Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor School District"

Athletic Director in Sag Harbor will Oversee School Health & Wellness

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By Amanda Wyatt

With only nine weeks to go before Interim Athletic Director J. Wayne Shierant retires from his post, the Sag Harbor School District has begun the search for a permanent, full time Athletic Director.

At its October 15 meeting, the Sag Harbor Board of Education informally approved a job description for the new Director of Athletics, Health, Nutrition, Wellness, and Personnel, which was developed by Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso.

Both the description and a memo to potential applicants from the superintendent have been posted to the school’s website. According to Dr. Bonuso, the position will also be sent to several list serves for Section XI and county athletic associations.

“Whether it’s an in-house person or somebody from the outside, we want to make sure that word gets out so that we have as large and as good a population of people interviewing for the position as possible,” he said.

A large portion of discussion at Monday’s meeting centered on the decision to make the position full-time rather than part time. While a couple of community members brought up the issue of the cost of hiring a full-time athletic director — a figure that has not been determined — the BOE said that it was necessary for the district.

Dr. Bonuso said creating a part-time position would limit the pool of potential candidates, maintaining that a full-time job would be much more attractive to applicants.

“When someone has a part-time position, generally it’s not long-term,” agreed board vice president Chris Tice. “You want someone who’s committed and long-term.”

“It’s time for us to say that there is a need, we’ve increased our teams, we’ve increased our fields, and [members of our athletic staff] have the right to have the right person running that ship for us,” said board member Susan Kinsella.

And as fellow member Ed Drohan added, not having a strong athletic director was “like a ship without a rudder.”

Currently, the new athletic director position is described as a 12-month, full time, tenure-track administrative position. Qualifications for the position include a master’s degree in education or administration and “successful experience in administration,” among other requirements.

The job responsibilities are extensive, ranging from the supervision and evaluation of teachers and coaches and others in the department to the “interpretation” of health, physical education, wellness and recreation programs.

In addition to the typical duties of an athletic director, the position also entails personnel management. The job description lists recordkeeping, recruitment, preparing reports and other tasks as required duties.

According to the tentative timeline listed on the memo, applications are due by Friday, November 9. On November 13 and 14, applications will be screened, and on November 16 or November 20, the first round of interviews will take place. The second round of interviews will be held on November 27.

Ideally, the memo says, the selected candidate will be recommended to the BOE on Monday, December 3.

Another topic of discussion at Monday’s Board of Education meeting was transportation. The BOE approved several transfers from the 2012-2013 budget, reallocating funds due to the passage of the previous bus proposition. A total of $405,397.18 was transferred from contractual expenses to workers’ compensation, salaries, additional pay and fuel for the district’s self-operating transportation system.

Business administrator John O’Keefe also gave a presentation on the bus system, noting that Sag Harbor had added a route and doubled its fleet of district-run vehicles from last year.

At the meeting, the BOE said members plan to meet with representatives from School Leadership, LLC regarding the selection of a permanent superintendent. The special meeting, which will take place on October 24, will not be open to the public.

In other news, the BOE voted to approve the district’s Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) plan at a special meeting on October 10. As of press time, the plan had not been finalized, but it is expected to soon be made available to the public on the school’s website.

Sag Harbor Community Coalition Debates Accuracy of Teen Substance Abuse Survey

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By Amanda Wyatt

Two months after new statistics on drug and alcohol use among Pierson Middle/High School students sent shockwaves across Sag Harbor, the Community Coalition met last Thursday night to discuss the results of the survey which triggered such a strong reaction.

Roughly 20 citizens gathered in the Pierson Middle/High School library for the third Community Coalition on the evening of September 27. While other items were on the agenda, the coalition devoted the span of the meeting to addressing the Youth Development Survey (YDS).

The YDS, which was administered to 339 Sag Harbor students in grades seven through 12 in December 2010, was part of a larger effort by the New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to look at substance use and other “problem behaviors” among students.

At last week’s meeting, Kym Laube, director of the Westhampton Beach-based organization HUGS, Inc. (Human Understanding and Growth Seminars), presented a summary of the YDS data. Before handing out hard copies of the data, she stressed the survey does not provide a complete picture of Sag Harbor students.

“I caution that this is one data point in beginning to take a look at your community,” said Laube, noting that it does not paint a complete picture of Sag Harbor students.

