Tag Archive | "sag harbor elementary school"

Sag Harbor’s Substance Abuse Prevention Program Will Extend to Include Elementary Schoolers

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Consultant Marian Cassata Updates the Board of Education last August. Photo by Ellen Frankman.

Consultant Marian Cassata updates the Sag Harbor Board of Education on the district’s substance abuse prevention program last August. Photo by Ellen Frankman.

By Tessa Raebeck

Initiatives to combat substance abuse among Sag Harbor teenagers will reach all the way down to kindergarteners next year, district officials confirmed Tuesday.

The evening’s board of education meeting included an update on the district’s drug and alcohol abuse prevention program by Marian Cassata, a prevention consultant and the former director of Pupil Personnel Services at Pierson Middle-High School.

Ms. Cassata, along with her husband Bob Schneider, the former principal of Pierson, is active in the Sag Harbor Coalition, a group of community members dedicated to reducing the use of alcohol and other drugs among local kids. She and Katherine Mitchell of East End Counseling LLC were hired as consultants to address drug and alcohol prevention in the district last spring.

The increased attention to drug and alcohol abuse prevention comes following data from several surveys of local youth that found the rates of alcohol and drug use among Sag Harbor students are higher than average rates in Suffolk County.

Sag Harbor’s drug and alcohol abuse prevention program has traditionally started in middle school, when children are believed to be at the beginning stages of coming into contact with substances. The focus on younger grades has been on other relevant health topics, such as eating well and resisting peer pressure. But an effort to address what some say is an alarming number of Pierson High School students abusing alcohol and other drugs have caused the district to change its program.

Next year, the drug prevention program in the district will involve children as young as 5.

“Next year is the full implementation of that bottom strand of the pyramid,” Ms. Cassata said Tuesday.

Following recommendations made by the consultant to the board in August, the district decided to switch from its existing drug and alcohol program to HealthSmart, “a comprehensive K-12 health education program,” according to the company website.

For students in kindergarten through the fourth grade, the HealthSmart program includes four units: Personal and Family Health, Safety and Injury Prevention, Nutrition and Physical Activity, and Tobacco and Alcohol Prevention, introducing substance abuse prevention to Sag Harbor kids at a much younger age than the current program.

A source familiar with the current program who wished to remain anonymous expressed concern that students will be introduced to adult topics like drugs at an earlier age and said the district needs to educate parents prior to its implementation on what their children will be exposed to under the new program.

Ms. Cassata and Ms. Mitchell, as well as members of the Sag Harbor Coalition, believe an all-inclusive program is the most effective means of delivering a consistent and effective health curriculum that will prevent kids from abusing substances.

Ms. Casata said Tuesday staff development for the HealthSmart curriculum at the elementary school level will begin in June and the program will be “up and ready to launch fully in September.”

Ms. Casata told the board in August that the materials are estimated to cost in excess of $13,000 at $400 a kit and that she had already worked to secure grant money to fund the program.

According to Business Administrator John O’Keefe, drug and alcohol prevention services for the current school year, 2013-14, were budgeted at $25,000. The district has budgeted $20,000 for next year, 2014-15, slightly less because more funds were required to get the program up and running this year, Mr. O’Keefe said. Those funds cover payments to Ms. Cassata and Ms. Mitchell, as well as payment for guest speakers and “things like that,” he said.

Bond Upgrade

Also at Tuesday’s board meeting, Mr. O’Keefe announced Moody’s Investors Service has upgraded the Sag Harbor School District from a credit rating of A1 to Aa3, the first upgrade in the district’s history.

“This significant upgrade is based upon the district’s strong, successful financial management practices over the past several years, which have resulted in both improved and satisfactory reserve levels,” the district said in a press release.

As a result of this upgrade, the district anticipates saving approximately $330,000 in interest for the work proposed in the recently approved $9 million capital projects bond, as well as approximately $15,000 in bond insurance premiums. The district also plans to save additional money during the annual tax anticipation note borrowing.

“Really, that’s work for children, because that kind of money can be freed up for programs and for important things,” school board member David Diskin said Tuesday.

Sag Harbor Elementary School Small Chorus Sings National Anthem for the Long Island Ducks

Tags: , , , , , ,


 

Conductor Gavin Lahann leads the Sag Harbor Elementary School small chorus in the national anthem before the Long Island Ducks baseball game Sunday, May 18. Photo courtesy Gavin Lahann.

Conductor Gavin Lahann leads the Sag Harbor Elementary School small chorus in the national anthem before the Long Island Ducks baseball game Sunday, May 18. Photo courtesy Gavin Lahann.

By Tessa Raebeck

Decked out in orange, green and gold, the Sag Harbor Elementary School Small Chorus sang the national anthem before the Long Island Ducks baseball game versus the Camden Riversharks Sunday, May 18.

