Tag Archive | "Pierson Middle-High School"

New Magazine Features Sag Harbor Students’ Artwork

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“Jesse Owens” by Pierson student Ana Sherwood, was created during a workshop with Push Pin Studios co-founder Reynold Ruffins.

By Mara Certic

“It really is the story of two guys,” Peter Solow said in his art room at Pierson Middle-High School this week as he flicked through the pages of RETina, a magazine displaying his students’ artwork.

“One of them was Don Reutershan, who was very much involved in helping the community. The other is this amazing man named Hobie Betts.”

The two, he explained, were responsible for the creation of the Reutershan Educational Trust, which provides support for art and architecture educational programs at the public schools in Sag Harbor. “No other school, no other place,” Mr. Solow said.

Since its creation over a decade ago, the trust has provided the Sag Harbor School District with close to $100,000 each year. Mr. Betts was an architect who started the trust in memory of his good friend, Mr. Reutershan.

Money from the trust has gone to provide Pierson students with a professional large-format printer and better materials, which allow students to transfer sketches done on note paper directly onto fine art paper and canvas.

The Reutershan Trust also provides a $10,000 scholarship every year and contributes to art department trips to Europe.

In addition to that, the trust has held a combination of workshops and projects, bringing in professional artists to work with students.

Just last week, photographer Francine Fleischer returned to Pierson to teach one of the classes. Last year, Ms. Fleisher lead a photography project with high school students, which resulted in their photographs being posted on The New York Times website and in an exhibition at the John Jermain Memorial Library.

“And so we’re getting ready for her to be coming back and work with the kids today,” Mr. Solow said on Friday.

Last year, Catalan artist Perrico Pascal was flown in—again by the trust—to put on a workshop at Pierson that he had previously taught at universities in Cairo and Tokyo.

Bailey Briggs, who graduated from Pierson last June, got to work with Mr. Pascal during this program. “He’s the kind of artist who helps you do whatever your hands are going to do; it’s painting, it’s not thinking so hard about everything,” she said of the visiting artist.

Ms. Briggs studied photography at length during her time at Pierson. From the school, she said, she learned both the fundamentals of Photoshop as well as an appreciation of the details of art, she said.

Digital printmaking and photography, wax and portrait sculpture and illustration have all been taught by visiting artists, thanks to the Reutershan Educational Trust.

“We just finished this illustration project; this was Reynold Ruffins,” Mr. Solow said about one class. “There’s a collaboration that the trust works very hard at; not to be an outside group but to work with the faculty. The trust supplements and reinforces what we do in the classroom. It doesn’t supersede it and it doesn’t replace it,” he said. Thanks to this sense of cooperation, Mr. Ruffins’s workshop was integrated into Mr. Solow’s studio art class.

“The trust is really pretty wonderful,” Mr. Solow said.  “And what we wanted to do with RETina is try to document the work that was done by the kids in trust workshops because there really wasn’t a record of it.”

RETina is a 40-page color magazine that features about two years’ worth of work produced in these classes.

Mr. Solow brought in a friend and former classmate at Cooper Union, Michael DiCanio, to design the magazine. Mr. DiCanio, a trained painter, took an interest in design in art school. To support his painting, he worked his way into the advertising world and “fell in love with the profession,” he said.

Mr. DiCanio ran a two-dimensional workshop in which students participated in the editing, layout and design processes. “We thought the need to showcase the student work would be best done by putting it between two covers,” said Mr. DiCanio.  “And that there might be further educational value in getting the kids involved in the process of creating that, too.”

Mr. DiCanio said that his class focused on brand identity, and that he made sure the students examined and considered the best “language” to express their message.

“In a way, what we are putting between two covers is Sag Harbor itself,” he said. “There is no way to oversee the organization of hundreds of paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures done by a community’s youth and not see the world as they do—their world.”




Sag Harbor Village and School Officials Make Strides to Improve Drop-Off Situation at Pierson

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Pierson Middle-High School in Sag Harbor.

Pierson Middle-High School in Sag Harbor.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Sag Harbor Village Police Department and administrators at Pierson Middle-High School have teamed together to address the pick-up and drop-off problems at the school and, after years of confusion, congestion and concerns over safety, administrators say the issue has been resolved.

“Things are going—I think they’re going much better,” Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols said Wednesday.

Parents contacted The Sag Harbor Express in January voicing fears that the lack of organization on the Division Street side of Pierson Middle-High School during the morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up of students, with the haphazard movement of children and cars, would result in an inevitable accident.

In March, the Board of Education hosted a traffic safety workshop, inviting community members, village officials and Police Chief Tom Fabiano to brainstorm a collaborative solution.

At that meeting, Chief Fabiano said he would have to discuss the possibility of adding a village crossing guard with the village board in September. It appears, however, that process was expedited, as the village has appointed Kathy Carlozzi to monitor the situation.

Ms. Carlozzi is present along the entrance to the Division Street parking lot from 7 to 7:30 a.m. and from roughly 2:10 to 2:35 p.m., according to Mr. Nichols.

In the morning, two members of Pierson’s custodial department are stationed along the bus drop-off zone on Division Street from 7 to 7:30 a.m.

School security guard John Ali, formerly the only person officially manning drop-off and pick-up, remains in the Division Street lot “moving traffic along in there as he always has,” Mr. Nichols said.

On the opposite side of the school at the Jermain Street lot, Steve McLoughlin, the security guard from Sag Harbor Elementary School, is stationed facilitating drop-off from 7 to 7:35 a.m.

Mr. Nichols said roughly between 25 and 35 vehicles utilize that side of the building and a monitor supervises the Jermain Street entrance between 7 and 7:30 a.m., after which it is locked.

