Tag Archive | "sag harbor elementary school"

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.”

School District Proposes Capital Projects

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By Claire Walla

On December 8, 2009, when the Sag Harbor School District put nearly $7 million worth of building improvements up for bond, the community voted it down.

Now, after two years of discussions, the Long Range Planning Committee has worked to trim the cost of the project by almost $1.8 million, which — coupled with $500,000 worth of energy cost savings built into this year’s operating budget — brings the total down to roughly $4.9 million.

Committee member John Russo and the district’s architect Larry Salvesen presented the updated list of improvement projects at a regularly scheduled school board meeting last Monday, September 26.

“We looked at what failed in 2009 and pared it back by looking at what we could move and what wasn’t essential,” Russo explained.

Most significantly, the committee minimized the Pierson kitchen upgrade, at a savings of $372,360; and removed two parking lots from the list of items needing repair, saving $341,000. About $350,000 was also taken out of the proposal for projects that can either be accomplished in-house, or are not deemed necessary.

What’s more, a $12 million plan to rebuild the Pierson Auditorium has been taken off the docket altogether. Instead of paying for the project with taxpayers’ dollars, the committee recommends securing funding through private donations.

Salvesen explained that many of these improvements are expected to save the district money over time.

With reference to the parking lots in particular, board members emphasized the importance of communicating with the public, largely blaming miscommunication for the bond measure failing in 2009.

“This is entirely for health and safety,” Russo told the board. “The Jermain lot [at Pierson High School], while improved with the striping, is still inadequate for bus traffic and emergency vehicles.”

Though he said the elementary school parking lot next to the Eco-Walk is sufficient, as is the high school parking lot at the front of the school, the lot on Hampton Street at the front of the elementary school is also unsafe in its current state.

School Board President Mary Anne Miller emphasized that adding parking spaces is not the only end-goal.

“It’s not that we’re trying to make them bigger, they really have deteriorated,” she said. “Their structure has diminished.”

As for Pierson’s outdoor facilities, District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto spoke to the importance of refurbishing Pierson High School’s field with synthetic turf and lights. Both measures, he said, would give Pierson athletes more ability to use the facilities for a longer period of time.

According to District Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Montgomery “Monty” Granger, the creation of a turf field would bring his department a significant savings. He currently budgets about $60,000 for field maintenance, he explained; but with a turf field the department would only have to spend about $5,000 a year to keep it intact.

Echoing some of the dissent heard back in 2009, community member Steven Reiner expressed some concerns. As far as the new field proposals go, Reiner said installing turf could be a far more complicated process than expected. However, he continued, “The light option is a far more problematic, and more vigorously opposed by the neighborhood.”

“I would think that a very full environmental report would have to be conducted,” he said, before the school district can bring this to the public for a vote He further explained that there are issues of traffic, access and public safety that need to be addressed.

“Once this becomes a decision that leaves the confines of the school and affects the community, police officers, garbage collectors [etc.] I don’t think it’s a choice one can offer the public lightly, without due diligence.”

“An awful lot of work needs to be done before lights can be considered for this area,” he concluded.

Pierson teacher and girls’ soccer coach Peter Solow suggested that perhaps the committee should consider separating the turf and the lights into two separate bonds, as the lights seem to be more controversial.

“If there was a field [and] a track, I guarantee you it will probably get more use than anything else in this community,” he said. “This is not simply an issue of interscholastic sports. The field can be used by the community on a year-long basis.”

While the school board has yet to tease out the finer details of the committee’s proposal, school board member Sandi Kruel did address concerns she had with the current plans for the Pierson cafeteria expansion.

The new plan, at $166,920, is a fraction of the cost presented two years ago, which topped $500,000. However, though the plan will add 16 seats, expand the kitchen area to include prep space and double storage capabilities, Pierson will still not have a functioning commercial kitchen, meaning cafeteria staff will not be able to cook using a stovetop.

“Unfortunately, to build a code-compliant commercial kitchen, it was an additional $350,000 for all the changes that need to be put in place,” Russo explained.

Kruel continued, “For $166,000, to do this and then not give the chef a fire to cook on… it makes me a little crazy.”

Broadening the scope of the discussion, Dr. Gratto explained that in tough economic times capital projects are often taken off the table when it comes time for school districts to tighten their belts. But, in light of the two-percent tax cap — which will affect all school districts in the state of New York next budget season — Dr. Gratto was sure to inform the crowd that funding for serial bonds would not be factored into such a cap.

