Tag Archive | "sag harbor board of education"

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.

Katy Graves Named Sag Harbor School District Superintendent

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SH_SUPERINTENDENT_KATY_BARBER

The new Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves will begin her term July 1.

By Tessa Raebeck & Kathryn G. Menu

Katy Graves was named the new superintendent of the Sag Harbor School District by a unanimous vote of the school board Wednesday night.

Ms. Graves, who will begin work on July 1, received a three-year contract and will be paid an annual salary of $215,000.  Ms. Graves is currently the superintendent of the Stamford Central School District near Albany.

“We were able to come up with an overwhelming decision that the candidate we’re presenting tonight is the perfect superintendent for the Sag Harbor School District,” said board president Theresa Samot while introducing Ms. Graves at Wednesday night’s meeting.

According to Ms. Samot, School Leadership—the firm hired to conduct the search for the new superintendent—brought together 150 people in focus groups, and collected 50 completed online surveys to help it define criteria in its nationwide search.

A total of 55 applications from across the country were filed with School Leadership during the search. Those candidates were screened and the field was narrowed to six finalists. Following interviews with all six candidates, Ms. Samot said the selection of Ms. Graves was unanimous by the board.

“Selecting a superintendent is one of the most important responsibilities of any board of education,” said Ms. Samot in a press release issued after Ms. Graves’s appointment. “After an extensive and thorough search, Ms. Graves was selected from among a pool of more than 55 highly competent candidates. We are extremely confident that she possesses the professional vision, administrative experience, character and interpersonal communication skills to successfully lead our school district to the next level of success.”

“During our interview process, it quickly became apparent that Katy was the clear choice as our next superintendent,” continued Ms. Samot. “Her professionalism, experience, engaging personality and enthusiasm to work with our administrators, staff, parents and community residents to ensure that all of our students reach their highest potential were important qualifications identified by our stakeholders.”

“I would like to thank the board of education for their vote of confidence,” said Ms. Graves. “I look forward to working with the administrators, staff, students and their families and community residents. Together, I am confident we can achieve an even greater level of excellence for all students. I’m also anxious to meet with students and hear about their goals for the future.”

“Thank you to Dr. [Carl] Bonuso for creating a learning environment where everyone works together for the common good of all students,” she added.

Prior to serving in her current position in Stamford, Ms. Graves was the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at the Windham-Ashland-Jewett Central School District. She possesses a certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in school leadership from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, a master of science degree in health education from Sage Graduate School, and a bachelor of science in home economics/clinical dietetics from the State University of New York at Oneonta.

Ms. Graves will replace interim superintendent Dr. Bonuso, who has served the district for the past two years, beginning in the summer of 2012. Dr. Bonuso replaced Superintendent Dr. John Gratto, who resigned in July 2012.

According to Ms. Samot, Ms. Graves has already rented a home in Sag Harbor to become better acquainted with the community.

Four Candidates Announced in Race for Sag Harbor School Board

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By Tessa Raebeck

With three incumbents’ terms ending this summer, four candidates—two of them newcomers—have come forward to enter the race for the Sag Harbor School District Board of Education (BOE).

The three-year terms of BOE President Theresa Samot and longtime members Sandi Kruel and Mary Anne Miller are ending June 30. While Ms. Miller will not be seeking reelection, Ms. Samot and Ms. Kruel have again entered the contest.

Thomas Ré, who had an unsuccessful bid for the school board last year, and newcomer Diana Kolhoff are also in the running.

The three open spots are for three-year terms beginning July 1 and expiring June 30, 2017.

Diana Kolhoff.

Diana Kolhoff

Ms. Kolhoff, who moved to the district from Southampton about five years ago, has two daughters at Sag Harbor Elementary School, in the first and second grades. She has a background in education, having worked as a high school math teacher for 12 years and currently as a Mathematics Education Consultant, training grade school teachers in best instructional practices.

“Although I serve districts throughout Suffolk County, I am most rewarded when I serve my local school district,” Ms. Kolhoff said in an email Wednesday. “I am running for school board so that I can make a positive impact on the school charged with educating the children of this community I have grown to love.”

Ms. Kolhoff has coached the Pierson Girls Volleyball middle and high school teams and is on the district’s Nutrition/Wellness/Health and Safety Committee.

Seeking her fourth term on the board, Ms. Kruel has had three children in the district. The second will graduate Pierson High School this year and her youngest is in the sixth grade.