Music teacher and chorus conductor Gavin Lahann led 27 students in delivering the anthem before a large crowd at the Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip.

“Thank you to the students that made the Duck Game National Anthem [sic] such a special occasion,” Mr. Lahann wrote on his page of the district website. “They sounded amazing in front of the thousands in attendance. They should feel extremely proud.”

The Small Chorus is a voluntary club that meets on Tuesdays after school. The Sag Harbor Booster Foundation sponsored the event for the second year in a row.

“The Booster Foundation wanted to work with the Elementary School music program and small chorus to promote an interest in participating in music at an early age,” said Robert Evjen, president of the foundation. “We wanted to make it fun.”

“This is such a wonderful experience for me and the kids because it is a collection of singers who wish to work hard and experience amazing music,” writes Mr. Lahann.

The Ducks ultimately lost the game 10-6, but not for lack of musical inspiration.

 

Here is a link to a video of the Small Chrous’ performance, courtesy of Jay Flanagan:

Sag Harbor School District Administrators Make Recommendations on Pre-K, IB Expansion

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


By Tessa Raebeck

In back-to-back workshops before parents, teachers and members of the Sag Harbor Board of Education (BOE) Monday night, administrators voiced their recommendations on how to progress with the potential expansion of the district’s Pre-Kindergarten and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs.

Pre-K

Sag Harbor Elementary School principal Matt Malone and vice principal Donna Denon updated the board on the pre-K program, currently in its third year, and discussed the possibility of extending the program to a full day of five and a half hours.

Through SCOPE, a not-for-profit organization chartered by the New York State Board of Regents to provide services to school districts on Long Island, Sag Harbor currently offers a fully funded two and a half hour pre-K program for any eligible four year old in the district. Ms. Denon noted it is an option for parents that is “very rare.” The district pays SCOPE tuition costs to run its pre-K program.

If that program extends to a longer day (considered to be anything over three hours), there are additional requirements the district would need to meet, including limiting class size to 14 students, providing a bathroom for each classroom, ensuring both a certified teacher and teaching assistant is in each classroom, scheduling a 40-minute recreation period, as well as designated lunch and snack times.

The extension would increase the tuition paid to SCOPE from $2,750 to $3,150 per child for the half day, or $10,150 for the full day, although the numbers are approximate because they dependent on enrollment, Mr. Malone said.

“Each year, we’ve been making sure we have monies to accommodate 60 students, so clearly that would be a significant increase in what we would have to budget for for an extended day program,” Mr. Malone said.

This school year, 2013-2014, the pre-K program has 32 students and a budget of $88,000. The district is using only one classroom, which has its own bathroom, for both the morning and the afternoon sessions. The reduced class size of a full-day program would mandate more classrooms, and thus more teachers and teaching assistants.

“It’s a great model, but it’s a big undertaking,” said Ms. Denon, voicing concern over how they would find empty classrooms that could be designated solely for pre-K. Parents dropping off and picking up students would also “be a bit problematic,” she said, as more pre-K parents would be coming and going at the same time as the parents of older students, rather than in the middle of the day.

With space and logistical concerns, as well as fiscal limitations due to the lack of state aid for pre-K and the state-imposed tax cap on the district budget, the administrators’ suggestion to the board was to keep the program the way it is for now.

“We have a very strong program right now,” said Mr. Malone. “The entire school district and community are behind it and let’s keep that solid.”

Mr. Malone and Ms. Denon had several conversations with George Duffy, the director of SCOPE, on the pros and cons of pursuing an extended day program. His advice, according to Mr. Malone, was, “You don’t want to hinder the greatness of what you have. In other words, you don’t want to sacrifice something good to say you have an extended day. Keep your eye on what’s important.”

 

IB

In its second year of offering an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program for 11th and 12th grade students, Pierson High School is considering extending the curriculum to students in grades six through 10.

The program offers students the option to be diploma candidates, who complete the full IB program for diploma credit, or certificate candidates, who do not receive a diploma but can take individual courses where they have an interest in that subject matter. It has grown steadily each year; in 2012-2013, there were 11 diploma candidates and 47 students enrolled in at least one course. This year, there are 21 diploma candidates and 83 students enrolled in at least one course. Selection is still ongoing for next year, but there are an estimated 31 diploma candidates.

“For the last five years,” said Gary Kalish, Pierson High School vice principal and the IB diploma coordinator, “we’ve been making the kinds of changes and trying to do the kind of development to help students achieve at a higher level.”

The Middle Years Program (MYP), he said, offers curriculum alignment across the grade levels and opens the program to all students, rather than the self-selecting, open enrollment of the upper level program.

After working with IB for the past couple years, “We’ve recognized the rigor and the level of difficulty,” Mr. Kalish said, adding that in the end, “it really is just good teaching and good learning.”