The merits of the survey have been hotly debated, with some residents questioning the accuracy of the survey and suggesting that numbers of drug and alcohol use were inflated.

According to Laube and Pamela Mizzi of the Suffolk County Prevention Resource Center, the survey used a number of data controls, including a question about a fake drug. If any student indicated they had used the imaginary drug, the survey was omitted.

Researchers also tossed surveys that appeared “extreme,” had conflicting answers and/or included doodles.

Principal Jeff Nichols estimated 400 students probably took the survey and that roughly 60 surveys were omitted for various reasons.

Still, the accuracy of the survey continued to be questioned by some. Dr. John Oppenheimer said that in the 30 years he had been practicing medicine he had become “more and more cynical” about data collection.

“I don’t think it’s unique to Sag Harbor,” he said.  “The point is that there’s a problem.”

“I agree with John that whether it’s five percent or 22 percent, it’s a problem and it needs to be addressed,” added Allison Scanlon, a North Haven parent and founder of Hamptons Youth Sports.

For Police Chief Tom Fabiano, the survey was “a stepping stone.” He mentioned that Sag Harbor could use the data as a tool for identifying the problems in the community and looking at what other communities are doing that is effective.

At the same time, Laube noted, “Time and time again, no matter how [researchers] have done this, they’ve found that it’s accurate information.”

Laube said the data was consistent, although Pierson students ranked higher or lower than their county, town and nationwide counterparts on certain questions.

For example, no Pierson eighth grader had reported using marijuana in the past 30 days, compared to eight percent nationally. Only two percent of Pierson eighth graders had used tobacco in the past 30 days, lower than six percent nationally.

However, Pierson students generally reported greater use of alcohol than their counterparts in Southampton Town, Suffolk County and in the nation.

For example, 77 percent of Pierson seniors reported using alcohol in the past 30 days, compared to 57 percent in the county and 41 percent nationally. And while 22 percent of 11th and 12th graders reported binge drinking nationally, 41 percent of Pierson juniors and seniors reported they binge drank.

Community Coalition participant Helen Atkinson-Barnes suggested the coalition take a “pro-social messaging” approach to dealing with the data. For instance, rather than reporting 39 percent of eighth graders have had at least one alcoholic drink in their lifetime, the coalition could focus on the 61 percent who have never consumed alcohol.

The discussion on drugs and alcohol will continue at the next Community Coalition meeting, which is scheduled for October 18 at 5:45 PM.

REVISED: Lady Whalers Dominate Under Homecoming Lights

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By Gavin Menu; Photography by Michael Heller

By Gavin Menu

Pierson High School celebrated homecoming on Saturday with the first night field hockey game in school history, although it was Bridgehampton student India Hemby who was named “Da Playa” of the game following Pierson-Bridgehampton’s dominant 5-0 win over Port Jefferson.

Hemby was awarded the team’s self-made and somewhat tattered player-of-the-game hat after she scored two goals to lead the Lady Whalers to victory. Standing in the glow of the portable lights, with “Da Playa” hat firmly positioned on her head, Hemby joked, “I don’t even go to school here!”

“It’s not my homecoming but playing under the lights in front of all these people was great motivation for us,” Hemby continued, having turned more serious. “It was really fun out here for us.”

The Sag Harbor Booster Foundation raised funds for this year’s homecoming events. According to club member Robert Evjen, the weekend cost roughly $5,000 to put on. The Sag Harbor Booster Foundation, in conjunction with the Sag Harbor Fire Department, Village Police and Mashashimuet Park Board, hosted the inaugural night game under lights in front of a crowd of well over 100 people.

“We felt that having a game outdoors, in the evening, under the lights, was a way to enrich the lives of not only our student athletes, but also transfer that school spirit into community spirit,” said Evjen, who pointed out that the cost of the lights alone was $2,000.

Evjen said the booster club raises funds through community events such as last winter’s Quiz Show and Spirit Night, both of which will occur again this year. Membership is also available for $25 per year, or $150 for a lifetime membership.

“We are fortunate that we have great community support and lots of parents have become members,” Evjen said.

As for the game, the Lady Whalers responded immediately to the electric atmosphere with a first-half goal by Hemby and a dominant second half in which they scored four times. Kasey Gilbride, Claire Kunzeman and Ana Sherwood, a super talented eighth-grader, also scored for the Lady Whalers, while junior goalie Emma Romeo turned in her fifth shutout of the young season.

