the team’s scouting division for the second year in a row, Shane is finding his role has become “much more important because of that focus.”

“Last year,” he said, “it was more to figure out strategy, but this year it is integral to our success.”

At the competition, Shane must “know everything about every team there.” He will coordinate with the 12 members of the scouting division to find out information on their opponents and potential allies.

“Since we all have to work together as teams, we need to know which teams work well with us,” Shane said. “Also, we want to be able to prep for the matches where we don’t get to choose our alliance. If we have data on them, we can work together more efficiently.”

Pierson’s robot is fast this year because it has a mecanum wheel drive train, a way the motors are connected to the wheels that allows the robot to quickly go in any direction with ease.

“But our speed also means that we can be pushed around easily,” Shane said. “This means that a good teammate would be one that could block the opposing team for us.”

The robot has pincers that enable it to pick up and throw the ball, using pneumatics to open and close the mechanical arms, which were designed by programmers Liam Rothwell-Pessino and Ben Klinghoffer, with help from Rob Coe, a former electrical engineer—a team mentor—and Lucas Pickering, who captains the team along with Alex Cohen.

Liam, who joined the team last year as a sophomore, said, “Last year, I was kind of lost—as is everyone else I’m told, their first year—but then the second year, you get the hang of it and you really start to contribute. Then it really starts to get interesting and you feel like you’re part of the team.”

“I’d say that the struggling in the first year and being taught by the seniority on the team definitely helps bring the team closer together,” he added.

“We have received a lot more community support in the last few years, and the program has become more than just building a robot, in the sense that we’re really a team and robotics has become an enriching learning experience,” said Shane. “We worked really hard this year, and I think we’ll do well.”

The Pierson Robotics Team's robot and the balls it must throw in the FIRST Robotics Competition at Hofstra University this weekend. Photo by Gayle Pickering.

The Pierson Robotics Team’s robot and the balls it must throw in the FIRST Robotics Competition at Hofstra University this weekend. Photo by Gayle Pickering.

Sag Harbor School District Presents Options for Parking Lot Plans, Offers Traffic Safety Solutions for Pierson Drop Off

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Option 1, one of three potential plans for the reconfiguration of the Jermain Avenue parking lot at Pierson Middle-High School in Sag Harbor, as presented to the Board of Education Tuesday. Plan courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

Option 1, one of three potential plans for the reconfiguration of the Jermain Avenue parking lot at Pierson Middle-High School in Sag Harbor, as presented to the Board of Education Tuesday. Plan courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

By Tessa Raebeck

Sag Harbor’s traffic calming proponents and school district officials may not have reached a compromise on parking plans for Pierson Middle-High School, but at least they have some options.

At Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, the district’s architect, Larry Salvesen, laid out three options for expanded parking lots at Pierson. Altered from the plan originally proposed in a capital projects bond approved in November, the options aim to address criticisms from members of the community that the parking lots would encroach on green space and drastically disrupt the vista of Pierson Hill.

Proposed revisions to the Hampton Street lot at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Plans courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

Proposed revisions to the Hampton Street lot at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Plans courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

Plans for the Hampton Street lot at Sag Harbor Elementary School, a considerably less controversial project, have been scaled back and now call for the addition of 15 new parking spaces as opposed to 25. The plan extended the lot toward Hampton Street,  adds an internal circulation route and places crosswalks across the exit and entryway.

At Pierson, there are 112 existing lined spaces. The Jermain Avenue parking lot has 39, the Division Street parking lot also has 39, the Montauk Avenue lot behind the school has 28 and a small administrative lot on Division Street has six spaces.

There are 152 staff members, Mr. Salvesen said, adding there are also spaces reserved for visitors and the handicapped, leaving about 40 employees without spaces.

“Right now, there’s not an issue with faculty parking,” Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols said later in the meeting, adding most faculty members park on site and he knows of only two employees who park off site, both by choice. There are also several spaces given to students on a rotating, lottery basis throughout the year, Mr. Nichols said, calling the situation “pretty good from my perspective.”

The existing conditions at Pierson. Plan courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

The existing conditions at Pierson. Plan courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

“The intent here was to keep the existing counts, improve the safety and if at all possible add a few spaces,” Mr. Salvesen said of the original bond plan, which had the parking lot being  expanded about three-quarters of the way down the northern edge of Pierson Hill.