Sag Sandi Kruel

Sandi Kruel

“I definitely have thought about possibly not running, but I feel that we’ve made such amazing strides in the last couple years that it was really important to keep consistency,” Ms. Kruel said Wednsday. “Our tax increase has been under the [state-mandated 2-percent] cap, we’ve passed bonds, we’re the only district not to lay off employees, we’ve actually been able to increase programs—which is unheard of.”

“So at this point for me, it was like, we’ve got a superintendent to put in place and you know what, let’s finish what we started,” she said, adding if elected, she would “keep it going and going in the right direction.”

Thomas Ré, an attorney with a daughter in the 10th grade at Pierson, is seeking a school board position for the second spring in a row.

“I have a general sense of service for the community and with the school…and I want to help,” Mr. Ré said Wednesday.

Thomas Re

Thomas Re

Mr. Ré said there are three main categories of issues for the board: people, plant and program.

“We have to always remember that the whole purpose of everything is to give to the children the best possibilities and to create the best possible educational situation for them, so that they can grow and can have productive lives and can be important members of their community wherever they are,” he said.

Current BOE President Theresa Samot is seeking her fourth term on the board. She has served as president for three of her nine years on the board, and also as vice president. Ms. Samot has had two daughters graduate Pierson and her youngest is currently in eleventh grade at the school.

Theresa Samot

Theresa Samot

“I think it’s important that I continue to collaborate with the district and community on the goals that we’re currently working on,” Ms. Samot said Wednesday.

Ms. Samot pointed to the recent implementation of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in the high school and the passage of the bond as recent achievements of the board.

The three key components, she said, are continuing to work on student achievement in a cost-effective manner, develop budgets that are under the tax cap but maintain programs and staff, and focus on building and improving our facilities.

“And certainly the umbrella that comes over all that is sound fiscal cooperation,” she said, adding that community involvement “in everything that we do” is another key element.

The budget vote and school board elections are Tuesday, May 20 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the gymnasium at Pierson Middle/High School, 200 Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor.

Sag Harbor School Board Delays Videotaping Policy Approval

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Members and mentors of the champion Pierson Robotics team attended the Sag Harbor Board of Education's meeting Monday to ask for funding for their trip to the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship in St. Louis later this month. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Members and mentors of the champion Pierson Robotics team attended the Sag Harbor Board of Education’s meeting Monday to ask for funding for their trip to the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship in St. Louis later this month. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

While committed to rolling out a six-month trial starting July 1, the Sag Harbor Board of Education postponed the second reading of a policy aimed at allowing the board to videotape its meetings and share those sessions online. The board paused in approving the policy so it can be reworded to more accurately reflect the district’s intentions, said board members on Monday.

“One of the concerns is some of the language in the policy is really not specific to how we’re going to do this,” said board member David Diskin, a proponent of videotaping meetings, who has said the technology could improve public access to the board as well as board transparency.

Board members said they would review the policy with Thomas Volz, the district’s attorney. The targeted date for running a six-month trial, July 1 through January 1, remains on schedule.

Seth Redlus, executive director for LTV, East Hampton’s public access television station, attended Tuesday’s meeting to answer the board’s questions about video implementation.

Both LTV and SEA-TV, the public access station for Southampton, will broadcast the meetings for district residents in each town. Mr. Redlus said if a meeting was taped Monday evening, it “would be a safe bet” that video would be available to the public by Tuesday at noon on the station’s website.

“I would reach out to SEA-TV and talk to them about finding concurrent air times, so that way you don’t have to tell your East Hampton residents it’s on at that time or tell your Southampton residents it’s on at that time,” he said.

Mr. Redlus also assured the board if a meeting runs longer than the two-hour time period allotted for its broadcast—which they often do—the programs scheduled after are “not critical, so that way they can be yanked on the fly.”

LTV’s policy is generally to leave videos on demand on the website for up to three months, but still hold on to the material in case there are requests for it.

Scott Fisher, technology director for the district, said Tuesday the original estimate for the project was roughly $2,000 but “we were able to pull together some of the equipment from within.” The district still needs to purchase microphones, a camera light and a few other small items, but estimates that cost will be “well under” $1,000, said Mr. Fisher.