The school board will continue to review the committee’s plans and is expected to discuss the project at the next bus

Enrollment Is Up In Sag Harbor

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By Claire Walla


At its first meeting since the start of the new school year, Monday, September 12, the Sag Harbor School Board visited a topic that’s spurred debate across the nation: state testing.

“As a school, what’s important to us is, number one, looking at individual performance,” said Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone.

He explained that the elementary school uses these tests to see where kids’ individual strengths and weaknesses are. And for those kids who have scored either a one or a two — both being below the state standard — the school offers Academic Intervention Services (AIS), during which students receive an extra period of instruction in the subject they need help in.

“We look specifically at individual performance, but also — as administrators and teachers — we look for specific areas where we as a school can do better,” Malone added.

This year, Malone said “the bar has been raised” in mathematics owing to the fact that the state realized last year’s numbers had been inflated and took action to regulate scoring. Schools’ scores across the state consequently dropped by about 25 points.

Going into this year, 73 percent of third graders, 79 percent of fourth graders and 87 percent of fifth graders have passed state math exams. In English Language Arts (ELA), 68 percent of third graders, 84 percent of fourth graders and 68 percent of fifth graders scored a three or a four on their exam.

At the middle school, Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols said the numbers don’t vary too much from where they sit at the elementary school level. In mathematics, 79 percent of sixth graders, 69 percent of seventh graders and 63 percent of eighth graders passed their exams. As for ELA, 80 percent of sixth graders, 68 percent of seventh graders and 66 percent of eighth graders scored a three or a four.

Picking up where Malone left off, Nichols said that middle school students scoring ones and twos on state tests will receive academic intervention services (AIS) as they do in the elementary school. He went on to say that AIS classes are also offered at Pierson, and they get more specific the older the student gets.

“The state says that you have to provide AIS for the minimum requirements for graduation,” he explained, which does not include higher-level math courses like Algebra II and Trigonometry, for instance. “But, we’ve decided to [offer those AIS courses] anyway here in Sag Harbor.”

In the end, Nichols said he doesn’t put too much weight on these test scores. He explained that the only statistical correlation between middle schoolers’ state test scores and high school Regents Exams is that students who score ones are more likely to also fail Regents Exams. The same has not proven true for students who score twos, he added.

According to Nichols, the greatest benefit of state tests is not about statewide rankings, it’s about assessing students within the school district from year to year.

For example, in terms of ESL scores, he continued, “I see a strong correlation between our ESL [English as a Second Language] population and some of our lower scores. I also see a strong correlation with Regents assessments as these students get older.”

Nichols explained that this population of the student body has been shown to struggle more, on average, on state tests.

“If you think about it, that population is faced with learning a subject and a language at the same time. That’s not easy.”

In other news…

School superintendent Dr. John Gratto informed the Sag Harbor School Board that enrollment numbers are up in all areas. Total enrollment at the elementary school has increased by 54 students (25 of them coming from pre-K), putting class sizes “just a touch over 19” at all grade levels, said elementary school principal Matt Malone. “It’s very manageable.”

Pierson Middle/High School has seen a less sizeable jump of 12 students.

Dr. Gratto also pointed out a significant increase over last year in the way of tuition-paying students. Since the end of last year, the school district has added nine more out-of-district students

Athletic director Montgomery “Monty” Granger gave the school board an update on athletic programs. While high school boys and girls cross-country, soccer and field hockey teams have “adequate participation,” there are a few teams — particularly at the middle school level — that may not have the numbers to compete this fall.

The girls JV tennis team at no time had more than six participants, Granger said, and the middle school girls cross country team only has four. Because cross-country requires a minimum of six players to complete, Granger said he’s giving the team a couple more days to come up with an adequate number.

Similarly, the girls middle school soccer team currently only has six participants, Granger said, “So, unfortunately, my recommendation is going to be that we not continue with that team.”

He went on to explain that, had it been prior to the start of the season, the girls would have been able to try out for the boys’ team. However, according to Section XI regulations, the girls are no longer eligible.

“My suggestion is that we offer a middle school girls intramural team,” Granger continued. “We can provide separate space for this potential intramural program.”

