Tag Archive | "sag harbor elementary school"

Sag Harbor Schools Look at Expanding Foreign Language Curriculum

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By Amanda Wyatt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sag Harbor PTSA Sponsors Forum on Cybersafety

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By Amanda Wyatt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sag Harbor School Board Adopts $35.5 Million Budget

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By Amanda Wyatt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Superintendent Search May Be Revived in Sag Harbor

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By Amanda Wyatt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Test Scores in Sag Harbor School District Remain Stable

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According to Pierson Middle-High School principal Jeff Nichols, AP and Regents exam test scores “remain stable” in the Sag Harbor School District. That announcement was made during the Sag Harbor Board of Education’s September 10 meeting, just a week after students shuffled back into school for a new year.

On Monday, Nichols and Sag Harbor Elementary Principal Matthew Malone presented the latest results of the district’s AP and Regents exams, as well as New York State’s Elementary/Intermediate tests.

Nichols reported that 94 students took AP classes in 2012, which is nearly double the enrollment in AP courses in 2005. Seventy percent of students who took an AP exam passed, earning a score of at least 3 (roughly equivalent to 65 percent) out of 5.

“Our performance, in terms of students scoring 3 or higher, has remained stable,” said Nichols. “To me, [this] indicates the philosophy that we’ve supported over the years, which is all students can do the work if you provide them with the necessary resources to be successful.”

While Regents scores were somewhat mixed, there was an improvement in certain subjects. For example, 87 percent of students passed the Geometry exam in 2012, up from 79 in 2009. All students passed Earth Science in 2012, up from 93 percent in 2009.

However, there was a slight drop in other subjects. For instance, 91 percent of students passed the English exam in 2012, while 94 percent had passed in 2009. Seventy-nine percent passed Algebra in 2012, down a point from 2009.

Still, Nichols pointed out that the decline can be attributed to two factors — the increase in students taking the exam and the increase in ESL (English as a Second Language) students in the district.

Students in third through eighth grade also took exams in English/Language Arts (ELA) and Math. The tests were graded on a 1 to 4 scale, with 3 being a passing grade.

In 2012, students in third through fifth grade and in eighth grade fared better on the ELA exam than they had in 2010, said Malone. However, Malone said there was a decline in scores among sixth and seventh graders. For instance, 75 percent of sixth graders passed in 2012, compared to 80 percent in 2010.

With the exception of sixth graders, whose scores were down, the math scores for third through eighth grades were either higher or the same as they were in 2010. For example, 71 percent of eighth graders met or exceeded standards in 2012, compared to only 55 percent in 2010.

Principal Malone noted that the school is required to provide academic intervention services (AIS) for students who only score a 1 or 2 on these exams.

In other news, the district is developing a new concussion management plan in response to New York State’s new Concussion Management and Awareness Act, which took effect in July.

“We’re in the process of getting that done within the next couple weeks [to a] couple months,” said J. Wayne Shierrant, interim athletic director.

Shierrant submitted a sample policy to the school board with guidelines on how to identify and manage concussions. It includes the education of coaches, physical education teachers, nurses, athletes and parents, as well as proper sideline management and emergency follow-up and return-to-play protocol.

Each physical education teacher, nurse and athletic trainer must also complete an approved course on concussion management every other year, said Shierrant. He added that there is a 30-minute online test that will allow participants to print out a certificate of completion.

At Monday’s meeting, the board of education also reappointed Deborah Skinner as the beach manager of the YARD Summer Beach Program and the group leader of its after-school program.

The BOE said it had made the agreements with other municipalities that help fund the YARD program, and had received payments from three out of four of them.

While these agreements run through December 31, 2012, Sag Harbor School Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso said the district planned to “honor its commitment to the program” through the end of the school year.

He noted that the district has “contingency plans” to help fund the program through June, even if financial agreements with other municipalities are not renewed at the end of this calendar year.

“Should it come to the point where we don’t have some revenues coming in that we expected for any reason, we would unfortunately have to tap into our reserves,” he said.

However, Dr. Bonuso added, “Given our conversations that went into the development of those agreements, we feel that it’s not going to be an issue.”

Sag Harbor Schools Look At Anti-Drug Programs

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By Claire Walla


Some D.A.R.E. to keep kids off drugs.

Others fry an egg ands say, “this is your brain on drugs.”

In the realm of substance-abuse prevention programs, methods for getting kids to “just say no” are various, and Sag Harbor Elementary School may be adding another mantra to the mix.

At a school board meeting Monday, May 21 elementary school principal Matt Malone spoke of a program that asserts, quite simply, kids are “too good for drugs.”

Created by a national organization called the Mendez Foundation, Too Good For Drugs is a substance-abuse prevention program that focuses not merely on the consequences of substance abuse, but on the strength of the character of each child.

According to the foundation’s website, the program “introduces and develops social and emotional skills for making healthy choices, building positive friendships, communicating effectively, and resisting peer pressure.”