IB is designed to give students a global perspective, with more group discussion, problem solving and abstract thinking than traditional lecture-style classrooms. With an interdisciplinary focus, the MYP has eight subject groups: mathematics, language A (the “mother tongue,” or English for Sag Harbor students), language B, humanities, arts, sciences, physical education and technology. At the end of the five years, MYP students complete personal projects and compile portfolios of all their work. Administrators said the Common Core curriculum, with its similar focus on collaborative planning and interdisciplinary work, could be embedded within the IB framework.

The district can choose to extend the program to just the 9th and 10th grades or to grades six through 10. The administrators’ recommendation to the board, Mr. Nichols said, is to extend the IB program to grades six through 10, “because we see value in what the IB does for our students.”

Districts must apply to be authorized to offer IB, with the candidacy process expected to last about two years. After initial application and candidate fees of around $13,500, there would be an annual school fee of about $8,000. Staff development costing as much as $20,000 is also required, although Pierson has already sent its three administrators, Mr. Nichols, Mr. Kalish and Ms. Brittany Miaritis, along with some seven teachers, to training on MYP.

Pending board approval, the program could be offered for the 2015-2016 school year at the earliest. A resolution to extend the program will be voted on at the board’s March 25 meeting.

 

 

Annual Exhibitions Showcase the East End’s Young Artists and Their Teachers

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


The opening of last year's Student Art Show at the Parrish Art Museum.

The opening of last year’s Student Art Show at the Parrish Art Museum. (Photo provided by the Parrish Art Museum).

By Tessa Raebeck

A giant beehive you can crawl into, a field guide to Sag Harbor’s ponds and the surrealism of Salvador Dali captured on a plastic plate are just some of the projects to look forward to at this winter’s student art festivals.

If you attended public school on the East End, chances are you were featured in the student shows at East Hampton’s Guild Hall or the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill. A new batch of young artists are now getting their turn; the Student Art Festival at Guild Hall opened January 18 and the Parrish will exhibit local students starting February 1.

“The annual Student Exhibition is an important tradition for the Parrish,” said Cara Conklin-Wingfield, the museum’s education director. “It’s a way we honor the work of regional art educators and connect with children and families in the community.”

The tradition started over 60 years ago, although the exact date is unknown. Conklin-Wingfield knows it’s been a long time, as her 70-something year old aunt remembers being in the show as a kid.

In addition to fostering local talent, the student shows aim to support and showcase art educators and highlight the work they’re doing in classrooms across the East End.

At the Parrish, teachers for pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade students submit group projects, as a single work or individual works assembled into a mural.

The third and fourth grades from Sag Harbor Elementary School (SHES) will be featured at the Parrish.

Led by art teacher Meg Mandell, “Sag Harbor Ponds – A Child’s Field Guide” incorporates the work of the 3D, 3GK, 3K and 3SC third grade classes. The large mural includes an information key and “other fun facts about our local ponds,” Mandell said, assembled onto a 3D two by four foot replica of the guide, which is now available in the school library.

A 3rd grader hard at work on "Sag Harbor Ponds - A Child's Field Guide" in Meg Mandell's art classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School.

A 3rd grader hard at work on “Sag Harbor Ponds – A Child’s Field Guide” in Meg Mandell’s art classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School. (Meg Mandell photo).

“The SHES art department,” Mandell said, “understands the importance of using art as a learning tool for other subject areas…We often collaborate with teachers to help our students understand the curriculum better and make the learning fun.”

Mandell worked with science teacher Kryn Olson and librarian Claire Viola in developing the project and visited the local ponds to collect reference materials.

The fourth grade, led by art teacher Laurie DeVito, has created a large 3D sculpture for the Parrish, made of plates inspired by various art disciplines.

DeVito taught each class about a different style of art, used a game to decide the individual subject matter (animal, vegetable, mineral, etc.), and led the group in creating mixed media pieces on plastic plates, which resemble stained glass windows when held up to the light. The plates will be displayed on pretend cardboard brake fronts supplied by Twin Forks Moving.

After learning about Van Gogh, the 4LS class made impressionistic plates. 4C read a book about Salvador Dali and created plates with surrealistic subjects like flying pigs and other “really imaginative subject matter,” DeVito said. 4S did realism plates and after looking at work by Picasso, 4R made cubist designs.

“I think it makes it more special for them,” DeVito said of the Parrish show. “It makes it more grown up and I think it applies a good kind of pressure.”

Having done a micro biotic organism last year, this year the Hayground School evolved to insects and is assembling a giant beehive on site.

“It’s a beehive that you can go in,” Conklin-Wingfield said, adding Hayground’s projects are always “really ambitious.”

One of Laurie DeVito's 4th grade classes at Sag Harbor Elementary School with their Surrealist Plate Cupboard.