Mr. Salvesen presented three new options to the board and the community, which will now go to the Educational Facilities Planning Committee, the group responsible for drafting the bond, for its review.

Option 1 is closest to the original plan, but adjusts radii to allow for safer access for buses and emergency vehicles. Buses would load and unload on the side of the parking lot, bordering the building. The plan includes potential on-street parking for nine cars if permitted by the village, which has jurisdiction over the streets. All options would add a sidewalk along the street for the length of the hill with crosswalks at the entry points.

Option 1 would propose a total of 44 lined parking spaces in the Jermain lot (see above).

In Option 2, the school bus loading zone would be moved to an on-street pull-off loading zone on the southern side of Jermain Avenue, which Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano told Mr. Salvesen he would permit. The Jermain lot would have 38 spaces.

Options 1 and 2 call for the removal of an old Norway maple tree that Mr. Salvesen said is not in good health and “will take care of itself over time anyway,” and the relocation of several others.

Option 2 for the Jermain Avenue lot. Photo courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

Option 2 for the Jermain Avenue lot. Plan courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

Both options provide for the potential to construct five additional spaces in the Jermain Avenue lot in the future.

A “reduced scope scheme,” according to Mr. Salvesen, Option 3, would still expand the Jermain Avenue lot westward, but considerably less so, with less intrusion onto the walkway and green space on the hill’s northern edge. It would have 30 spaces, five spaces for on street parking, if allowed by the village, and an optional three spaces that could be constructed later on. The Norway maple would not need to be cut down, although two trees, the dedication tree and a small double cedar, would still need to be relocated. The bus-loading zone remains on school property.

The net gain of Option 3 is one parking spot.

In all three options, the Division lot has 49 proposed spaces, with the 10 additional spaces made by filling in the green tree wells, once occupied by trees that have since died.

Board member Mary Anne Miller said she is “not in favor of cramping the Jermain lot at the expense of the Division Street lot.”

Ms. Miller said since 2004, enrollment in the district has grown by 135 students, “so it isn’t the sleepy little Pierson that it used to be.”

Option 3 for the Jermain Avenue lot, as well as the proposed plans for the Division Street lot. Plan courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

Option 3 for the Jermain Avenue lot, as well as the proposed plans for the Division Street lot. Plan courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

Carol Williams, who lives across the street from Pierson, called the first two options “extremely destructive to the character of the hill” and asked whether the plans could be superimposed over an aerial photograph.

Gordon Herr asked the board to consider a product his company, Marketing Works, sells, EcoRaster permeable paver, a green alternative to asphalt. Manufactured from 100-percent recycled bags, the product resembles a box-like planter and allows for grass parking lots, has a 20-year warranty, does not deteriorate in extreme temperatures, can be plowed over and can sustain trees, Mr. Herr said, eliciting cheers from the audience.

All of the options, which will be run by the planning committee at an open meeting Tuesday, April 8 and again presented for public input at the following board meeting, Wednesday, April 23, allow for a 100-foot drop-off area along the right side of the Jermain lot, which Mr. Salvesen said could alleviate the congestion in the Division Street lot.

Addressing the traffic safety issue for afternoon pick-up and morning drop-off, Mr. Nichols proposed some temporary solutions to be implemented, which the board approved.

The first is to provide multiple points of entry into the building: the main entrance, the Pupil Personnel Services door off the Jermain lot and at the cafeteria, to accommodate students entering from the Montauk lot.

Mr. Nichols also suggested closing the entrance to the Division lot off in the morning (except for teachers parking there) and encouraging parents to head down Division Street from Grand Street, rather than up from Jermain or from Marsden.

The school will station two people, in addition to the current monitor John Ali, to monitor the Division Street area and two people to monitor Jermain Avenue. Mr. Nichols said they will be “very proactive” in letting parents know of the changes and would implement them beginning Monday, April 7.

The plans presented by Mr. Salvesen on Tuesday also include a renovation of Pierson’s main entrance, currently hidden in a corner by the Division lot. With “some of the character of the former front door” at the top of the hill, it will have a gateway arch, thin steel columns and tablature with the school name to make the entrance more prominent.

Sag Harbor Budget, Propositions Pass; Diskin, Hartnett, Kinsella & Tice Elected to School Board

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Daniel Hartnett, David Diskin, Susan Kinsella and Chris Tice at Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor School budget vote and board election where the four were voted into office. Michael Heller photo. 