It does so by focusing on five key categories: goal setting, decision making, bonding with pro-social others, identifying and managing emotions and communicating effectively.

These principles are then woven into the curriculum for each grade level.

“At this moment, we’re just at the exploratory phase,” Malone said.

The school’s assistant principal Donna Dennon and guidance counselor Michelle Grant recently received training in the program. However, at this point Malone explained that he and his staff are just looking into the possibility of running Too Good For Drugs as a pilot program for third graders next year.

This possibility was first brought to Malone’s attention by Sag Harbor School Board President Mary Anne Miller earlier this year as a suggestion for strengthening the district’s efforts to prevent substance abuse.

“The curriculum we have in place is multi-faceted,” Malone added.

He went on to explain that students are taught at an early age to distinguish between good and bad drugs, then in grade three students learn about the harms of cigarettes and in grades four and fives students discuss the dangers of alcohol.

If implemented, Too Good For Drugs would be another program added to the mix.

Malone continued, “We’re always trying to bring new innovative programs to the kids.”

Similarly, Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols spoke of the programs in place to prevent the instance of substance abuse at the upper school.

“Our [prevention programs] are based on the philosophy of trying to reach students from different angles,” Nichols said. “That’s the best way to reach as many students as possible.”

So this year, in addition to lessons in seventh and tenth grade health classes, educational assemblies, special speakers, teen leadership programs, outside counseling and the annual prom presentation, Nichols introduced a Community Coalition.

The group is made up of school personnel, as well as members of the community, and reflects 11 different constituencies in Sag Harbor. (These include police officers, religious officials, parents and counselors, among others.)

“Their philosophy here being that the drug/alcohol problem can only be solved by the community addressing it,” Nichols said. “The Community Coalition is an effort to make this a community-wide program, not just a school program.”

The first Community Coalition meeting is scheduled to take place Thursday, June 14 at 5:30 p.m..


In other news…


Superintendent Dr. John Gratto pointed out that the Sag Harbor School District was recently named 437 out of 1,000 schools in the United States, in a survey conducted by Newsweek/The Daily Beast. The survey ranked all participating schools according to a set of criteria which included test scores, AP/IB and SAT scores, graduation rate, college matriculation rate and AP courses offered per student.

Third grade teacher Bethany Deyermond and her student Valerie Duran introduced the board to the oral history project Duran recently completed.

After presenting a blank questionnaire to “an elder in the community,” Deyermond’s third graders took the completed form and turned those answers into what Deyermond referred to as “a living history of the person.”

Standing before board members with a microphone in one hand and a copy of her project in the other, Duran spoke about her great aunt, for whom she said “life was harder in almost every way.” Her aunt used to ride mules instead of drive cars, and she used to make tortillas by hand.

“Life is so much easier now,” Duran continued, “but definitely she valued things more.”

School Seeks Task Force For Master Plan

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By Claire Walla

Over the next three years, the Sag Harbor School District will draft a master plan for buildings and grounds, which will guide how the school will look and function in the future.

Currently, it’s a very preliminary plan.

This preliminary sketch, put together by the district’s Buildings and Grounds Director Montgomery “Monty” Granger, was presented to the Sag Harbor School Board at a regular meeting last Wednesday, April 18. Rather than refer to it as a working draft, however, Granger was careful to note that the presentation merely laid-out ideas for both campuses — they are nowhere near set in stone.

“I want to make a disclaimer that what you’re about to see is my opinion,” Granger told the crowd. In fact, he added, the purpose of his presentation was to request that the board set-up a task force, “to help me go forward with some of the things you’re about to see.”

Granger read from four bullet points listed on one of the slides, which illustrated the district’s philosophy on improving buildings and grounds: “health and safety first,” “clean and green,” “curb appeal” and “restore and refurbish.”

As he explained, the current school configuration toes the line between newer buildings and historic preservation.  During his presentation, Granger focused on the latter.

After showing several older versions of Pierson Middle/High School as depicted in black-and-white postcards and photographs, he emphasized that the grounds used to be more stark, open lawns giving way to the sight of the building more readily than they do now.  There also used to be a flag at the top of the bell tower.

Granger suggested removing the current flagpole on the lawn, as well as clearing away some of the foliage.  To highlight his point, he referenced two pictures of the brick, Pierson building with trees and bushes taking up most of the frame.

“If this were music,” he commented, “this would be cacophony, or noise.”

Other improvements could include installing new tennis/basketball courts on the elementary school campus, installing synthetic turf fields at the middle/high school, adding paved areas and benches to the Pierson drop-off area by the gym and the area just outside the cafeteria, as well as paving the parking spaces where the school district currently stores its buses.

Additionally, Granger mentioned the need to create a master plan for all trees that would pertain to both campuses. And he mentioned the sign at the base of the middle/high school, which, in his opinion, is far too small.

“I just can’t read it,” he added.  “You can go bigger and put information up there that people can read.”

At that point, Granger showed an image of an LED flat screen message board.