One of Laurie DeVito’s 4th grade classes at Sag Harbor Elementary School with their Surrealist Plate Cupboard.

In its 22nd year, the Student Art Festival at Guild Hall is separated into two parts, high school students and those in Kindergarten through the eighth grade. Sag Harbor is only participating in the high school show.

Highlights include farmland paintings from Wainscott students, Japanese Manga drawings from Shelter Island, Cityscape Line Designs from Bridgehampton and a Monet water lilies triptych made by the Liz Paris’ Kindergarten class at Amagansett.

“That’s really exciting to see,” said Michelle Klein, the Lewis B. Cullman Associate for Museum Education at Guild Hall. “And again, because it’s Kindergarteners, it’s really amazing.”

When you first enter the show, a large 68 by 72 inch nature print made by Montauk students using leaves, sticks, bark and other natural materials is on display.

“It’s our opportunity to really give back to the community and for us to be able to exhibit our local young talent, the possible artists of the future,” said Klein.

“It’s really great,” she added, “to provide an outlet and a space for this exhibition. It’s exactly what we’re here for and why we do it.”

The 2014 Student Exhibition at the Parrish Art Museum will be on display from February 1 to March 2. For more information, call 631-283-2118 ext. 130. The Student Art Festival at Guild Hall is being shown January 18 to February 23 for younger students and March 8 to April 20 for high school students. For more information, visit guildhall.org.

Sag Harbor Students Lend a Helping Hand – and Mitten

Tags: , , , , , ,


 

Students in Susan Raebeck's Kindergarten class stand in front of the Mitten Line.

Students in Susan Raebeck’s Kindergarten class stand in front of the Mitten Line.

By Tessa Raebeck

While her classmates were asking for iPads and Xboxes, there was only one thing on the young girl’s list: a Christmas tree. Her family had never had one.

After making her one-item list in kindergarten last year, the Sag Harbor Elementary School student received lights, a stand and her family’s first tree. This holiday season, they will have their second.

The gifts were made possible through The Mitten Line, a longstanding tradition of the Sag Harbor School District that enables students, families and community members to provide holiday gifts to those in the district who are less fortunate.

School counselor Michelle Grant renamed the custom after a short story she wrote explaining anonymous gift giving and encouraging students to go a step further by taking something off their own wish lists.

“Suddenly,” reads the poem, “I realized how I could show how much I care. I could take something off my wish list and buy a gift instead to share.”

Grant, who colleague Nina Landi calls “the Mother Teresa of Sag Harbor,” runs every aspect of the gift drive, from pinpointing families in need to delivering presents to their homes.

On the wall outside the elementary school gymnasium are hundreds of “mittens,” paper cutouts with descriptions of students and their desired gifts. One mitten asks for Legos for an 8-year-old girl. Another, “Boy, Age 6, Gloves” lies alongside “Girl, Age 16, Skinny jeans.”

Families and faculty members pick mittens from the line, buy the presents and return them to school unwrapped. Grant then delivers them along with wrapping paper, so parents can see the presents and wrap them on their own before giving them to their kids.

With 18 families receiving gifts, a total of 43 kids in grades kindergarten through 12 are represented on the Mitten Line.

Some families are already identified as needing extra financial support, while others come forward during the holidays. All transactions are completely anonymous; only Grant knows which families are involved.

Teachers help identify kids whose families may be in need, although many parents are hesitant to sign up.

School counselor Michelle Grant helps students transport donated gifts.

School counselor Michelle Grant helps students transport donated gifts.

“That’s the hardest part,” says Grant. “There are people who I know [who need help], or I’ll even offer, and they’re like, ‘No, we’re okay.’ And they are okay — for them they’re okay. But we really just want to do something that says, ‘if we can do this, you’ll just have a little extra come January, February, if you need something.’ Some families are hesitant to do that and I understand and we have to respect that; but that’s the hardest part.”

The community will give over 500 gifts this year through the Mitten Line.

Every child receives a stocking with toiletries, books, socks, pajamas, a hat, gloves, a scarf and basic school supplies.

They are also given two or three special gifts, which are determined by lists provided by the family and teachers’ ideas on what their students might like.

Every contribution comes from the teachers and families of Sag Harbor. Grant tries to limit costs to under $20, but she keeps a separate list of more expensive items (bicycles, Kindles, etc.) for when people donate large sums of cash or ask for the opportunity to purchase a larger gift.

Last year, one family was given a full night in New York City, including Jitney tickets, restaurant meals and hotel accommodations.

A fifth grade class has been collecting money all year in preparation for the Mitten Line. With money earned from doing chores and recycling bottles, the class was able to pick its own mitten to fulfill.

In the 16 years she’s been running it, Grant has seen the drive — and the financial disparity between Sag Harbor’s families — grow substantially.