For those who park along Montauk Avenue, the school has opened up that back entrance, which allows students to enter through the cafeteria. It is supervised by the cafeteria staff between 7 and 7:30 a.m. and likewise locked afterwards, with the primary entrance on Division Street being the only accessible way to enter the school during the day.

“I think probably the biggest help,” Mr. Nichols said, “has been discouraging a left hand turn into the Division lot. And that’s been done by Kathy Carlozzi putting cones out and not allowing people to make that left hand turn.”

“So, doing that has encouraged a one-way flow of traffic, which has encouraged parents to utilize the bus drop-off zone after the buses leave,” he added.

“Any time you add Kathy Carlozzi to the mix, the situation always gets better,” said Robbie Vorhaus, a parent in the district.

“There are lots of things to do, but I certainly feel grateful to the school and to the police for taking a step in the right direction,” he added.

Sag Harbor School Board Will Move Forward With Smallest Parking Lot Option for Pierson

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At its April 23 meeting, the Sag Harbor Board of Education voted to pursue option 3, the smallest of the parking lot reconfiguration choices, and to fill in the tree wells on the Division Street lot with 10 parking spaces. Plan courtesy Sag Harbor School District.

At its April 23 meeting, the Sag Harbor Board of Education voted to pursue option 3, the smallest of the parking lot reconfiguration choices, and to fill in the tree wells on the Division Street lot with 10 parking spaces. Plan courtesy Sag Harbor School District.

By Tessa Raebeck

After a contentious April 23 meeting, the Sag Harbor Board of Education voted to move forward with the smallest of the parking lot reconfiguration options for Pierson Middle-High School. Their choice, option 3, will add 11 spaces, one in the Jermain Avenue lot and 10 by filling in the Division Street lot tree wells.

Since a bond proposition for capital projects that enabled the district to redesign the lots was passed in November, the board has spent several months listening to concerns and demands of Sag Harbor residents, district architects and even the village police department.

Many residents who voiced concern, predominantly members of the group Save Sag Harbor and neighbors of Pierson Middle-High School, worried the parking plans would discourage walking and alternative modes of transportation, encroach on the green space of Pierson Hill and fail to meet the primary goal of ensuring students’ safety.

The original parking lot proposal approved in November called for an increase of seven parking spaces at the Jermain Avenue lot, which would have resulted in 46 spaces total.

When residents came forward to protest the parking plans just prior to the vote, the district assured them the plans were “conceptual schematics” that could be altered after the bond was passed.

Larry Salvesen, the district architect in charge of crafting the capital project plans, devised three alternative options and presented them to the board and public March 25.

Option 1, closest to the original plan, proposed a total of 44 lined parking spaces at the Jermain lot, an increase of five spaces. Option 2 was slightly smaller with 38 total spaces.

At an April meeting, the Educational Facilities Planning Committee voted to recommend option 3, the smallest option, to the board.

Eight of the 11 committee members in attendance were in favor of option 3, which provides the district with a net gain of just one parking spot.

The plan has 30 total spaces in the Jermain lot, three spaces that could be constructed in the future and five spaces for on-street parking if permitted by the village. Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano made it clear at last week’s meeting that he would not support using the five on-street spaces, which are on village property.

“I’m totally against that,” Chief Fabiano told the board. “If you’re looking for additional parking on the street, that will not happen.”

Mr. Salvesen said the asphalt presence would increase by about 5 to 8-percent under option 3 and that two trees would need to be relocated. The plan addresses safety concerns by eliminating the backup of cars onto Jermain Avenue and providing safer access for emergency vehicles. Like the other options, it would add a sidewalk on Jermain Avenue along the length of the hill with crosswalks at the entry points.

Community members Carol Williams, Rob Calvert, Gigi Morris and Caroline Fell, all vocal throughout the parking lot process, voiced their support of option 3 at the board meeting.

“It’s safe and it preserves the hill and the history and the ecology,” Ms. Morris said.

“I’m not going to argue about the parking lot ’cause everybody wants number three,” Chief Fabiano said. “I’m just kind of disappointed in the whole process.”

“It was my impression when I voted on this that we would get some increase in parking spaces,” he added, saying the community is “spending a lot of money” for a parking lot redesign that won’t actually solve the need for more spaces.

Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols said there is a need for more staff parking, but the district needs to be “very, very sensitive…to the front hill.” Option 3, he said, appears to be the best choice in finding that balance.

For the vote, the board divided option 3 into two choices: one that would gain an additional 10 spots by filling in the tree wells at the Division Street lot and one that wouldn’t.

“My concern,” Ms. Morris said, “is, assuming you go with lot 3, there’s been talk of kind of in exchange, we’ll take out all the tree wells. I would just urge you to be cautious about that, I think it will be dramatic.”

The tree wells have no living trees; the ones that were originally planted there died after their roots hit the nearby asphalt.

“I am strongly for option 1 and strongly against option 3,” said board member Susan Kinsella. “I was on the board in 2006 when Chief Fabiano told us we needed to address the parking in the district.”

“I think there’s a small segment of the community that doesn’t want it, but I think there’s a large segment of the community that does. I would never have voted on spending money on parking to not get more parking,” she added.

Longtime board member Sandi Kruel agreed with Ms. Kinsella and both voted for option 1.

“I’m not in favor of making the smaller lot and then just paving over somewhere else,” said board member Mary Anne Miller, voting to pursue option 3 without filling in the tree wells.

Board members Theresa Samot, Chris Tice, David Diskin and Daniel Hartnett voted to go with option 3 and fill in the tree wells to add a total of 11 spots.

In other school news, the board approved a new policy to videotape its meetings and will implement a six-month trial run July 1 through December 31.

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.”