Tag Archive | "Robert Evjen"

School Reconsiders Liability Insurance

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By Claire Walla


If your child injures his elbow after school on one of the campuses of the Sag Harbor School District and has to be hospitalized, you will have to pay the hospital bills on your own. That’s what the situation is now, anyway.

But, the topic of liability insurance is being revisited by the Sag Harbor School Board after parent Evelynne Ramunno criticized the board for doing away with its liability insurance plan at the tail end of the last academic year. At a school board meeting on Monday, Ramunno said her son had been injured during the after-school SHAEP program so badly he needed to go to the hospital to get pins put in his elbow. Only when she contacted the school to get coverage for the incident did she find out that the plan had been cancelled.

“I’m a mother of two and I need the SHAEP program,” she said. “But, if I was aware the school did not have insurance, I might not have sent my son to the SHAEP program.”

The board of education voted last year to cancel its liability insurance plan with Pupil Benefits because, as School Superintendent Dr. John Gratto noted, “it was an expense the board deemed unwarranted.”

The reasoning behind the decision, according to School Board President Mary Anne Miller, is that the insurance plan was flawed.

“We had dissatisfaction from parents who used it because it wasn’t paying back what was hoped for,” she said. “Also, we felt that families who were not insured would be better served going through [state] programs like Child Health Plus.”

The program cost the district about $22,000, and as board members explained, it often did not cover much. District Treasurer Janet Verneuille said she priced out similar programs at other schools, and found they ranged from $6,700 (for the Tuckahoe School District) to $37,00 (for Hampton Bays).

Last year, board members agreed the school was spending money for a program that was hardly effective. However, the board has agreed to look at other options for taking on an entirely new liability insurance program. Verneuille said she would have some options by the end of the month.

“I think it’s a no-brainer,” said board member Sandi Kruel. “To not have it is irresponsible.”


In other news…


After fighting to give the Sag Harbor School District the chance to look at alternatives to its costly insurance program with the New York State Health Insurance Program, Tom Morrissey of Morrissey Advisory Services was noticeably disheartened by the final results.

In order to explore alternative health options that would match the benefits offered through the Empire Plan, but at a lower cost to the school, Morrissey first needed teachers to answer “a simple form online” with basic questions about their health. In the end, he said only 37 of 209 eligible teachers completed the form.

“I don’t think we got the responsiveness we needed,” Morrissey told the school board. “I thought 17 percent was pretty pathetic.”

By switching to a new plan, Morrissey said the school could save at least $300,000. And while exploring alternative health insurance options is now a moot point, he said he would continue to work with the school to try to replace Empire entirely.

“Our efforts don’t stop here,” he said. “We volunteer to do this because we have students in the school and we want to help. You have skyrocketing health care costs,” he added. “We’ve been dealing with double digit rate increases for some time now. I know for certain that the 209 people eligible here could have significantly lower premium numbers [with another plan].”


On Monday, the Sag Harbor School Board also heard from members of the school’s new Booster Club, who detailed the list of events coming up for the not-for-profit fundraising organization.

According to the group’s president, Robert Evjen, the club will hold its Winter Spirit Night on January 27 during the boys’ basketball game in the Pierson Gym. The festivities would include performances by the Pierson choir and elementary school singers, a demonstration from the robotics team, a half-court shooting contest and banners made by Pierson art students.

Also, on February 11 (the night of HarborFrost), the Booster Club will hold a fundraising event at B. Smith’s. The $25 event ($30 at the door) will include a quiz bowl, dinner and raffle.

HarborFrost Announced for 2012

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By Claire Walla


Riding the coattails of last year’s well-attended event, this year’s HarborFrost celebration was officially launched this week. And according to Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce member Robert Evjen, it will up the ante over last year’s inaugural fest.

In addition to fireworks over Long Wharf and ice sculptures on Main Street — both events are returning in keeping with the event’s “Fire and Ice” theme — Evjen said this year the event will also incorporate a three-and-a-half-hour set of live music, which he referred to as “Musical Brunch.”