Donating within their own school makes the needs of others — as well as the rewards of giving — more tangible, she said, because students “really know that everything stays for kids in our schools.”

“Our families are so generous,” said Grant. “All the families, not just the families that have a lot, even the families that are on the line — those kids want to help. Everybody wants to help and do something.”

With Sandy Hook in Mind, Sag Harbor Ups Safety Measures in Schools

Tags: , , , , ,


By Tessa Raebeck

In response to state-mandated changes in school security regulations and increased safety awareness nationwide, the Sag Harbor School District is continuing implementation of new safety standards and measures at the Sag Harbor Elementary School and Pierson Middle/High School.

The SAVE (Schools Against Violence in Education) Act, initiated in 2000 by Governor George Pataki, requires school districts to develop comprehensive school safety plans covering evacuation, dismissal, community response and alerting family, law enforcement and other schools in the area in the event of an emergency.

Following the fatal school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut last December, in January Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the NY SAFE Act (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act), furthering the guidelines of the existing SAVE Act.

In addition to increasing the penalty for possession of a firearm on school grounds or a school bus from a misdemeanor to a Class E Felony, the legislation formed the NYS School Safety Improvement Team, a group of state agency representatives from relevant fields, such as the state police, created to assist school districts in the development and implementation of school safety plans.

In accordance with these guidelines, Jonathan Hark, safety and administrative support manager at Eastern Suffolk BOCES, completed a facilities assessment report for Sag Harbor and presented it to the district in April 2013.

The report covers six areas: grounds and building exterior, building access, building interior, social and emotional tone, general security and development of a building level emergency response plan.

Hark gave the district 21 “bolded” recommendations, considered to be the most pressing. At the board of education (BOE) meeting Monday, interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso reported that 17 of the 21 recommendations have been addressed.

Three of the remaining four items have not yet been addressed due to budgetary concerns.

Additional cameras need to be installed in several places, primarily at Pierson Middle/High School, which school administrators anticipate will be budgeted for in the spring and completed this summer.

Another budgetary issue arose with the recommendation to improve communication with school buses through the purchase of walkie-talkies for drivers.

Hark’s report also advised for architectural work at the elementary school to make the top floor library lockable, which principal Matt Malone called “a major project.”

The fourth element not yet addressed is Incident Command System, or ICS-100, training. Jeff Nichols, principal of Pierson Middle/High School, said that training has been tentatively scheduled for January for all security personnel in the district.

Dr. Bonuso applauded the work of the administrators in being “very proactive” in bringing in Hark and quickly implementing his recommendations, noting that the remaining four are “pretty much on deck.”

“Once you’re getting close to an end of a list,” board member David Diskin reminded the room, “it’s time to start building a new one.”

Concerned Sag Harbor Parents Crowd Pierson Library for Math Curriculum Workshop

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols presents a workshop on the Math Curriculum in front of concerned parents at Monday evening.

Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols presents a workshop on the Math Curriculum in front of district administrators, the Board of Education and concerned parents Monday evening.

By Tessa Raebeck

Parents told stories of children bursting into tears, berating themselves for being “idiots” and spending hours agonizing over homework at the Sag Harbor School District’s math curriculum workshop Monday night, voicing concern over the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS).

“The first thing we say to her is get out your math homework,” said Christa Schleicher of her daughter, who is in seventh grade at Pierson Middle/High School.

Concerned parents, mostly of seventh graders, filled the Pierson Library to hear a presentation led by Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone and Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols, with assistance from their math teachers.

Developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Common Core is a set of educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade that states voluntarily adopt. CCLS has been adopted by 45 states. New York State (NYS) adopted CCLS in July 2010, but it is being phased in over several years.

Every seat in the library was filled as parents showed up to express their discontent with the Common Core program, which many believe was rolled out haphazardly without clear direction from the state and to the detriment of students.

“It’s not specific or indigenous to Sag Harbor,” said Nichols, who has three children in the Southampton Intermediate School. “Everybody is struggling with these same issues.”

“We really want to commend the effort of all the instructors in our district who are working through this new initiative,” said Malone. “There’s a lot of challenges and in a way we’ve all kind of been thrown into it.”

At the end of the 2012/2013 school year, NYS math assessments for students in third through eighth grade measured CCLS. Nichols said state assessments assume kids going into the seventh grade curriculum had Common Core instruction since kindergarten, when in reality, mathematics instruction was not fully aligned with CCLS until the 2012/2013 school year for students in grades three through eight and the 2013/2014 school year for high school students.

“That assumption is a big assumption to me,” Nichols said Monday evening, adding that the pacing of the modules is also inaccurate. “They say a lesson will take 40 minutes…reality is it’s not 40 minutes, it’s 60 or 70 minutes.”