In other school news, the board approved $17,000 in funding for the Pierson Robotics Team to attend the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship in St. Louis, Missouri, April 23 to 26.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more inspirational performance than I saw that night,” said Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent, of the robotics team’s showing at the regional championship two weeks ago. “Or a better example of championship, scholarship and sportsmanship than I saw the night that this Team 28 fittingly won its Engineer Inspiration Award. Inspiration is literally the word.”

The board will cover the cost of the students’ hotel rooms and pay both the airfare and hotel rooms for four chaperones, as well as buses to and from the airport.

The board’s next meeting is Wednesday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m. in the Pierson Library.

Sag Harbor School District’s Proposed Budget Won’t Pierce Tax Cap

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By Tessa Raebeck

Unlike budgets proposed in East Hampton and Bridgehampton, the Sag Harbor School District’s proposed 2014-15 budget does not pierce the state-mandated tax cap.

In a second presentation of the full budget on Monday, administrators proposed spending of $36.87 million, an increase of $1.36 million or 3.83 percent over the 2013-14 budget.

The tax cap, established by the state in 2011, prohibits school districts from raising property taxes by more than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. This year, that cap has been set at the rate of inflation, 1.51 percent. The district budget calls for a tax levy increase of 1.48 percent, which is just below the cap.

The budget nearly doubles, to $75,500, the amount set aside for “public information” and postage. Only $38,505 was set aside for that purpose in the current fiscal year.

That increase is in part due to $30,000 being earmarked for improving online communications, whether by expanding the role of the public relations firm Syntax Communications or hiring an in-house webmaster responsible for managing the website, social media and other online tools.

A survey of over 600 students, parents and staff conducted by the district’s Communications Committee found that all parties preferred getting communications online, but the website and other portals were lacking information, disorganized and not regularly updated.

Technology spending increases by 20 percent under the proposed budget. The $95,009 would fund an ongoing initiative to replace computers and Smart Boards, upgrading the wireless network and for the purchase of iPads, Google Chromebooks and MacBooks for classroom use.

An increase of $4,000 is budgeted for the Big Brothers, Big Sisters mentoring program, recently reinstated by the national organization.

Addressing the need for increased math instruction required under the state’s Common Core Learning Standards—as well as the difficulty many students and parents have had with the new math standards—the district is considering adding a math lab. The budget draft includes $40,000 to hire a teacher who would work 60 percent of full time, to supplement a full-time staff member in the lab. “So that way the lab has a teacher all the time,” School Business Administrator John O’Keefe said Tuesday.

The board will vote on the budget at its April 23 meeting. The community budget vote and school board elections are Tuesday, May 20, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Pierson gymnasium. Applications to run for school board can be found in the district clerk’s office and must be submitted by Monday, April 21, at 5 p.m.

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 School Board to Videotape its Meetings

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By Tessa Raebeck

After months of debate, the Sag Harbor Board of Education on Tuesday approved the first reading of a policy to implement a six-month trial of videotaping its board meetings.

The policy, which requires a second reading before it is officially adopted, calls for the trial period to run from July 1 through December 31.

After forming a subcommittee to explore the matter that recommended the trial, the board met with Thomas Volz, the school attorney, and Kathy Beatty, the school’s public relations representative, in order to examine the options—and possible liabilities—of adopting the new procedure.

Mr. Volz wrote the policy, which could be amended when it is put before the board for a second reading on April 7.

Citing the lengthy process, BOE President Theresa Samot stressed the importance of making a “data-driven decision.”

Sandi Kruel, a longtime member of the school board, said the issue has “really grown to something that really made me sad,” due to her perception that there had been a public backlash directed at the board for not reaching a decision sooner. Ms. Kruel noted both Ms. Beatty and Mr. Volz had recommended against the district taping its meeting as of the more than 70 school districts each represents, only two tape their meetings.

“As a board member,” Ms. Kruel said, “as someone who was elected to this position, for me to be able to vote with 100-percent conviction tonight, I needed to do my due diligence and through that, I was very saddened by the way it transpired in our community. Moving forward, I will always do our due diligence.”

Board vice president Chris Tice, who was on the committee that recommended the trial, said although she does still support the measure, she was glad the board had thoroughly weighed the issue.

“Some districts actually saw reduction in attendance at meetings” after implementing such policy, she said. “The last thing we would want to do is reduce the number of people here.”

“I respect your desire to get information,” David Diskin, the BOE member who first called for videotaping, said to Ms. Kruel, adding he was “still okay with it.”

