Tag Archive | "sag harbor elementary school"

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Back to School with Sag Harbor Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso

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Sag Harbor School District bus driver Lamont Miller, Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso with children riding the bus to Sag Harbor Elementary School Monday morning, the first day of the 2013-14 school year. 

By Tessa Raebeck

“This is an amazing place,” said Dr. Carl Bonuso Monday as he greeted students entering Pierson Middle/High School, embarking on the first day of the 2013-14 school year.

“I come from a system that was mom and pop and they cared about all the kids, but it still wasn’t as personal as it is here,” he said.

After greeting the older kids at Pierson, the superintendent found Bus A and joined its driver, Lamont Miller, on his second ride of the day through Noyac and North Haven Village. This time, the bus picked up Sag Harbor’s elementary students, some riding the bus for their first day of school in the district as kindergarteners.

Miller, whose enthusiasm for the first day of school even rivaled Dr. Bonuso’s, has been driving this route since 2009. He has two daughters going into kindergarten and pre-kindergarten in Riverhead this year, so he said he understands the mixture of excitement and anxiety that accompanies the first day of school.

At Bus A’s first stop, Miller was greeted by name by a veteran fifth grader, Savannah, and her mom.

“We were hoping it was you,” Savannah’s mom told Miller.

He smiled back, “Savannah, you’re a fifth grader now, huh? You get to ride in the backseat.”

The seating on Bus A is divided by grades, with the youngest students in the front and the oldest in the back. Moving back a few rows on the first day of school is a tradition and the children know which rows belong to each grade.

Equipped with cameras, dogs and grandparents, the group of parents at the next stop waved hello to Miller and Dr. Bonuso.

“They’re happy it’s Lamont!” said a mom, as the neighborhood kids greeted their familiar bus driver, who reminded everybody to buckle up.

“I think this is one of the jobs that people could very easily underestimate, in terms of how important it is and how difficult it is,” said Dr. Bonuso. “The parents feel so comfortable because you know them so personally,” he told Lamont.

Since Sag Harbor owns and operates its own transportation system, the district is responsible for the training and oversight of all its drivers. Maude Stevens, the lead bus driver who supervises all district transportation, has established intricate routes through Sag Harbor.

“Maude does a remarkable job overseeing this and orienting our bus drivers to the community and the children they’ll be working with,” said Dr. Bonuso. “Maude literally knows each bus driver, has trained them, worked with them, met with them who knows how many times. She knows each bus driver, she knows each bus, she knows each stop…it’s hard to put that value into dollars.”

According to Dr. Bonuso, Stevens and her drivers know which roads are being serviced, which neighborhoods have late landscaping and which streets are prone to flooding.

“They even have a sense of what each month is like on each road,” said the superintendent.

The transportation office tweaks the routes in an ongoing review and especially during the first week of school, trying to ensure that no student is riding the bus for longer than 40 minutes.

As we travelled through Noyac, the school bus got louder and louder. At one stop, three brothers got on. The youngest, a kindergartener in a brand new blue backpack with brightly colored dragonflies, appeared absolutely terrified. His oldest brother — despite being allowed to sit in the back of the bus — buckled him into the front seat, across from Dr. Bonuso and sat next to him for the whole ride, letting him know what to expect on his first day.

“When you’re young, people always say, ‘Ah, you’re so young, life’s not a problem,’” said Dr. Bonuso. “But actually, when you’re young everything’s so strange, you’re doing everything for the first time.”

In Bay Point, several families were waiting for Bus A. “What’s up Brian? Hey Hannah!” Lamont greeted each child by name. “How you doing Riley? She’s a kindergartener?” he asked Riley’s grandma, Gail Ratcliffe. “She’s in good hands.”

As he buckled her in, Dr. Bonuso told Riley, “You’re going to love kindergarten.”

When the bus arrived at Sag Harbor Elementary School, some of the parents from the route were waiting for the bus with their cameras ready. “The people in this community,” said Dr. Bonuso, kissing his fingers and holding them out, “unbelievable. So kind and gracious to each other.”

“Are you going to be here tomorrow?” Riley asked the superintendent.

“No, I’m going to be in school but I’m riding the bus today to make sure everything’s okay,” replied Dr. Bonuso.

With her first bus ride behind her, Riley hugged Dr. Bonuso goodbye, thanked Lamont and headed off to embark on her next adventure, the first day of school.