“As a school,” he continued, “what we struggle with and what I’m struggling with is to what extent do we let mathematics dominate the landscape?”

Nichols said about an hour and a half of math homework each night is on pace with the modules, a time requirement many parents said is overwhelming for their kids.

“It’s a lot more rigorous,” said Diana Kolhoff, a Sag Harbor resident and math consultant. “So some of the historical traditions that these schools have had are running into trouble with the Common Core. Things that had worked in the past are no longer working.”

“This is probably the most exciting part but also the most challenging part,” said Malone. “This is the part where you wrestle with, ‘are we presenting things in the best way to kids?’ Because it’s really challenging and it’s causing kids to have to work a lot harder than they had to before.”

“I get it all and I get that they’re reprogramming,” said Schleicher. “My struggle and our struggle at home is the amount of it. My daughter, she’s beginning to despise math because it’s so much…she’s getting it, she’s getting better at it, but it’s just taking too long.”

“I’m dealing with the same thing with my children,” Nichols said, calling it a “juggling act” because by diminishing homework, the students fall behind the state’s expected pace in the classroom. He said they are trying to gauge how fast teachers can go without turning kids off math.

“If we have to tweak our workload and at the end of the day where our students are at, we’ll do so,” said Nichols, who has already implemented a few modifications.

To increase instructional time and hopefully minimize time spent on math at home, Pierson added a lab period designed to reinforce the CCLS lesson for students in seventh grade and algebra classes.

Middle School Assistant Principal Brittany Miaritis said lab time provides the students with far more one-on-one learning instruction than available in the classroom setting. Teacher Richard Terry said it has been “very helpful” for his seventh grade students. Additionally, several senior math teachers were moved from the high school to the middle school two years ago, due to their comprehension of what would be required of those students later on.

Although they recognized its challenges, the teachers in attendance appeared to be proponents of the CCLS methodology. Fifth grade teachers George Kneeland and JoAnn Kelly shared a CCLS fluency activity, a fast-paced drill that is supposed to be a fun way to measure a student’s personal best. Kelly said her students love sprints, asking for them almost every day.

Kneeland then introduced an application problem, or “problem of the day,” which is designed to be strategically linked to previous lessons and concepts.

“We were just taught a methodology for doing it and we did it,” he said of his grade school experience. “The Common Core philosophy is taking a step deeper and looking at things so we get a pictorial understanding and more concrete understanding and then transition to what’s called the standard algorithm.”

Janice Arbia, who has four children in the school district, asked, “When they’re actually grading these tests, does it matter how they do it?”

The intent, Malone said, is for students to grasp what they were asked to do, so they can choose the way of solving the problem that works best for them. Energy is devoted to the concepts instead of the calculations.

“One of the big shifts now,” added Terry, “is rather than have a teacher standing in front of the students doing all of this work, the students are becoming an active participant in the lesson.”

“My students coming up this year in geometry are significantly stronger than they’ve been in the past and I expect that trend to continue,” said high school teacher Chase Malia. “I really think my students are much better prepared than they’ve been in the past.”

The administrators said their model of approach relies on feedback from teachers, parents and students. Nichols said that while some parents say their children are overwhelmed, others say they like the rigor and their kids are thriving. He plans to administer a survey to hear students’ opinions on how much they can handle.

“We do have an obligation to make sure that we safeguard kids’ emotional well being,” said Nichols. “And if in fact we’re asking too much of them in terms of the amount of homework, this survey will be able to generate some data related to that.”

“Grading” Sag Harbor Teachers: Administrators Discuss Goals Updates at Board of Education Meeting

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


External Auditor Alexandria Battaglia, CPA, addresses the Sag Harbor Board of Education Monday night.

External Auditor Alexandria Battaglia, CPA, addresses the Sag Harbor Board of Education Monday night.

By Tessa Raebeck

“This has been a week of very special teams,” said Dr. Bonuso, interim superintendent for the Sag Harbor School District, congratulating the champion Lady Whalers field hockey team and the community team that helped pass the district’s two bond propositions.

Passing the bond was a key component of the district goals for the 2013/2014 school year, which Dr. Bonuso presented to a small group of people gathered Monday for the Board of Education (BOE) meeting.

Dr. Bonuso discussed the headway made on the first three of the district’s nine goals. He said progress was made on the first goal, improving academic achievement, through the resubmission and implementation of Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR), an evaluation system required by the state since 2012. It rates teachers as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective, based on a 100-point scale. Half of the review relies on administrative observations, 10 percent on an “evidence binder” of components like electronic posting and 40 percent on test scores. For teachers whose students are not yet being tested regularly, that portion is determined by a project the district assigns in order to produce a score. Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols said the majority of Sag Harbor teachers were graded “effective.”