Board member Susan Kinsella said while she was hesitant about taping meetings, she would stand with the board in supporting the measure. “I just hope we’re all still willing to speak our minds,” she said.

Calling himself a “fairly aggressive proponent for it,” board member Daniel Hartnett said, “I think we’ve thoroughly vetted it.”

Scott Fisher, the district’s director of technology, assured those in attendance Tuesday that community members who address the board from the podium during public input will not be on camera, nor will students who attend meetings. The camera will only be focused on the board and perhaps also the projector, which often displays presentations.

John Battle, a member of the community who has called on the district to increase transparency by taping its meetings at nearly every board meeting, thanked the board for passing the first reading, as well as for taking the time to examine the undertaking in-depth.

“It’s a lot easier to be an advocate than a responsible board member,” he said.

Sag Harbor School District Offers Early Retirement Incentives

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By Tessa Raebeck

Prior to Tuesday’s board meeting, Sag Harbor School District Business Administrator John O’Keefe presented a review of the entire draft of the 2014-2015 budget to the board.

At its meeting March 10, the board approved an agreement made with the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor to enact an undisclosed early retirement incentive for teachers who retire from the district and are also eligible to retire from the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System on June 30, 2014.

The New York State guidelines require teachers to have worked for at least 30 years and be 55 or older or to have worked for at least 20 years and be 62 or older in order to not have benefits reduced upon retirement.

Mr. O’Keefe said with the early retirement incentive, there are a few projected retirements that reduce the budget lines from drafts presented at earlier meetings.

“These are people that we’ve identified already that have suggested they’d be leaving at the end of the year,” Mr. O’Keefe said.

Those projected retirements would provide for a reduction of $281,313 in teacher salaries and, when combined with others, an additional reduction of $60,708 paid to the state for employees and teacher retirement. Teachers receive retirement benefits from the state, not the district, and the district pays into that system based on its current salaries, not its retired teachers.

“So, if salaries go down, my retirement expenses go down because they’re a direct correlation to the total salaries,” Mr. O’Keefe said.

Reduced by $523,496 from earlier drafts, the proposed budget calls for $36.79 million in spending, a 3.62-percent increase over the 2013-2014 school year, which had a budget of $35.51 million.

“Because of the work over the last four or five years that the district has done with planning, we’re in a very favorable position,” Mr. O’Keefe said. “We may be the only district on the island that hasn’t had to reduce staff specifically for the purpose of balancing a budget.”

The second review of the budget will take place before the next board meeting, on April 7 at 6:30 p.m. in the Pierson Library. The regular meeting will follow at 7:30 p.m. The final budget hearing is May 6 and the annual budget vote is May 20.

School and Village at Odds Over Who is Responsible for Traffic Safety at Pierson

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Concerned community members watched Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols present possible solutions Tuesday evening.

Concerned community members watched Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols present possible solutions Tuesday evening. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

Some 20 concerned parents and traffic calming proponents joined village officials and Police Chief Tom Fabiano in a traffic safety workshop hosted by the Sag Harbor Board of Education Tuesday night.

The school board asked village officials and community members to join it in a discussion “to collaboratively address traffic safety and congestion in and around the school parking lots and campus,” according to a release sent by district clerk Mary Adamczyk.

But once the meeting began, school officials said the discussion would focus solely on how to best alleviate the safety concerns surrounding pick-up and drop-off at Pierson Middle/High School, which parents and board members alike said was dangerous.

Officials from the school and the village, as well as several community members who attended, proposed many ideas, both as quick fixes and long-term solutions, but not one measure was implemented or even agreed on by the end of the two-hour meeting.

Calling the situation “a bit of a mess,” Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols said the problem occurs between about 7:12 and 7:28 a.m. and again at the end of the day, from roughly 2:25 to 2:40 p.m.

Mr. Nichols proposed a few ways he thinks the village could aid the school district in addressing the problem. The first would be to make Division Street a one-way northbound street for 15 or 20 minutes in the morning and again for 15 or 20 minutes in the afternoon to reduce the flow of traffic. The second would be for the village to provide “some sort of crossing guard” to help direct traffic during those times.

“My understanding is that’s problematic for budget reasons,” Mr. Nichols said. “So, I don’t want to put anybody on the spot with regard to that. I do think that when you go to most schools, there is a crossing guard at the facility.”