“It was awesome and a great honor to be the first team to play under lights,” Gilbride said. “We have to thank the Booster Club for everything they did, and the entire community for coming out to support us.”

With the win the Lady Whalers moved to 4-1 in Division III play and 6-1 overall. They have now defeated every other Class C team in Suffolk County. Port Jefferson, which fell to 0-6, Southampton and Babylon have all lost to the young, but energetic Lady Whalers this season.

“I’m excited about that, and now we have to build on it,” head coach Shannon Judge said after Saturday night’s game. “We play Southampton again on October 11, so we’ll really see where we stand then.”

The Lady Whalers played at Miller Place last night after press time and will host Rocky Point today, October 4, at 4 p.m. at Mashashimuet Park.

Pierson Homecoming This Weekend: Rain or Shine

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Homecoming is a much loved fall tradition where football rivalries and school spirit are a source of pride.

Ok, Sag Harbor has no football team — but this is a village with plenty of spirit, and Pierson’s PTSA and the Sag Harbor Booster Foundation are joining forces to make this weekend’s homecoming one to remember.

In addition to time-honored events like Friday’s bonfire at Long Beach, Saturday’s parade, skits at Mashashimuet Park, and varsity games, this year there will be some new homecoming traditions designed to appeal to all ages.

“Homecoming is seen as something for high school students, and some schools will tell you that’s the way it should be,” says Laura Matthers, secretary of the Booster Foundation. “But we’re looking at it as school spirit and we want to transfer it into community spirit. That’s the goal.”

“We’re trying to make it more community oriented so it’s not just a high school event,” adds PTSA president Stacey Britt. “[School board member] Mary Anne Miller said when her daughter was in a stroller they had so much fun going to Long Beach, getting a hot dog and watching the bonfire.”

“We’re trying to go back to that,” she adds.

This year, instead of parents flipping burgers at the beach during Friday’s bonfire, Britt has arranged for two food trucks to handle the hungry masses — Silver Spoon Specialties (which served up food at HarborFest) and an ice cream truck. The PTSA will collect a portion of the food sales.

Perhaps the most noticeable homecoming addition will be at Mashashimuet Park where the Booster Foundation is organizing the “First Annual Night of Lights.” A little tweaking of the field hockey schedule has ensured a nice match up against Port Jefferson Saturday and the Booster Foundation has rented lights to make the game a special event.

The Booster Foundation will also offer a full concession stand at the park and high school varsity athletes will lead soccer and field hockey clinics during the day on Saturday for grades K-6.

“One of our missions is to bring together the schools, and this was the best thing we could think of,” says Matthers. “The kids are enamored of the athletes, and the athletes love to show what they can do.”

“It’s a simple, no brainer kind of thing,” adds Matthers. “The athletes love it, and the kids touch base with players they’ve read about in the newspaper.”


Pierson Homecoming 2012 Schedule

Friday, September 28

Boys Varsity Soccer vs Stony Brook – 4:30 p.m.

Bonfire and pep rally at Long Beach – 6 to 9 p.m.

Saturday, September 29

Homecoming Parade – Main Street to Mashashimuet Park followed by skits at the grandstand – 9 to 10:30 a.m.

Field Hockey Clinic for grades 2-6 —12:30-1:30 p.m.

Girls Varsity Soccer vs Port Jefferson – noon

Soccer Clinic for grades K-6 – 2 to 3 p.m.

JV Girls Field Hockey vs Port Jefferson – 5:30 p.m.

Varsity Girls Field Hockey vs Port Jefferson – 7 p.m.

Sag School Board Dusts Off Capital Project Plans

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By Amanda Wyatt

Plans for Sag Harbor School District’s capital project proposal — an initiative to tackle maintenance and building projects within the school district, that some say have been pushed to the backburner for too long — were resurrected at Monday night’s board of education (BOE) meeting.

Larry Salvesen of the architectural firm Burton, Behrendt & Smith addressed the board and members of the community on revised plans for improving the district’s buildings and grounds. Salvesen’s presentation took place on September 24, a year since he last addressed the BOE on the project.