“We need to take a second look at this emphasis on testing, the over testing,” said Dr. Bonuso. “We need to take a second look at whether or not we have the materials and modules – let alone the mindset – to approach this in a manner where people are feeling good about what’s happening instead of anxious and discouraged.”

Susan Hewett, a parent, asked the board how teachers are rewarded or reprimanded based on their APPR performance. Dr. Bonuso replied teachers are not rewarded, but if they are determined to be “developing” or worse for two years, “we can literally remove them…even if they are tenured.”

If a teacher is rated “ineffective,” the superintendent said, “We don’t have to go through all the gyrations and all the bureaucracy that in the past we had to in order to remove you.”

The administrators reported on the progress of the newly formed shared decision-making teams, a component of the second goal: to build partnerships with the community. Two teams have met, one for the elementary school and one for Pierson. The district-wide team is looking for two replacements for members who left the committee prior to the first meeting.

Board member Mary Anne Miller questioned the inclusion of the middle and high schools in the same team, which BOE Vice President Chris Tice agreed should be revisited.

The third goal is to ensure sound fiscal operation and facilities management. The district added experienced security personnel and hours at both school, enhanced systems at school entryways and held its first lockdown drill of the year last week. External auditor Alexandria Battaglia said Monday the district is in good financial health, with an unassigned fund balance of about $1.4 million.

In other school news, BOE member David Diskin again asked the board to discuss starting to video record their meetings. Board President Theresa Samot said it was a good idea to look at further.

The next BOE meeting will be held December 2, at 7:30 p.m. in the Pierson Library.

Sag School Board Talks Parking, Process for Bond Proposals

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


By Tessa Raebeck

“We’re just trying to get facilities that are as good as the children we serve,” Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the Sag Harbor School District, said of the district’s proposed capital improvements bond at Monday’s board of education meeting.

In anticipation of the November 13 vote on the bond, district representatives addressed concerns and opinions voiced by community members in recent weeks — particularly in regards to the proposed parking lot renovations — and clarified the design process that would take place should the bond pass, as well as details of the current diagrams. With the help of district architect Larry Salvesen, Dr. Bonuso emphasized all plans are conceptual schematics that could undergo continual revisions that would not change the face of the projects, but could alter their scope.

The bond is separated into two distinct propositions. Proposition 1, with a projected cost of $7,357,132, covers the majority of the proposed capital work. Through five categories (architectural, HVAC, plumbing, electrical and site), it addresses facilities preservation and renovations, building code compliance and ADA compliance, health and safety issues, energy conservation improvements and efficiencies and supports the district’s curriculum.

In addition to capital improvement work like installing CO2 sensors and re-piping the domestic hot water heater, Proposition 1 includes: the renovation of the Pierson Middle/High School auditorium, as well as construction of support facilities; renovations to the Pierson shop/technology classroom space; expansion of the Pierson kitchen; the addition of a storage room in the Sag Harbor Elementary School (SHES) gymnasium; and the restoration and reconfiguration of the Jermain Avenue parking lot at Pierson and the Hampton Street lot at SHES.

At the estimated cost of $1,620,000, Proposition 2 will be voted on separately and provides for the installation of a synthetic turf athletic field, a two-lane walking track and other site improvements, such as a scoreboard.

At Monday’s meeting, Dr. Bonuso and other administrators emphasized the timing is as good as any to execute the bond, as bond rates have lowered and the district will receive approximately 10 percent in state aid.

“Most of these things we would go ahead and we’d do it anyway [through annual budgets], the problem is we would pay more money and we would have to wait a whole lot longer to reap the benefits,” explained Dr. Bonuso.

Due to the state-imposed property tax cap, completing such projects through the annual budget would negatively impact the funds allotted for school programs, the district said in a newsletter on the bond.

“We know what the worst choice is,” said Dr. Bonuso. “The worst choice — forget all the options, everyone has their opinion on what to do — but I think everyone pretty much agreed on what is the worst thing to do — the worst thing to do is to do nothing.”

In addition to failing pavement and crumbling curbs, the district said the parking lots’ designs are unsafe for both children and the community at large and maintained that the parking lots absolutely need to be reconfigured and restored, but the district remains open to suggestions as to the best ways to do that for Pierson’s neighbors, passing pedestrians, school children, cars and emergency vehicles.

“We look at it in a schematic fashion,” explained Salvesen. “We get a general understanding of the approach to the project and create a diagram that represents what is proposed and then we use that to create a cost estimate.”

That process was completed before the bond was presented to the community. If the bond is passed, the next step toward enacting the proposed projects is the design/development stage, during which the scope is reviewed and the design is refined. After additional community input, the final recommendations are brought to the board before the plans are sent to the State Education Department for approval.