There is a village-appointed crossing guard at the Sag Harbor Elementary School during pick-up and drop-off times.

“When we work with the village and we work with the community,” said Dr. Bonuso, interim superintendent, “there’s a synergy and there are more powerful possibilities. We very much want to hear from the village. Have you heard of some of these issues?”

“Since our last meeting we had a few weeks ago,” replied Chief Tom Fabiano, “I believe we discussed the possibility of making Division Street one-way. I thought I was pretty clear about the fact that I didn’t see that as an option.”

The village has an unofficial ban on creating any more one-way streets, Trustee Ed Deyermond said, adding that recent attempts, such as on Elizabeth Street and Clinton Street, are “not working.”

“What you’re asking for is for the village to cede liability to the school for that street,” he said. “That’s not going to happen.”

The crossing guard option seemed more feasible.

School board member Sandi Kruel said as a school district, the fact there is not a school crossing guard on the property when kids are in school “to me is unacceptable.”

“If we can figure out in our budget to rearrange, then I think that’s the least you guys could do to look at your budget,” she said to Chief Fabiano.

Chief Fabiano said he has been discussing the possibility with elementary school crossing guard Kathy Carlozzi of having her aiding Pierson occasionally. Ms.  Carlozzi also attended Tuesday’s meeting.

“You can’t just put one person out there,” Chief Fabiano said, “you can’t put Kathy out there. You need a couple people out there to monitor this.”

The chief said he has asked “time and time again” for the school district to have extra personnel to monitor drop-off and pick-up, “but does it happen? No.”

School security guard John Ali is currently the only person officially manning drop-off and pick-up, although Mr. Nichols said he steps in during  warmer weather and Chief Fabiano said he helps out when he can.

“Would a crossing guard help there? Possibly. I would have to discuss it with the board next September,” Chief Fabiano said.

Mr. Deyermond said crossing guards “in this particular fiscal budget year are problematic. I don’t see us adding any crossing guards.”

The village officials in attendance agreed that while there are things the village could do, the school should also enact measures to alleviate the congestion.

“I’ve been saying this for the past 14 years that I’ve been chief. Why can’t we have a drop-off for cars on one side and the buses on the other side?” Chief Fabiano asked, referring to the parking lots at Jermain Avenue and Division Street.

“We also brought up the idea of the buses and here’s where the parents have to step in,” he added. “We’re looking at buses and they’re 75 percent empty, according to your numbers. To me, that’s a big issue. We’re spending a lot of money on buses and no one’s riding them. everyone’s dropping kids off at school.”

“This is a generic problem in a lot of schools,” Trustee Robby Stein said of the congestion, adding, “You have to get more kids on the school buses.”

On Wednesday, school business administrator John O’Keefe said, “Bus utilization varies depending on the time of year, weather, etc., but typically runs 30 to 45 percent for the five primary routes.”

Mr. Deyermond said if the entrances at the Montauk Avenue parking lot behind the school and the Jermain Avenue parking lot on its northern side were open longer for students to use and the school publicized that those entrances should be used, some of the traffic could be redirected from Division Street. Several members of the audience nodded in agreement.

“I would like to see what the school is going to do and what Larry [Salvesen, district architect] can do with the possibility of shifting all this congestion from one spot,” Chief Fabiano said. “To say, hey we designed the school and we don’t have place for drop-off…I don’t think it’s too fair to the village to say, ‘You just make it a one-way.’ That’s not the answer.”

“It is our responsibility, yes, but it’s also the responsibility of the school to start doing something,” he said.

“With a little bit of luck, we can get that crossing guard out there relatively soon, I think,” said Dr. Bonuso. “And when I say soon, I don’t mean next week or necessarily next month.”

The school board agreed to discuss the issue further to see whether there were immediate steps that could be taken. It will discuss the plans for the new parking lots at Pierson at its next regular meeting on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Pierson library.

Sag Harbor Board of Education to Vote on Taping Meetings, Explores Green Policy

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By Tessa Raebeck

 Taping Board Meetings

Before the standard crowd of a few parents, one or two teachers and one community member, the Sag Harbor School Board of Education again discussed taping its meetings to expand access to the public.

Theresa Samot, BOE president, said since its last meeting, the BOE received input from school attorney Thomas Volz and Kathy Beatty, public relations consultant for the district, both of whom did not recommend moving forward.