School Hopes to Solve Parking With Million Dollar Plan

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web parking plans

A plan to increase the number of parking spaces at the Sag Harbor School District has been a widely discussed topic amongst parents and community members in recent weeks. The parking project, which will cost around $1,036,000, is necessary, says the long-range planning committee and board of education members. But the cost of the project worries some parents, who believe the school should take a stronger role in encouraging students to walk and bike.

The impetus for the parking project goes back to 2007, when a team of architects and engineers hired by the district released a comprehensive facilities study. Parking was one of many facilities issues the team recommended the board address.

The plan will add 63 spaces in total. The elementary school currently has 54 parking spots with 26 at the front entrance parking lot on Hampton Street and 28 spots near the back of the school on Atlantic Avenue. The state requires the elementary school to have 95 spaces to serve school staff. As part of the proposed project, 26 spots will be added to the Atlantic Avenue lot.

“The section of the asphalt play area will be taken for the parking area but the asphalt play area will be expanded on the opposite side to replace the area taken for parking,” said Larry Salvesen, of BBS Architects and Engineers, of the Atlantic lot. The Hampton Street lot will be realigned to provide 25 new parking stalls.

At Pierson, there are currently 109 spaces. The state mandates 107 spots on the premises. The long-range planning committee, however, suggested repair and addition of 17 new parking spaces to the Jermain Avenue lot near the entrance to the gym. The repairs include adding a lawn area to separate parking from the roadway. An entrance and an exit will be clearly demarcated. Salvesen noted that a drop off area will be added in front of the gym for parents and buses. The Montauk Avenue lot by the playing fields and the Division Street lot by the middle school entrance will remain the same.

The district, said Salvesen, is still making design modifications to the parking plan, which might include a zone for compact cars.

“If a standard parking stall is nine-feet wide and a compact parking stall is seven-feet six-inches wide, and if we provide six compact parking stalls in a section of a row of parking, we will gain one additional parking stall in the overall count,” explained Salvesen.

“Parking is one issue that has continued to challenge and plague the district on many levels,” said school board and long-range planning committee member Mary Anne Miller. One of the chief problems, said Miller, is a lack of on-site staff parking. School employees often park on the street leading to complaints from residential neighbors and the village. Other teachers carpool, said Miller.

Of the Jermain Avenue lot at Pierson, Salvesen said “The fix at the high school is more due to the dysfunctional quality of the current lot. There isn’t a clear ingress and egress … People tend to park any which way they can fit. The pavement needs repair.”

Miller added that the buses don’t have a clear drop off zone for school children or visiting sports teams, which has created a safety issue.

“I know this is something that no one wants to spend this kind of money  on … But I don’t feel that this is something that can wait,” remarked Miller.

Parent Bonnie Mahoney is in complete agreement with the district in regards to creating more parking at the elementary school. She said parents constantly attend events at the school but there isn’t adequate parking to accommodate the staff or visitors. But Mahoney said she rarely has trouble finding a space at Pierson.

Other parents are not only bothered by the price tag of the project but feel it encourages car use over bike riding and walking. On Friday, school superintendent Dr. John Gratto, board members Walter Wilcoxen and Miller met with 725 Green Chairwoman Gigi Morris, Spokespeople representative Sinead Fitzgibbon and parent Ken Dorph to discuss the school’s role in promoting environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

“I have enormous admiration for the school board. They have a lot of tough decisions to make,” said Dorph in an interview this week. “At this point in American history to spend a million dollars on parking to me is morally wrong.”

Dorph works extensively in the Middle East and says that he sees the broader and more global implications of providing free parking. In Sag Harbor, Dorph wishes there was a more concentrated effort on the part of the village, school and other powerful local organizations to encourage and subsidize the use of “greener” transportation.

“When you make more parking you get more cars … We aren’t moving towards rethinking how to make it easier for people to get out of their cars. When I look at the schools neither one of them has a continuous sidewalk around them,” said Dorph, adding that he believes Jermain Avenue is a very dangerous intersection for children traveling from one school building to the other. “How can our [local] leadership make it easier and safer for kids to get to school without driving.”

If the district saves money by creating a parking section for compact cars, Dr. Gratto said some of these funds will be redirected towards biking and walking initiatives. Wilcoxen added that several ideas were discussed on Friday including installing covered bike racks on the campus, having older students monitor a crosswalk for community service credits and creating a bike lane from Mount Misery to the school. In addition, Morris floated the idea of a walking bus in which children would form a group that walks to school together.