If the bond is passed, the Educational Planning Facilities Committee, a group of 21 teachers, parents, administrators, board members and members of the community who met at least six times over the past year in preparation of the bond, would be reformed to invite continued conversation and review possible changes. After additional community input, the final recommendations are brought to the board before the plans are sent to the State Education Department for approval.

Following the recent dialogue between members of the EPFC and the community, Salvesen has drawn in several amendments to the parking lot plans. The original diagram for the lot at Jermain Avenue, for example, did not have an explicit sidewalk drawn in until this week.

“That’s something that would come with the evolution of the design,” Salvesen explained. “There is money to put a sidewalk along there; it is a desired element.”

According to the district, some residents were concerned the Jermain Avenue lot changes would infringe on Pierson Hill or the property’s trees.

“We are not going to negatively impact Pierson Hill,” clarified Dr. Bonuso. “We love Pierson Hill, we love the tradition. We’re going to be very respectful of it.”

“We’re going to be very respectful of the trees,” he continued. “In one or two instances, we’ve already picked out which trees we will purposely transplant just to make sure that we save them.”

Salvesen said after reviewing the plans with the district’s traffic engineer consultant, they found moving the parking lot’s entry point further away from the bend at the northwest side of Jermain Avenue would also increase safety. The district also chose not to pursue the expansion of the elementary school’s secondary Atlantic Avenue lot that was part of a proposed bond that failed to garner community support in 2009.

“That has been completely removed from the project in an attempt to address overall cost concerns,” said the architect.

Since its construction in 1946, the Hampton Street parking lot at SHES has stayed in the same configuration, according to Salvesen. After reviewing the plans for that lot with the traffic engineer, the district is considering altering the project to include one entry point, rather than two. Instead of the 25 additional parking spots in the original diagram, the revised plan would add 17 stalls.

“It’s not about the numbers here, safety is the point,” said Salvesen.

Members of the board were grateful community members had come forward with their concerns and hopeful the bond would ultimately pass.

“These are schematics,” reiterated Daniel Hartnett, a school board member. “We had to put something up to present to be able to move this forward…There is the opportunity — should the bond pass — as we move forward for people to come in and express their views and for us to tweak what we end up doing.”

Chris Tice, vice president of the school board, said such collaboration is “great because they’re voicing a variety of different perspectives and the more perspectives the committee and the board and the administration hear, the better solution we’ll have.”

If Sag Harbor voters pass the propositions, the estimated costs are the cap. Salvesen has built in contingencies so that the projected costs represent a high estimate, he said. By law, the district cannot spend more than is approved by voters. If the projects cost less than estimated, the district will return the money to the taxpayers.

Salvesen held that his firm, BSS Architecture in Patchogue, has a proven record in bonds staying well within their budget.

“Since the early 90’s,” he said, “we’ve done $1.7 billion in school improvement bonds and we have not gone over.”

“Well,” said Mary Anne Miller, a member of the board, “That’s why we hired you.”

Sag Harbor School Board Clarifies Public Input Policy

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


By Tessa Raebeck

In honor of School Board Recognition Week, Monday’s meeting of the Sag Harbor board of education commenced with a short commemorative concert by members of the Pierson Middle/High School orchestra.

“We talk about music to the ears, that was music to the heart,” commented Dr. Bonuso, interim superintendent for the district.

Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone presented the board with letters of thanks from the younger students.

“My teacher says that you work long hours, exactly how many hours do you work?” a fourth grader asked in one letter.

Another read, “Thank you for volunteering the time but please don’t work too hard.”

Following the moment of praise, the board returned to work, approving a first reading of board operating procedures. The packet includes a handout prepared by Mary Adamczyk, district clerk, outlining Policy 3320, which addresses public participation at board meetings.

The handout is supplementary to existing policy; it does not change it. Rather, it explains the policy which was revised last spring. The revisions allow community members to sign up for Public Input I, a period of public comment that happens at the start of board meetings, on a sign-up sheet outside the library up until the time of the meeting, rather than through the district clerk’s office the Friday prior as was previously required.

“This just clarifies that a little more,” explained Theresa Samot, president of the school board.

Chris Tice, school board vice president, suggested printing Adamczyk’s handout on the back of every meeting agenda, so the community is clear on how they can participate. Tice said the idea was a suggestion of John Battle, a member of the community who regularly attends school board meetings.

The board will review the wording of the handout and the operating procedures, implement revisions and discuss them further at a second reading during their next meeting.

In other school news, the board accepted a donation from the Reutershan Educational Trust, which has the sole purpose of fostering art programs within the school district, for $30,700 in supplies, materials and equipment to support the programs and $5,863.67 in salaries and benefits for district personnel to supervise. Following comments by board member Daniel Hartnett, the board agreed to look into establishing a board liaison to the trust.

The next school board meeting will be held November 18 in the Pierson library.