“It’s a little 42nd Street,” he admitted.  “I just wanted to get the creative juices flowing.”

After Granger floated the idea of installing an LED screen at the corner of Jermain Avenue and Division Street, board member Chris Tice pressed the need for community involvement.

“It’s important to involve the neighbors in this conversation,” she noted.  “Particularly the ones that live across the street.”

Ideally, the proposed task force would involve both members of the school district and members of the community, Granger said.

Wax Museum Bridges History, Technology and Homer Simpson

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Matt Groening, John Glenn - Max Mensch, Adam Arrequin - adjusted

Boxer Muhammad Ali, Actors Shirley Temple and Charlie Chaplin, civil rights leader Susan B. Anthony, First Lady Michelle Obama, children’s poet Shel Silverstein, comic book artist Stan Lee, “Simpson’s” creator Matt Groening—even 25-year-old Shaun White made it to the Sag Harbor Elementary School auditorium for this year’s Wax Museum.

Above: Max Mensch as “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening and Adam Arrequin as John Glenn.

The event, which took place last Thursday, April 5, marked the end of the annual biography project completed by the fifth-grade class at Sag Harbor Elementary School. After choosing a historic or otherwise accomplished person with his or her own biography, students were tasked with writing a report on that person, then taking on his or her appearance and posing, motionless, as if statues in a wax museum.

“There were books in a room and they gave us a choice,” explained Cooper Schiavoni who wore a grey wig and a white suit, and held a corn-cob pipe in his left hand.  When asked why he picked the person he did, he simply said, “I thought this guy looked pretty cool.”

Schiavoni was of course referring to southern novelist Mark Twain.  Standing next to him in a black turtle neck and jeans, Schiavoni’s friend Adam Janetti accessorized his costume by holding a black iPad.

“I read his whole biography,” Janetti said of the 600-page story of Steve Jobs, which was released last year. Janetti said he was particularly impressed with the fact that Jobs made a camera when he was in the third grade.

Malone acknowledged there was a healthy dose of technology-driven choices this year.  These included prominent computer innovators, like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, as well as media moguls Mark Zuckerberg and Shigeru Miyamoto—never heard of him?

“Neither had I, when I got him,” Tristan Remkus admitted after removing a moppy, black wig.

Remkus said the biography he chose told the story of a boy who grew up in rural Kyoto, Japan, a land filled with mysteries.

“One day [Shigeru Miyamoto] was walking on a hillside when he realized it was a cave,” Remkus said.  “He finally gathered the courage to enter, and he found out it was actually a ginormous, underground cave-tunnel.”

“He used it in his video games,” Remkus added.

These you may have heard of: Super Mario World, Donkey Kong, Zelda, among others.  Of all the books in the room, Remkus said, “I was very happy that I saw one that had to do with Nintendo.”

This is part of the thrust behind the Wax Museum project, Malone explained.

“What’s really interesting about this project is that the children gravitate toward somebody that shares their interests,” he continued

“The piece that makes me so proud is the reports,” Malone added.  It’s not about the name recognition or star quality, he said, “What the children really come to understand is their contribution to making people’s lives better.”

Donation to Schools Celebrates the Life of a Local, And His Love of Chess

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Chess adjusted

by Claire Walla


When Myron Levine decided to donate a chess table to the Sag Harbor community in honor of his son, Josh, who died tragically last year in an accident at Quail Hill Farm, it seemed to many to be a no-brainer.

The chess table would permanently reside at the location of the summer Farmers’ Market, where Josh had spent much of his time; it would be manufactured by a company Josh co-founded with his brother, Noah; and it would give Sag Harbor residents and visitors a new reason to venture into the village and enjoy the outdoors.

But last March the village voted against the proposed plan, suggesting that the area close to the Breakwater Yacht Club was not only remote, but the ground would be dug up by Exxon Mobile later in the year (a project that’s currently underway), which would make any permanent addition impossible to maintain.

That’s when Levine shifted gears.

“I decided instead of [donating the chess table to the village], I would donate the chess table to the school,” Levine said. “And they approved.”

Just this week Levine successfully donated not one, but two chess tables to the Sag Harbor School District. One table is now sitting behind the Pierson building near the field and the second table has been placed near the newly finished Eco-Walk at Sag Harbor Elementary School.

Levine said both have been strategically placed in “quiet areas,” or those places where the concentration required of a primarily mental game like chess would not easily be interrupted by the noise typical of most elementary school playgrounds during recess time.

According to Elementary School Principal Matt Malone, several students have already taken advantage of the opportunity to sit down and play the quiet game.

Levine said he is happy to have been able to donate this gift in the name of his son, who he said loved to play chess. And he hopes the tables might inspire the school district to do more to foster an appreciation for the game for its current students.

“Now that the tables are there, [the school] would love to be able to have one of the teachers talk to the students about forming a chess club,” Levine added.

He said he’s already spoken to School District Superintendent Dr. Johnn Gratto about that possibility.

“That’s one of the plans that might come from this.”