Several parents who live in North Haven and Noyac don’t want their children biking or walking because of the conditions of the roads, added Miller, pointing out that roads and sidewalks need to be conducive to other modes of transportation.

Miller added the issue of parking and pervasiveness of cars hints at a deeper problem on the East End. There are limited public transportation options, said Miller. She pointed out the parents, village and townships need to make a commitment to walking and bike riding to further these efforts.

The parking project will be up for a vote in December as part of the nearly$6 million bond for facilities improvements. However, Dorph would like to see the parking project as a separate line vote from other bond items to gauge if there is sufficient public support for the project. The board of education will discuss the parking plan at the next board of education meeting on Monday, October 5, at 7:30 p.m.

What About the Auditorium?

 In addition to the parking plan, the long-range planning committee proposed a $12,131,263 construction of a new auditorium located in the Pierson courtyard. The pricey project, however, won’t make it onto the ballot this year due to the expense, said school board president Walter Wilcoxen. Instead, the school will spend around $70,000 to update the air conditioning system, install new carpeting and floor lighting. The board is exploring creating a foundation to procure private funds to construct a new auditorium.

Principal Will Retire, Says This Time She’s Sure

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Over her 20 year tenure at the Sag Harbor Elementary School, principal Joan Frisicano has amassed a collection of kid-friendly items in her first floor office. Glass dishes filled with lollipops and candy lay atop her conference table. Her floor to ceiling bookcases are lined with children’s books and student artwork decorates her walls.
Last fall, after Frisicano announced she would retire in January 2009, students taped color-paper renderings of Frisicano’s favorite insect, the lady bug, on her office windows. Even though Frisicano rescinded her decision in November, almost one week after her announcement, the lady bugs have stayed up.
But come September, the lady bugs along with the rest of Frisicano’s office belongings will be packed up as she will retire before the new school year begins.
“When I resigned back in the fall, it was a hasty decision. The reaction that I got from the community and teachers had a negative appearance and that wasn’t my intent. I didn’t want [my leaving] to be disruptive to the school,” said Frisicano of her first retirement announcement.
Frisicano added that she also decided to stay with the school through an uncertain budget year. With the possibility of program cuts if the school budget didn’t pass, Frisicano said she wanted to stay at the helm of the school and lend her experience if cuts had to be made.
Frisicano first came to the school in 1989. Under her leadership Sag Harbor Elementary flourished into a Blue Ribbon school, recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its excellence.
“The school is a place where children are valued and they are eager to learn. We have a staff that is willing and equipped to provide outstanding instruction,” opined Frisicano. She added that offerings like “Morning Program” help create the feeling of a “school family,” a concept Frisicano has championed during her tenure.
“With Joan it is all about the kids,” said assistant principal Matt Malone.
Although retiring from her role as a Sag Harbor school administrator, Frisicano said she will likely pursue another position or different career.
“I started looking at where I am age-wise and I think I have one more step to go in my career, but I haven’t put my finger on it yet. All my thoughts right now are about leaving everything at the school in a good place,” Frisicano remarked. “I know I am not moving away. I can’t imagine any place better to live.”
The position of Bridgehampton School Superintendent will be up for grabs in the next year when current superintendent Dr. Dianne Youngblood retires, but Frisicano said she doesn’t have any intention of pursuing this post at the moment.
“I haven’t applied for that job. I am very happy with what I am doing here. I want to work through the summer and make sure that it is a smooth opening for next year,” remarked Frisicano.
As of yet, Frisicano hasn’t handed in her official letter of resignation to the board of education. Once the letter is submitted, the school will begin the search for a new candidate, said superintendent Dr. John Gratto. Dr. Gratto added, though, that the school is already eying a Sag Harbor administrator to fill Frisicano’s shoes.
“Typically, we would do a search to find the best candidate, but I believe that we already have the best candidate – Matt Malone. He understands the culture of the community,” said Dr. Gratto. “Joan has been thinking about retirement for over a year now and she has done an excellent job of grooming [him] for that position.”
Malone has been a member of the Sag Harbor School community for almost 14 years. For roughly four years, he has worked as assistant principal.
Of his candidacy for the position, Malone said “I love being a part of the Sag Harbor district. It has been an absolute pleasure working here. Working under Joan, I gained the knowledge and experience to be a solid candidate.”
Though Frisicano didn’t name Malone as a potential contender for the job, she did say the incoming principal should “be themselves.”
“I don’t believe in people trying to replicate somebody else. They should be their own thinkers,” remarked Frisicano.
Frisicano added she is excited to embark on the next phase of her career, but her exit from the school is bittersweet.
“A lot of who I am and who I identify myself as is [wrapped up in] this school,” lamented Frisicano. “I think September will come and I will probably be in shock.”