This year, there are approximately 121 items included in the capital project list, which seeks to make improvements in building integrity, code compliance, health and safety, and energy conservation.

BOE Vice President Chris Tice said the school’s facilities have been neglected for too long. She urged her fellow board members to take swift action to move ahead with the project.

“Our buildings are in desperate need of some really basic maintenance,” she said. “We have areas that aren’t safe, and they don’t get safer if you leave them alone. It’s like a cavity in your mouth doesn’t get smaller if you don’t fill it.”

Salvesen agreed.

“Deteriorating conditions begin to accelerate over time. You have deteriorated conditions that have sat for years and need to be addressed,” he pointed out.

“This is so much more than anything cosmetic,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso. “You’re talking about air quality, you’re talking about safety, you’re talking about saving energy and money, frankly.”

The capital project program includes architectural improvements, such as kitchen expansion, window and flooring replacements and a partial roof replacement. The plan also involves the replacement of deteriorated walkways and asphalt areas, as well as the main entry plaza.

Ventilation improvements, the installation of carbon dioxide sensors, as well as the installation of energy-efficient electrical motors, drives and transformers are also on the plate.

The capital project plans would require a bond of $4,438,402, which is some $2 million dollars less than the project that was originally proposed. After the community voted against the district’s request for a $6,724,087 bond in December 2009, school administrators and the Long Range Planning Committee made a number of reductions to the proposal.

The fall 2012 capital project proposal includes $3,745,902 for the cost of basic repairs and $692,500 for reconstructing and expanding the Hampton Street and Jermain Avenue parking lots. Salvesen explained that the goal of the parking lot project is not simply to increase the number of parking spaces, but to also improve deteriorating conditions in the lot. The project also aims to increase traffic safety and maneuverability.

For example, the proposed Jermain Avenue lot is set back slightly from the street, with a landscaped island separating it from the main road. This would prevent cars from backing out directly onto the road and, possibly, into oncoming traffic.

Salvesen also presented two separate, supplemental propositions, which are not included in the capital project proposal. The first is the creation of a $1,620,000 synthetic turf field and a two-lane rubberized walking/jogging track. An additional $675,000 would be used for the installation of stadium-style lighting, so that students could use this new field in the evening.

With the supplemental propositions added to the cost of the Capital Project, the potential total would be $6,733,402. This figure is just slightly higher than the Capital Project of 2009’s total of $6,724,087.

President Theresa Samot suggested discussing the proposal with the school’s Long Range Planning Committee. Once these discussions have taken place, the BOE will present the committee’s recommendations at its next meeting in November.

If a decision is made, the district will put the proposed amount of money up for bond, and the community can vote on whether or not to approve the amount. However, the BOE said, a vote to approve the proposed bond would probably not take place until at least the early spring, and repairs would not begin until summer.

Lady Whalers Off to Promising Start

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By Gavin Menu

Most field hockey players and fall athletes in general will look sluggish at times early into a new season as they come around to the physical demands of playing full speed for an entire game. And then there is Kasey Gilbride.

Pierson-Bridgehampton’s all-everything junior midfielder was in overdrive from start to finish during a convincing 4-0 victory over Riverhead in the team’s season-opener at Mashashimuet Park on September 7. Gilbride dominated the action and scored a second-half goal that seemingly came straight from the barrel of a high –powered rocket launcher.

“Kasey played phenomenally,” head coach Shannon Judge said following the game.

Prior to her goal, which put the Lady Whalers up 2-0, Gilbride was angry over a no-call by the referee that would have resulted in a corner for the Lady Whalers. But rather than sulk, she immediately called for the ball at the top of the shooting circle and fired a laser two meters off the ground into the back of the Riverhead net. It was clear from that moment that the Lady Whalers, with Gilbride in the lead, would be a force to be reckoned with this 2012 season.

“She can be pretty intense,” Judge said of her junior captain. “She played very well today and she’s also a great teacher out there.”

The Lady Whalers improved to 2-0 in non-league play on Tuesday with a 6-0 win over Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island, with Gilbride netting three goals and two assists.

The team was scheduled to play Babylon in a non-league game on Wednesday after press time in a game that was important, according to Judge, since Babylon is a fellow Class C school from Division II, and a win would help her apply for a playoff exemption at the end of the season should Pierson fail to land in the top six in Division III, which is comprised of both Class B and Class C schools.