Sag Harbor Budget, Propositions Pass; Diskin, Hartnett, Kinsella & Tice Elected to School Board

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Daniel Hartnett, David Diskin, Susan Kinsella and Chris Tice at Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor School budget vote and board election where the four were voted into office. Michael Heller photo. 

By Tessa Raebeck

Sag Harbor School District voters overwhelmingly approved the district’s proposed $35,508,622 budget for the 2013-2014 school year Tuesday night by a margin of over 2-to-1.

The budget was approved by a vote of 825-377.

“We are overwhelmed and most appreciative of the magnificent support shown by the school community,” said Dr. Carl Bonuso, the district’s interim superintendent, after the results were read Tuesday night in the Pierson High School gymnasium. “As a result, there are going to be some wonderful things that we can put in place for the children of this community.”

Turnout declined this year by 175 votes, with 1,202 residents turning out for the budget vote and school board election.

With a competitive field of candidates, the race for school board was especially close and six vied for four open seats.

Daniel Hartnett, a former school board member, had the most support, earning 741 votes. Hartnett returns to the board after serving two terms from 2005 to 2011. Incumbent Susan Kinsella narrowly earned the second most votes at 696. Hartnett and Kinsella will serve full, three-year terms with the board of education.

David Diskin earned 689 votes and board vice president Chris Tice earned 680 to win the two, two-year terms left on the board in the wake of the early resignations of Gregg Schiavoni and Walter Wilcoxen last year.

After serving one term on the board, incumbent Edward Drohan fell short of fourth place with 514 votes. Attorney Thomas Ré finished with 423 votes.

“Every one of the candidates were such wonderful candidates,” said Bonuso. “We knew no matter what the votes that we’d be getting a strong board.”

Smiling and joking with one another, the four winners were clearly excited as they posed for pictures.

“I am thrilled that I got as many votes as I did,” said Kinsella. “I did not anticipate that.”

Fellow board member Sandi Kruel showed her support for her colleague. “She will work very hard,” she said of Kinsella.

“The work wasn’t finished,” Kinsella continued. “I’m very grateful to the community for supporting me. I will work to keep education at the highest standards and to keep fiscal responsibility.”

Diskin, a parent and local business owner, is the only winning candidate to be elected without any prior experience on the board.

“Thanks everyone in Sag Harbor for supporting me,” said Diskin. “Thanks to my wife, Faith, and my family for helping me out.”

Tice likewise thanked the community “for supporting the budget vote and the other two propositions and sending a clear message that the school district is going in the right direction.”

“I’m excited about more time on the board to do good work for the school district,” she added.

Hartnett, who came out ahead by 45 votes — by far the largest margin among any of the winners — expressed his gratitude to the community and commended the other candidates.

“There’s a lot of work ahead,” he said. “I’m ready to get going but I feel the challenge. This community will face what we need to face to do what we need to do for the kids. It’s about the kids. The only reason I’m doing this is for the kids. I start with my family, but there’s so many kids in this community — that’s why we’re here.”

“I think we have a great board,” Ré said of his elected colleagues, who he congratulated after hearing the results. “I really had a great time running, I thought it was a lot of fun. There were many things I learned and, most likely, contributed to the discussion, so congratulations to all.”

Edward Drohan did not attend the closing of the polls in the Pierson gymnasium. In a letter to supporters sent Monday night, Ré expressed his regret that Drohan was not re-elected.

Drohan “has been a singular voice on many issues facing the board these last three years, always with integrity, fairness and frankness,” said Ré. “It is a loss of a great man and leader for all independent voices of our community.”

In addition to the budget, both propositions on the ballot passed with similarly wide margins. Proposition 2, which reaffirms the district’s policy to provide busing for children living within one and 15 miles from school, was supported 865-309.

Proposition 3, which will allow the district to spend $1.11 million on capital improvements, including repairs to the elementary school roof, the Pierson gymnasium roof and for new bleachers in the gym, was supported 910-268. That work will be funded by $240,000 from the 2013-2014 budget and an additional $873,600 coming from the district’s “Facilities Renovation Capital Reserve Fund.”

The administration was encouraged by the night’s results.

“We’re excited about the upcoming year,” said Bonuso. “Congratulations to all involved.”

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.”