By Tessa Raebeck

Sag Harbor School District voters overwhelmingly approved the district’s proposed $35,508,622 budget for the 2013-2014 school year Tuesday night by a margin of over 2-to-1.

The budget was approved by a vote of 825-377.

“We are overwhelmed and most appreciative of the magnificent support shown by the school community,” said Dr. Carl Bonuso, the district’s interim superintendent, after the results were read Tuesday night in the Pierson High School gymnasium. “As a result, there are going to be some wonderful things that we can put in place for the children of this community.”

Turnout declined this year by 175 votes, with 1,202 residents turning out for the budget vote and school board election.

With a competitive field of candidates, the race for school board was especially close and six vied for four open seats.

Daniel Hartnett, a former school board member, had the most support, earning 741 votes. Hartnett returns to the board after serving two terms from 2005 to 2011. Incumbent Susan Kinsella narrowly earned the second most votes at 696. Hartnett and Kinsella will serve full, three-year terms with the board of education.

David Diskin earned 689 votes and board vice president Chris Tice earned 680 to win the two, two-year terms left on the board in the wake of the early resignations of Gregg Schiavoni and Walter Wilcoxen last year.

After serving one term on the board, incumbent Edward Drohan fell short of fourth place with 514 votes. Attorney Thomas Ré finished with 423 votes.

“Every one of the candidates were such wonderful candidates,” said Bonuso. “We knew no matter what the votes that we’d be getting a strong board.”

Smiling and joking with one another, the four winners were clearly excited as they posed for pictures.

“I am thrilled that I got as many votes as I did,” said Kinsella. “I did not anticipate that.”

Fellow board member Sandi Kruel showed her support for her colleague. “She will work very hard,” she said of Kinsella.

“The work wasn’t finished,” Kinsella continued. “I’m very grateful to the community for supporting me. I will work to keep education at the highest standards and to keep fiscal responsibility.”

Diskin, a parent and local business owner, is the only winning candidate to be elected without any prior experience on the board.

“Thanks everyone in Sag Harbor for supporting me,” said Diskin. “Thanks to my wife, Faith, and my family for helping me out.”

Tice likewise thanked the community “for supporting the budget vote and the other two propositions and sending a clear message that the school district is going in the right direction.”

“I’m excited about more time on the board to do good work for the school district,” she added.

Hartnett, who came out ahead by 45 votes — by far the largest margin among any of the winners — expressed his gratitude to the community and commended the other candidates.

“There’s a lot of work ahead,” he said. “I’m ready to get going but I feel the challenge. This community will face what we need to face to do what we need to do for the kids. It’s about the kids. The only reason I’m doing this is for the kids. I start with my family, but there’s so many kids in this community — that’s why we’re here.”

“I think we have a great board,” Ré said of his elected colleagues, who he congratulated after hearing the results. “I really had a great time running, I thought it was a lot of fun. There were many things I learned and, most likely, contributed to the discussion, so congratulations to all.”

Edward Drohan did not attend the closing of the polls in the Pierson gymnasium. In a letter to supporters sent Monday night, Ré expressed his regret that Drohan was not re-elected.

Drohan “has been a singular voice on many issues facing the board these last three years, always with integrity, fairness and frankness,” said Ré. “It is a loss of a great man and leader for all independent voices of our community.”

In addition to the budget, both propositions on the ballot passed with similarly wide margins. Proposition 2, which reaffirms the district’s policy to provide busing for children living within one and 15 miles from school, was supported 865-309.

Proposition 3, which will allow the district to spend $1.11 million on capital improvements, including repairs to the elementary school roof, the Pierson gymnasium roof and for new bleachers in the gym, was supported 910-268. That work will be funded by $240,000 from the 2013-2014 budget and an additional $873,600 coming from the district’s “Facilities Renovation Capital Reserve Fund.”

The administration was encouraged by the night’s results.

“We’re excited about the upcoming year,” said Bonuso. “Congratulations to all involved.”

Petition Calls for Civility on Sag Harbor School Board; Board Will Attend Retreat

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By Amanda Wyatt

Over six weeks since the resignation of former school board member Gregg Schiavoni sparked debate, Sag Harbor Board of Education (BOE) members appear to be moving forward.

The BOE has been under a microscope since Schiavoni sent in his letter of resignation in early March, which criticized the board and its practices.