Against Riverhead, the Lady Whalers proved they would be more than just a team with one star player this season, getting solid play from their core group and goals from juniors India Hemby and Emme Luck and freshman Erica Selyukova, who rebounded another rocket shot from Gilbride for the first goal of her varsity career.

“Erica is going to be someone to watch in the future of Pierson athletics,” Judge said. “She has great athletic ability.”

Pierson had 18 shots on goal against Riverhead and dominated action on the offensive end with 10 corners to Riverhead’s three. Junior Emma Romeo, starting in goal for the first time, recorded the shutout with three saves while junior Katherine Matthers, who played limited minutes as she recovers from injuries, played well defensively.

Next up for the Lady Whalers is a game against rival Southampton at home on Wednesday, September 19 at 4:30 p.m.



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.”

Community Coalition to Combat Substance Abuse

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By Amanda Wyatt

In order to combat drug and alcohol abuse, you’ve got to bring in “the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.”

This is a favorite expression of Kym Laube, the executive director of the Westhampton-based advocacy group, Human Understanding and Growth Seminars, Inc. (HUGS). On Tuesday, August 21, Laube led Sag Harbor’s second community coalition meeting at the Pierson Middle-High School library.

Thirteen others from various sectors of society — including law enforcement, education and clergy — were also present to help build the foundation of the coalition, which is very much in its infancy.

At the meeting, Laube discussed the need for the entire community to band together. Rather than blame a particular group — such as the school, the kids or the parents — Laube believed the community must realize that dealing with substance abuse is everyone’s responsibility.

“In this field, we often say, ‘we can’t blame the fish for dying after they’ve swam in the polluted pond.’ And it’s really up to us to begin to take a look at why the pond is polluted,” she said.

Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano called on the need to bring in more parents into the coalition. While some parents have expressed interest in the group, none were present at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Other participants discussed bringing in youth, as well as school security, janitors and counselors, in order to have a more comprehensive coalition.

As Laube noted, a community coalition does not focus merely on youth. Substance abuse is just as much of a problem among adults as it is among teenagers.

Still, the discussion of underage drinking and drug use at Pierson Middle-High School remained a hot topic. After the results of the New York State OASAS Survey were released in July — showing that substance use at Pierson was generally higher than average — some Sag Harbor parents were fuming.

“I received calls from parents [who] were adamant that [the results] were exaggerated lies, [saying] we were being so mean to the children,” said school board member and parent Mary Anne Miller.

Miller, along with Vice President Chris Tice, also mentioned the need to streamline the data. Currently, the results of the OASAS survey — as well as the TAP Survey and a recent survey taken by the district — should be reviewed and assessed by a professional.

“People may not realize that there have been three surveys, or that it is consistent,” said Tice.

“The bottom line is that all of the results tell us the same things, and that’s what I’m trying to get across to people,” Miller agreed. “And that’s the denial, saying we’re ‘being mean’ to the kids. And that’s huge in this town.”

Laube attributed some of the perceived denial to the stigma surrounding substance abuse.

“When we begin talking about [substance abuse] at a school, I always hear, ‘It’s a good school,’ and ‘He’s a good kid,’” she said.

“And guess what folks? Sometimes good schools and good kids make dangerous, high-risk choices,” Laube added. “And it’s our job to bring that to light and talk about it.”

Dr. Carl Bonuso, the recently appointed district superintendent, lauded Sag Harbor for being proactive.

“I think a sign of a really good school system is that they don’t just rely on giving out information; they’re willing to ask questions,” he told the coalition.

Another topic was the possibility of becoming involved with Vet Corps, a program that partners a veteran to work full-time with community coalitions.

“They really work hand-in-hand with taking a look at substance abuse, and also looking at how that affects the vet population,” Laube explained.

She noted that after San Diego, Suffolk County has the highest amount of returning veterans. Sadly, said Laube, each day a returning veteran takes his or her own life and one out of every three of those is under the influence of a substance when they do that.

Veterans involved in the program have training in the strategic prevention framework, and would be under the supervision of HUGS, OASAS or another organization. Laube said she planned to send additional information on this possibility to the coalition.

The tentative date for the next meeting of the coalition is set for Tuesday, September 25 at 5:30 p.m.