Ms. Samot said the board would need to be “very conscious” of what’s said during public input because if someone references an individual by name or “says something horrendous about a staff member,” the district would be liable and subject to a libel suit.

Chris Tice, BOE vice president, said in order not to avoid a libel suit, if something offensive were to be said about an individual, the district would likely have to edit that out. “That’s a conflict because as soon as you edit something people are going to wonder why it was edited,” she said.

“From your perspective,” she asked Mr. Fisher, “is that something you and your team could do? Because I’m hoping it doesn’t happen, but we don’t have control over something that happens at the podium or in the audience.”

Mr. Fisher said they could edit it or approve a policy that states, “in the event that something like that happens, that meeting doesn’t [go] for public viewing.”

LTV in East Hampton has been “extremely helpful,” Mr. Fisher said, and has offered to stream the meetings. If the district purchased its own equipment and captured the video itself, they could bring it to LTV, which would then stream the video. Or, for a base cost of $120 each meeting plus $60 per hour, LTV would film the meetings using its own personnel and equipment.

Community member John Battle told the board in February that the Sag Harbor Education Best Practice Group would provide the equipment for a six-month trial period, which he urged the board to implement.

Speaking of libel suit concerns, BOE member David Diskin, who has been a staunch supporter of the initiative, said, “there are risks to this and I would caution anyone who is a supporter of this endeavor not to minimize these risks because I think they’re considerable. That being said, life is replete with risks.”

“I no longer unequivocally endorse the idea, I endorse it with a reasonable measure of concern for the risks,” he said, adding, “I believe the board should proceed with this recording and broadcasting because the benefits outweigh the risks, but it’s cautionary.”

Without BOE members Sandi Kruel and Daniel Hartnett in attendance and no concrete resolution yet drafted, the board decided to craft a resolution in favor of broadcasting meeting with help from its attorney to be voted on at its next meeting, March 25.

 

Green Schools

Also at Monday’s meeting, parents Jocelyn Worrall and Alison Scanlon voiced their support for more green initiatives in the schools, an issue Mr. Diskin brought up at the last meeting.

“We all know that the world is neither sustainable nor harmonious and the only answer to that is to teach innovation,” Ms. Scanlon said, adding she would like to see the district adopt a green goal for next year and allow parents and community members to convene a green committee to present recommendations to the board.

Facilities director Montgomery Granger said since August 2009, the district has been performing 100 percent organic turf maintenance on school grounds and has eliminated all caustic chemicals from the schools. The facilities department is required to use a company that sells green sealed products that are independently confirmed, he said.

“I assure you that we’re as green as we possibly can be with regard to chemicals,” said Mr. Granger.

Ms. Worrall asked the board “if they would consider when our contract is up with our current carter, if they could either negotiate with a carter who does recycle or separate, or ask for a recycling separating to be included in the carter services.”

Recycling, Mr. Granger said, is included in the cost of garbage maintenance. The carter sorts through all trash at the transfer station, separating recyclables.

In terms of electricity, Mr. Granger said the district did a retrofit, adding light sensors and LED bulbs “which have at least a 50,000 hour lifespan.”

Mr. Granger said while he considers making sure the schools are safe and healthy his primary job, his second most important responsibility is saving money and being efficient.

“Maybe it’s not about the money, whether it costs more or costs less,” said BOE member Mary Anne Miller, saying its about educating students on green initiatives and implementing a culture of conservation.

Mr. Diskin suggested the board have administrators look to see if there are immediate steps to be taken, and make green policy a district goal for the 2014-2015 school year. Interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso said an example of what can be done almost immediately would be to deal only with publishers that use recyclable text paper.

Mr. Diskin said he had collected “really great” resources on such green initiatives he would share with administrators, adding that getting recommendations from them “that would fit for our school” should be the next step. Ms. Samot and Ms. Tice agreed.

 

Other School News

Dr. Bonuso said the district is “not happy” with the congestion at the southern entrance to Pierson and is “working in partnership with the village to see whether or not we can talk to such issues as traffic congestion.” He is hopeful some concrete actions will be made in the next few months.

SCOPE recognized Matt Malone, Sag Harbor Elementary School principal, and athletics secretary Jeanne DiSanti as “Shining Stars,” or as Dr. Bonuso put it, “select individuals that have distinguished themselves in the field of education.”