For members of the recently formed community organization, the Sag Harbor Education Best Practices Group (SHEBPG), the resignation and “the divisiveness between board members raised a red flag that we believe could not be denied or ignored,” according to a petition filed with the board Monday night.

At the start of Monday night’s well-attended BOE meeting, the petition asking the board to commit to best practices and examine the concerns of the community, among other things, was delivered to the district clerk.

John Battle, also speaking on behalf of co-creators Jonathan Glynn and Gordon Trotter, said in an email to The Express that the petition ultimately contained nearly 275 signatures.

“The petition includes no demands, no ultimatums, no charges of wrong doing. It implies none of these things. It is meant to be a loud and clear call for this board to get its house in order,” Battle pointed out at the meeting.

“The intent of this petition was to encourage a more thoughtful response to a wary public and though we believe that there is more work to be done we thank you for your reassurances to date,” he added.

Following the delivery of the petition, Theresa Samot, board president, announced that in response to requests at previous meetings, the BOE would hold a special retreat next month.

“We will be having our board retreat on May 9, focusing on those topics that we talked about at previous meetings — best practices, open meeting laws and communication,” she said.

Battle, speaking for SHEBPG, said he was “heartened” by this news and thanked the board for “tightening up executive session procedures” and “affirming its commitment to best practices.”

There was also discussion about public expression at meetings, including whether the district needed to have two public input portions. Currently, members of the community sign up with the district office to speak for the first public input session before the regular meeting begins. The second public input session, which occurs after the meeting, is open to anyone who wants to speak.

While speakers are limited to just a few minutes, there is no cap on the number of speakers, which means that public input can be as short or lengthy as desired. Recently, some of the more contentious school board meetings have had public input sessions that have lasted for over two hours.

Still, Samot pointed out that this separated the district from others, which sometimes allot only 30 minutes for public expression.

“I wouldn’t be in favor of that, because I think it’s important that everybody be able to speak,” she said.

Board member Mary Anne Miller and Chris Tice, the board’s vice president, said they would work on the policy and present it to the BOE at its next meeting.

Also on Monday, Samot said the board would place on the agenda a time for a representative of School Leadership, the consulting firm overseeing the search for a permanent superintendent, to attend an open BOE meeting. At the last meeting, several community members questioned the BOE’s decision in January to delay finding a permanent superintendent for another year and wondered why the search could not continue sooner. Samot said that School Leadership had recommended waiting until before the holiday season to resume the search, since people sometimes look for new jobs at that time of the year.

In related news, the BOE approved contracts for two consultants to work with the district in its efforts to curb the use of drugs and alcohol. The contract with Human Growth and Development Network, which is for $100 per hour, will not exceed $8,000. The contract with East End Counseling LLC is for $70 per hour and will not exceed $5,600.

Human Growth and Development Network has been contracted to help the district develop a comprehensive drug and alcohol prevention program, which they hope to put in place for the 2013-2014 school year. East End Counseling, on the other hand, was described by Dr. Bonuso, interim superintendent, as providing some “hands-on” counseling and working with parents on the substance prevention initiative.

Sag Harbor Schools Look at Expanding Foreign Language Curriculum

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By Amanda Wyatt

The Sag Harbor Board of Education kicked off its new series of curriculum workshops on Monday night, giving community members the opportunity to hear teachers and administrators speak on the past, present and future of education in the district.

Modeled after the public budget workshops that have been held for the past couple of years, the “educational operations advisory committee” workshops seek to engage parents and others in the process of curriculum building.

While there are upcoming workshops on the math and the International Baccalaureate (IB) program scheduled for later this spring, Monday’s workshop was devoted to exploring foreign language instruction.

The evening began with skits performed and co-written by fourth and fifth grade Spanish classes. With costumes and props in hand, the students acted out different scenarios in the language they had been studying.

Notably, some of the kids had been among the first to start taking Spanish as kindergartners in 2008. And for the teachers, they were proof of the importance of beginning language classes early.

“They’re doing an awesome job, and I think they can only get better,” said Rafaela Messinger, a Spanish teacher. She pointed out that the kids who had learned Spanish earlier had a much stronger grasp of not only language, but pronunciation, as well.

And while some may assume a four or five-year-olds are too young to begin taking Spanish, scientists have discovered quite the opposite.