Cafeteria night in the Sag Harbor School District – What’s for dinner?

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With the winter holidays quickly approaching, the Sag Harbor Elementary School took the initiative to host a special night where both parents and students could learn about nutritious and healthy ways to eat during a time of year when overeating is more likely than not.

Last Friday the school sponsored a “What’s for Dinner” workshop at Pierson High School, where elementary age kids cooked dinner in the cafeteria downstairs (with supervision of course), while their parents heard a presentation by a nutritionist upstairs. Approximately 64 students and their parents attended the event along with volunteers and guest chefs who helped the students create a meal for their parents. On the menu for the evening was pasta, and the kids were given all the ingredients to create their own version of the dish, with the stipulation that each portion would include a protein and at least two vegetables.

“It could not have been better,” said assistant principal Matt Malone. “We had such a good turnout.”

The evening started out smooth — all the kids were divided into small groups and were given a variety of different vegetables to cut. The youngsters sat at tables equipped with over-sized sanitary gloves and plastic knives and plates.

“The plates are biodegradable and made of corn, limestone and potato,” said elementary school guidance counselor Michelle Grant.

The children confidently chopped and cut the additional ingredients to put in their pasta with help from elementary school principal Joan Frisicano, Malone and Grant among others.

The children also learned about the different food groups. Some of the additional ingredients for the pasta dinner included chickpeas, turkey meatballs and chicken. As the children sat at their tables, they each chose a group leader to help choose which vegetables would be used in the pasta creation.

“I’ll be the cook,” a young boy said as he grabbed a piece of paper outlining the ingredients from the middle of the table, “Okay,” he said, “who likes broccoli?”

Two tiny hands shot up and answered with enthusiasm in unison, “I do.”

 

 

The kids each chose their own foods and worked well in their small groups as they also prepared a fresh salad and chose from broccoli, tomato, carrots or cranberries. For desert the students created a fruit cobbler with the option of blueberry, apple or pear. The beverage for the evening was water, served with a lemon, lime or orange for taste.

“It was great to see the kids enjoying it,” former school board president and volunteer for the evening, Sandi Kruel, said on Monday, “I am fortunate that we got to do that.”

Meanwhile, upstairs in the library parents were learning from

“You have the perfect babysitters tonight,” Silver told the group of about 60 parents.

Silver noted that her presentation was a simple way for parents and kids to remember portion size. She explained that each person has a different size fist, in proportion to his or her body size, and this is a good indication of how much a person should be eating. Silver explained that for children, the fists are smaller, so the portion size should be smaller.

“Anyone can just look at their hands and see what the portion size should be,” said Silver.

In a handout for parents, Silver explained that every person — adult or child — can choose one fist of starch, protein, milk or dairy and two fists sizes of fruit or vegetables in putting together a meal. The thumb, she explained, can be used to gauge fat intake — the thumb tip, for example, is a good measure for an olive oil serving and the entire thumb for fatty foods like avocados and nuts.

One parent asked what kinds of juice children should drink. Silver responded that children should not be drinking a lot of juice, and recommended limiting it.

“Juice displaces other calories and fills them up,” she said, “it may give them vitamin C with the calories but they are missing out on other foods.”

When the parents went down to join their children in the cafeteria, Silver said she noticed how happy and proud the kids were with what they had created.

“Sense the children’s enthusiasm,” Silver said to parents, “look at what they made and try to incorporate it at home.”

Volunteers helped prep some of the ingredients ahead of time, including pre-cooking pasta, meatballs and other items on the menu. Kruel, said it would not have been possible without all the help from the other volunteers. Pierson High School lunch program, head chef, Lisa Becker helped prepare alongside Kevin Kruel and Kevin Major. Peter and Pam Miller, parents and former restaurant owners, also provided help on Friday, backed by Lauren Chapman, author of several cookbooks. Lesley Yardley, Jodi Crowley, Kathleen Mulcahy were also a part of the production.