“The bottom line is we wanted to extend the day over last year’s half-day event,” Evjen explained. The music will begin around 11:30 a.m. and last until 3 p.m. when the rest of the day’s activities will begin, starting with the first ice sculpture carved on Long Wharf. “We wanted to make it a full day this year and entice people to come down to the village early for brunch.”

And, of course, live music.

The musical portion of the day is being organized by Kelly Connaughton, head of the Sag Harbor American Music Festival (which, like HarborFrost, also made its debut in 2011). Though the details are still being hashed out, Connaughton said the morning will include performances by at least five artists (most likely local), who will play music in the various shops and businesses on Main Street.

The businesses will pay to host the artists and, Connaughton added, that fee will be partially supplemented by the Chamber of Commerce, which Connaughton said she hopes will give the businesses further incentive to pay for a show. In addition to providing live entertainment and bringing shoppers to Main Street, Connaughton added, “It will be great for us to get musicians earning some money in the lean winter months.”

So far, she said she’s received verbal commitments to host music from Page at 63 Main, Phao, Lifes’tyle and BookHampton.

As for the main attractions, Evjen said the fire dancers will be back this year, whipping strings of fire for a crowd at the foot of Long Wharf. Evjen said the Grucci family is already committed to doing the evening’s fireworks show and Fear No Ice will be here again this year (chain saws and all) to create two new ice sculptures on Main Street. The sculpting — to take place at 3 p.m. on Long Wharf and 4 p.m. behind the Civil War monument on the southern end of Main Street at the Madison Street split — will bookend HarborFrost’s fundraising Frosty Plunge, at 3:30 p.m.

In addition to making a mass of bodies shiver and teeth chatter, the event will raise money to benefit the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps. Last year’s event attracted a crowd of more than 50 participants and more than 100 spectators, according to Evjen. While TV personality Matt Lauer (a Noyac resident) and Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato (a Sag Harbor native) wowed crowds by bracing the cold at last year’s plunge, to shake things up this year, rumor has it the Sag Harbor Village Trustees will challenge Southampton Town officials in a race to raise funds for the plunge. (That’s just what we heard.)

As of yet, the 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. slot has not officially been filled with an event, but Evjen said this will most likely include some sort of race along Main Street. Whether this includes dog sleds or bed sleds — both ideas have been floated (the Chamber is currently looking for volunteers willing to conceptualize and organize the event)—the hypothetical race will in some way spotlight the HarborFrost King and Queen.

New to HarborFrost this year, the Sag Harbor Express will be organizing a contest for which those so inclined are encouraged to submit the names of individuals they believe should be crowned HarborFrost royalty. Details will be provided at a later date. (Check back in on our Facebook page for more.) Also, yoga instructor Hailey Schmitz will be hosting a candlelit yoga session at the Sag Harbor Gym Corp. and Dodds and Eder will organize an evening art show.

This year’s event will take place on Saturday, February 11, with a rain date slated for Sunday the 12. Don’t worry, the weekend is sandwiched right between the Super Bowl and President’s Day weekend.

“Last year we planned HarborFrost during Super Bowl weekend, and we didn’t contemplate a snow date or a rain date,” Evjen explained.

When inclement weather threatened to rain on last year’s parade, Chamber members were caught in a pickle. (Fortunately, the rain that came down didn’t deter festival goers from enjoying the day.) This year, Evjen said they’re prepared.

“Our main concern is the fireworks,” he said. Evjen estimated the cost of the fireworks display would be about 60 percent of the event’s overall budget, which is currently estimated at around $10,000. (Last year’s HarborFrost cost about $7,000 to put on.) He added that this year’s fireworks display is expected to be even longer than last year’s.

“Although last year there was inclement weather,” Evjen continued, “The general atmosphere was great. The idea is to build upon that this year.”