“The mind actually closes around the age of 12 to acquire language, so we’re waiting way too long in this country to start teaching language. They need to start it actually in pre-K or kindergarten,” said Shannon Marr, a fellow Spanish teacher.

Offering Spanish to younger students is one of the ways in which the district has ramped up its foreign language department in recent years. As such, it has seen growth in the number of students in both French and Spanish classes, as well as an increase in the number enrolled in upper-level courses.

On Monday, the department outlined its many goals for the future, including increasing instructional time at the elementary level; holding regular department meetings; hiring an additional Spanish teacher who is also certified to teach French; and establishing honors-level courses for students to achieve success on the IB foreign language exams. Offering more field trips, as well as establishing a relationship with an organization that specializes in international student exchanges, were also highlighted as goals.

The department also discussed the need for support classes for special needs students, as well as students new to studying foreign language, who often struggle to keep up with some of their classmates. As Spanish teacher Yanina Cuesta explained, it would be beneficial to have “a modified class, where it’s moving at a different pace” for these students.

In addition, the foreign language department discussed the possibility of creating a Spanish class for native speakers, since sometimes students are able to speak but not read or write the language.

Another goal was to establish a model for middle school-level instruction. Last year, a sizeable percentage of students failed to pass eighth grade Spanish, which caused some concern among parents.

Still, Jeff Nichols, principal of Pierson Middle/High School, pointed out that despite this roadblock, the district was doing “a very good job” when looking at the big picture. He pointed to high scores that students have routinely scored on state Regents tests for foreign language. Calvin Stewart, a Spanish teacher, added that students who weren’t specifically struggling were doing quite well in language classes.

Nichols added there had been some discussion in the past on whether French was the most useful second foreign language to offer. Mandarin had been suggested before, and it has not necessarily been ruled out as a possibility for the district.

Still, he said the district would need to survey the community before entertaining the possibility of offering an additional or alternative language. He also said that adding a language like Mandarin would require an additional full-time teacher, which is a budgetary concern.

In any event, some parents noted that in order to stay competitive in the world today, kids must learn at least one — if not two or three — other languages.

“It’s just the way the world is moving, and our kids are going to be left behind if they aren’t bilingual,” said parent Allison Scanlon. “It’s going to hurt them for colleges, it’s going to hurt them for jobs in the future.”

Additional dialogue about the curriculum will take place on May 7, with a special workshop on the math department. The final workshop is on the IB program and is scheduled for June 3.

LIPA Awards Sag Harbor School District $101,355 in Rebates

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Caption: Montgomery Granger, Buildings and Grounds Supervisor, Sag Harbor School District; Jonathan Hark, Past President of Suffolk SBGA and Manager of Administrative Services, Eastern Suffolk BOCES; Michael Deering, Vice President of Environmental Affairs, LIPA; Fred Koelbel, State Director of Suffolk SBGA and Plant Facilities Administrator, Port Jefferson School District; Dr. Carl Bonuso, Interim Superintendent, Sag Harbor School District; NYS Assemblyman Fred Thiele; John O’Keefe, School Business Administrator, Sag Harbor School District; Matt Malone, Principal, Sag Harbor Elementary School; Jeff Nichols, Principal, Pierson Middle High School at a ceremony on Friday. 

To celebrate Earth Week, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) presented the Sag Harbor School District with an energy efficiency rebate of $101,355 for lighting upgrades last Friday. Sag Harbor is the latest Long Island school to go green and save money by participating in LIPA’s commercial efficiency and renewable programs.

“The Sag Harbor District and LIPA should be commended for working together to achieve savings for the school district’s taxpayers,” Senator Ken LaValle said. “I look forward to seeing other school districts throughout our region adopt similar techniques.”

“As a longtime member of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, I have always supported expanding the use of green and renewable energy sources. By focusing on new sustainable energies, we can grow our economy while protecting our environment. I applaud the Sag Harbor School District for participating in LIPA’s Commercial Efficiency Program and taking measures to save both energy and money for our community,” said Assemblyman Fred Thiele.

Through LIPA’s Efficiency Long Island Program, the Sag Harbor School District, upgraded the lighting systems and installed occupancy-sensors in all three school buildings. The school district replaced or retrofitted approximately 1,810 fixtures with energy efficient high performance lighting equipment. Through these improvements it is estimated that Sag Harbor School District will save up to 179,000 kWh per year and reduce its peak electric demand by an estimated 95 kilowatts, saving the district approximately $32,000 annually in energy costs.

In addition, last year the district installed a 1,480 watt solar generator at Sag Harbor Elementary School which qualified for a $4,070 rebate through LIPA’s Solar Entrepreneur Program.

“Thanks to the partnership with LIPA, Sag Harbor School district was able to integrate an energy savings program and also realized a financial savings as well. The rebate check being awarded is an example of benefits that can be derived when schools work with community partners to create win-win situations where all concerned realize benefits. The Sag Harbor School district is most appreciative of the efforts by businesses and all members of the school family including their political representatives to provide students with the resources that they need and deserve,” said Dr. Carl Bonuso, Interim Superintendent of Schools, Sag Harbor School District.

 

Sag Harbor PTSA Sponsors Forum on Cybersafety

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By Amanda Wyatt

It’s been nearly 20 years since the brutal murder of Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old from New Jersey, raised awareness about child sexual abuse and sparked national legislation to try and prevent such tragedies.

But in 2013, young people are still being targeted by sex offenders and no where is this more apparent than online.

And while the Internet may be rife with predators, by being armed with the right tools, parents and other concerned adults can help keep the young people in their lives safe.

This was the topic of a cyber-safety presentation by Annie Ortiz, a representative from Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victim’s Center, at a special Parent Teacher Association (PTSA) meeting last Thursday at Pierson Middle/High School.

“Cybersex offenders use their computers to contact, to groom and entice juveniles for victimization,” Ortiz explained. “To them, the Internet is a great tool, because on the Internet they can be whoever they want to be to access the victim.”

According to Ortiz, a recent survey revealed that over a one-year period, one in five minors were sexually solicited online. One in 33 were approached aggressively — for example, the predator may have tried to set up a meeting, telephoned or sent regular mail and gifts to the victim. Yet, less than 10 percent of these incidents were reported to the police.

Predators will often seek out children on otherwise harmless social media sites, blogs and virtual dairies, chat rooms, gaming communities and more. They will slowly develop a bond with the child — all the while ensuring parents remain unaware of their relationship — in the hope that they will one day be able to meet face-to-face.

In addition to contacting children, predators use the Internet to communicate with other pedophiles, as well as for seeing, making, viewing and sending child pornography.

Ortiz also pointed to some troubling numbers on child sexual abuse as a whole. Ninety percent of abusers have an established relationship with their victims and 30 percent of the 90 percent are relatives.

Nearly all sex offenders, she said, are male. Ninety one percent are white, and a sizeable percentage are under the age of 35. The average pedophile starts at age 15 and commits an average of 117 sex crimes over their lifetime.

According to Ortiz, many cybersex offenders are also child pornographers. Child pornography is a huge industry that brings in an estimated $3 billion annually, and it’s tricky to catch the pornographers, who will go to great lengths to hide their identities and whereabouts.

At the same time, Ortiz brought up the danger of “sexting,” which, when it involves minors, is actually a form of child pornography. For example, if a teenager takes an explicit photo of herself and sends it to her boyfriend, she can still be charged with creating and possessing child pornography.

So how can parents keep their kids safe from Internet predators?

“The whole goal is to stay invisible from the sex offenders,” said Ortiz.

Parents should never post personal information or photos about their kids online, she said. An acquaintance with access to the photo could, for example, morph it with another pornographic image of an adult body.

Parents should also review the privacy and settings of websites like Facebook every so often to ensure personal information is kept private. Similarly, parents should change their settings on websites and applications so that their location is not shared with others.

In addition, Ortiz recommends purchasing internet filtering products — such as Net Nanny and CyberSitter — to block unsavory content and monitor online chatting. Parents can also personally enforce rules and limitations on their children’s use of computers and smart phones, as well as monitor their emails, browsing history and friends lists.

Some parents, however, may disagree with these techniques, arguing that they want to trust their kids and give them privacy. But Parents for Megan’s Law has a different perspective.

“You need to know their passwords, you need to be able to check their emails periodically,” Ortiz said. “It’s sending the message that it isn’t you we don’t trust, it’s everybody else in that cyber world that we don’t trust…”

She added, “Very innocently, [your kids] may not even realize that they’re being groomed, but you can try to prevent that.”

Sag Harbor School Board Adopts $35.5 Million Budget

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By Amanda Wyatt

Following months of workshops and planning, on Monday the Sag Harbor Board of Education (BOE) voted to adopt a $35,508,622 budget for the 2013-2014 school year.