A Boost for Whalers

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By Andrew Rudansky

There was an energy in the crowd at the Class C Field Hockey game last month. The fans were attired in crimson and black, some of them shirtless, most covered in face paint, holding pompoms and cheering on the Lady Whalers. In total over 100 students, nearly half of the high school, were in attendance to root for their team.

It was nothing short of school spirit made tangible, and it was exactly what the Sag Harbor Booster Foundation at Pierson wants to foster as they enter into their winter fundraising season.

Robert Evjen, president of the booster club, said, “For me there is such a natural sense of school spirit at Pierson, and we want to do everything we can to help nurture that.”

Unlike a traditional booster club that only focuses on athletics, the Sag Harbor Booster Foundation focuses on all 38 extra-curricular program the school offers.

“We want to make people see how talented this little school really is,” said Laura Matthers, secretary for the booster club. “A lot of the groups here at Pierson do a lot of amazing things, and we wanted to start highlighting some of those groups that aren’t normally highlighted.”

Already the booster club, founded in January of this year, has teamed up with MSG Varsity to film and post Pierson athletic events online. In addition the boosters have set up a scholarship for Pierson students with grant money from MSG Varsity.

“It’s great, we haven’t even embarked on our membership drive yet but we already have a lot of members,” said Evjen, “And the school administration has been very supportive of us”.

The winter basketball season is fast approaching at Pierson High School, and the Booster Club plans to be a presence at home games, selling refreshments and organizing half time spirit rallies. The boosters hope to be able to provide Pierson with new lighting systems, a new scoreboard, funds for school trips, and various scholarships.

In February the boosters plan to hold a first annual fundraiser at B. Smith’s restaurant in conjunction with the 2012 HarborFrost events.

“Hopefully the Booster Club will be there financially to fill in for any programs that any future budget cuts might cut into,” said Matthers. “We just have to make sure we don’t lose any of these programs.”

For more information about the booster club or to become a member please visit www.sagharborboosterfoundation.org or email them at Info@SagHarborBoosterFoundation.org.

Merchants Air Concerns

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Candidate Steve Bellone pays village a visit.

Several familiar refrains were heard last Friday when Democratic candidate for Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone, took a tour of Sag Harbor’s Main Street. Bellone was accompanied by Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce President Robert Evjen and Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, and was later joined by County Legislator Jay Schneiderman making it a visit to several local businesses to learn about merchant’s concerns.

Chief among them seemed to be getting consumers to the village, and then providing parking for them when they arrive.

“Even in winter parking is an issue,” said Jessica Kenny, owner of Satori. “Customers can’t always find a place close to the business. People aren’t going to walk in the cold to shop.”

Acknowledging the parking problem, Schneiderman suggested the village consider developing a two-tier parking garage on the property that once housed the big blue gas ball.

Bellone added the county has resources that can be made available to small business districts, including grants for downtown development. He conceded that those resources are largely targeted at less robust business districts, but said the village would nevertheless be able to benefit from the program.

During a visit to the Variety Store, where Bellone was greeted by owner Lisa Bucking, Schneiderman announced he had hoped to start a Friends of the Long Wharf committee, which would be responsible for raising funds to maintain the wharf, which most acknowledged was key to local parking. The county, which owns the wharf, is currently debating whether to keep it or sell it to the village.

Schneiderman said a committee is already being established with representatives from the village and county administrations to negotiate a potential sale.

At the Wharf Shop, owner Nada Barry agreed with others that business is impacted by the Internet.

Thirty years ago, said Barry, the local merchants held promotions like treasure chests and drawings to attract business; but she acknowledged these kinds of events might not be successful in today’s market.

Barry also bemoaned the impending hurricane, and complained “this storm is going to cost us a fortune.”

Her grandson, she said, has a maritime-based business and speculated Hurricane Irene would cost him four days of business.

“We all will be affected by this,” she said.

Bellone said he would like to find ways to increase foot traffic in the village, and Schneiderman raised the proposed passenger ferry which would link Sag Harbor to Greenport and other East End villages.

“I’m all for it,” said Barry. “We’re a motorboating community.”


- Boyhan