Business administrator John O’Keefe described the budget as “fiscally prudent” and one that maintains the same quality of programs, small class sizes and other desirable features of the district. Unlike some neighboring districts, which have been forced to make drastic cuts to stay within the state-mandated two percent property tax levy cap or even ask voters to “pierce the tax cap,” Sag Harbor has kept its programs and staff intact.

However, the district recognizes that it may not be as lucky in the future.

“Each year is going to be a more and more difficult struggle,” said O’Keefe.

And while Sag Harbor hasn’t been forced to make cuts yet, Chris Tice, BOE vice president, said she imagined that “every district before the end of this tax cap is going to be faced with those choices.”

Dr. Carl Bonuso, the district’s interim superintendent, cited costly, mostly unfunded, state mandates and other legislation that has taken effect recently as being problematic. Unless it receives relief from these mandates, he said, the district would “have to look at some major strategy shifts” in the future.

This year’s budget takes into consideration some of these mandates, such as the Common Core curriculum and APPRs (Annual Professional Performance Reviews), as well as the rising costs of teacher and employee retirement systems, and state health insurance. In fact, O’Keefe said, benefits alone increased $1.3 million this year.

The budget-to-budget increase this year is 3.88 percent from last year’s approved budget of $34,182,256. The calculated tax levy needed to support the budget is $32,739,375, or a tax levy percentage of 3.78 percent.

O’Keefe also pointed out that there is a $100,000 increase from the budget as it was initially proposed last month, which includes funds for increased safety measures, drug and alcohol prevention programming and other items.

The budget vote is scheduled for May 21 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Superintendent Search May Be Revived in Sag Harbor

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By Amanda Wyatt

An issue put on the backburner for months — finding a permanent superintendent for the Sag Harbor School District — resurfaced this week when it was raised by several community members at Monday night’s school board meeting.

The district has been without a permanent superintendent since Dr. John Gratto resigned last July. A month later, Dr. Carl Bonuso was appointed interim superintendent by the board of education (BOE), with the initial goal of finding a permanent replacement to take the helm for the 2013-2014 school year.

In January, however, the BOE opted to extended Dr. Bonuso’s contract another year. Based on the suggestion of School Leadership, the consulting firm used to oversee the process of selecting a superintendent, the BOE postponed the search until September 2013.

However, at the April 8 board meeting, several community members shared their concerns about delaying the search for another year.

“That really feels like a crime to me, whether they said it or not and they’re the experts, there’s so much time there,” said Kate Lawton. “It just feels wrong.”

Walter Tice, a former member and president of the BOE, also agreed with Lawton, while praising the work Dr. Bonuso has completed in the district.

“We can’t wait until [Dr. Bonuso is] gone and then find somebody. We’ve got to do it now, and I think it’s been too slow.”

As Steve Clark, a community member, put it, an interim superintendent “is a Band-Aid on a long term problem.”

“We can take a look at it,” said Theresa Samot, BOE president. “Board, if you agree, I’ll certainly contact the consultants again and maybe get some recommendations in writing from them that I could share with everybody, because we want to do what’s best for the students in the district, absolutely.”

Also during public input, parent Allison Scanlon brought up the district’s recent decision to wait another year to apply for a Local Government Efficiency Grant on shared services with several other neighboring districts.

When she asked if there could be an opportunity for the community to weigh in on conversations about reapplying, Dr. Bonuso and several board members answered, “Absolutely.”

In related news, the district announced on Monday that it had added $100,000 to its proposed budget, bringing the total to $35,508,622. Of this increase, $40,000 will be used to install security cameras at all exterior doors, as well as an entry alert system, $30,000 will be used to upgrade communications systems in the school, and an additional $10,000 has been proposed to fund a summer program.

There will also be a $5,000 decrease in an account under the umbrella of students with disabilities, and this money will be put toward the $25,000 set aside for the creation of a school-wide drug and alcohol program.

At the same time, revenues are expected to increase by $1,326,366 or 3.88 percent from last year.

Of the $35,508,622 coming into the district, $32,739,375 is from the tax levy; $1,548,247 is from state aid projections; $475,000 is from out-of-district tuitions; $117,000 is from PILOT payments and $50,000 is expected from sharing services and facilities with other districts. $500,000 will come from an appropriated fund balance and the remaining $145,361 is from grants, interest and miscellaneous revenue.

Following a suggestion from board member Mary Anne Miller, the BOE has decided to hold an extra budget workshop, which will take place on Monday, April 22 at 5:30 p.m. Prior to the workshop, community members may submit their questions on the budget on homepage of the school’s website.

Also on the district’s plate is a series of upcoming curriculum workshops—much like the budget workshops that were held this spring — which will be open to the public.

The first is on foreign language offerings and will take place at 6:30 p.m. on April 22, following the budget workshop. During this time, language teachers will discuss the current status, changes and challenges to their curriculum.

Two other workshops on math and the IB program will be held on May 7 and June 3, respectively.

Pierson Win Sets Up Showdown for Class C Title

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Ian Barrett goes up for two of his 16 points against Greenport on Tuesday.

By Gavin Menu; photography by Michael Heller

By Gavin Menu

Here we go again, Whalers fans.

The Pierson boys basketball team will play rival Stony Brook for the second consecutive year with the Suffolk County Class C Championship on the line after the Whalers knocked off visiting Greenport, 63-41, in an outbracket game on Tuesday night.

Although Stony Brook is the top-seeded Class C team in the county, it will be the Whalers defending their crown tonight, February 14, at Westhampton Beach High School at 6:30 p.m. The Whalers won the title last year on a last second three-pointer by then-sophomore Forrest Loesch, who gave Pierson a 34-32 victory and its first county title in 18 years.

Stony Brook this season has steamrolled the League VIII competition and took an undefeated record into Pierson’s home gym for the regular season finale on February 7. Stony Brook rested three of its regular starters and the Whalers won, 57-45, to spoil the Bears’ perfect season. In the teams’ other meeting this year, Stony Brook won a nail biter, 51-50, back on January 15.

“Hopefully this time we will be up four with a minute left,” Pierson head coach Dan White said on Tuesday when asked whether he could handle another miraculous finish with so much on the line. “I can’t do that again.”

The Bears boast a powerful front line that could pose rebounding problems for the Whalers, who lack any significant height and struggled at times Tuesday night to secure defensive rebounds against Greenport.

Stony Brook got out to a fast start against Pierson in the teams’ first meeting this year and barely held on after a frantic charge by Pierson led by Forrest Loesch and his 23 points fell just short.  Pierson outscored the Bears, 36,27, in the fourth quarter but could not overcome a slow start in which they fell behind by 10 points in the first quarter.

Pierson on Tuesday was looking to avenge a loss to the Porters late last month and came out determined with 19 first-quarter points, 12 of which came from the hot hand of senior Jake Bennett, who finished the game with 18 points while also holding Greenport star Gavin Dibble to just five points in the second half and 11 overall. Bennett also had six rebounds, five assists and two steals in one of his best overall games of the season.

“Jake Bennett with another tremendous job tonight,” White said. “He not only held Dibble back from scoring, but he didn’t even allow him to get the ball a lot of the time, so they could not set up their offense.”

Ian Barrett had 16 points for the Whalers in his best game of the season since coming back from injury and senior forward Patrick Sloane chipped in with 14 points and eight rebounds as he, Bennett, Joey Butts, Aiden Kirrane and Liam Doyle played the last home game of their Pierson careers.

Senior Jackson Marienfeld had to sit out the game after receiving two technical fouls in the regular-season finale against Stony Brook, but he will be back in the line-up for tonight’s rematch with the Bears.

Loesch, who led the team in scoring this season, scored just seven points against Greenport. Butts had six assists in the game but also struggled shooting and finished with just three points, although he received nothing but praise from his head coach after the game had ended.

“I cannot find a better defender on the ball and he’s smart out there,” White said when asked about Butts, who was an All-League selection as a junior last year. “I love that kid and I’ll stick with him no matter what.”

Timmy Stevens led Greenport with 17 points and helped spark a second-half comeback when he and Dibble connected on back-to-back three-pointers to cut the Pierson lead to 34-29 early in the third quarter.

At that point, Sloane and sophomore Robbie Evjen began pounding the defensive glass, grabbing rebounds and forcing turnovers that led to easy baskets on the offensive end. Pierson quickly grew a four-point lead to 15 with an 11-0 run in the third quarter that essentially put the game out of reach.

“I thought we did a much better job in the half court offense, and allowing 41 points is always solid,” White said. “We’re back on track.”