In related school news, the Board of Education will hold their next business meeting on Monday, August 27 at 7:30 p.m.


Former Wantagh Superintendent Named Interim Superintendent for Sag Harbor

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By Amanda Wyatt

As the Sag Harbor School Board of Education continues its search for a long-term superintendent in the wake of the announcement of Dr. John Gratto’s retirement last month, on Monday, the school board unanimously approved the appointment of Dr. Carl Bonuso as the interim superintendent. A former superintendent in the Wantagh School District, Dr. Bonuso was introduced to the school community and sworn in amid applause from the Board and members of the community.

“I think we are extremely fortunate to have a professional of Dr. Bonuso’s caliber assuming this important role for our very special school district,” said School Board President Theresa Samot at the meeting.

Samto said that Dr. Bonuso’s first day working for the school district would be on Wednesday. Dr. Gratto’s last day is on Friday. According to board members, Dr. Bonuso is expected to serve as the interim superintendent for the majority of the 2012-2013 school year.

His salary will be for $170,155.

“I look at the position of interim superintendent as not an ‘in the meantime’ superintendent,” Dr. Bonuso said at the meeting. “I look at the position as an opportunity to join the Sag Harbor family.”

“I am duly impressed by the passion, by the intellect, and by the heart displayed in this room tonight,” he continued. “It truly makes me thankful and honored to join the family.”

Samot said that in the Board of Education’s search for an interim superintendent, School Leadership recommended that they hire a retiree.

“We really needed someone experienced, who could jump in and take over immediately,” she said.

While the firm recommended “some excellent candidates,” she noted that the board was in total agreement that Dr. Bonuso was best for the job.

Dr. Bonuso, who was recommended by same firm that suggested Superintendent Dr. John Gratto, has spent 37 years in the public education system. In addition to serving as the superintendent of Wantagh Schools for a decade, he has also been an interim superintendent, assistant superintendent of instruction and personnel, principal, assistant principal, educational consultant and a social studies teacher.

Dr. Bonuso has served as an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University and Dowling College and as an APPR trainer at Nassau BOCES. For several years, he has also been the editor-in-chief of the Long Island Educational Review, a peer-reviewed education journal.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, Dr. Bonuso has lived in Suffolk County for the past 25 years. He has two adult daughters, Cristy and Cara, with his wife of many years, Cristina.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in economics from Hofstra University, Dr. Bonuso joined the U.S. Army Artillery during the Vietnam Era. In an interview, he said that his duties involved serving as a training officer. Oddly enough, he explained, this is where he fell in love with education.

“Now granted, there’s quite a difference between teaching hand-to-hand combat and social studies,” he laughed.

After his time in the service, he briefly went into the business world before going back to Hofstra University to study education. He spent 12 years as a teacher before he went into administration. Still, Dr. Bonuso said, “teaching has always been my favorite job.”

As an administrator, Dr. Bonuso said he wants to make sure that “there is not only curricular development, but community development. The best programs are the ones not just with the best programs, but with the best people and the best partnerships.”

Dr. Bonuso also mentioned that he is concerned about keeping Sag Harbor financially solvent.

“All school districts, of course, are working in a very difficult fiscal environment,” he said. “We have everything from tax caps to one unfunded [state] mandate after another. So that is a challenge — to maintain educational excellence in that fiscal environment.”

As Dr. Bonuso begins his tenure in Sag Harbor, Dr. Gratto — who has been superintendent for the past four years — is preparing to leave the district. At the August 13 board meeting, Gratto received applause and a standing ovation for his service, as well as a certificate of appreciation.

“When you leave a job, you can look at the place you’re leaving and say, ‘is it in better shape now than when I got here?’” said Vice President Chris Tice. “And from four years ago to now, the district is in so much better shape, and that was under [Gratto’s] leadership.”

“I also want to give kudos to the administrators, too,” said Gratto. “Thank you for the accolades you’re giving me, but the administrators are the backbone, the people who get things done.”



Survey Shows Higher Than Average Drug & Alcohol Use in Sag Harbor

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The results are in, and they confirm what some had already suspected: the rates of alcohol and drug use among Sag Harbor students are higher than average.
According to recently released data from the 2010-2011 Suffolk County Youth Development Survey (YDS), students at Pierson Middle/High School tend to drink, smoke and take drugs more than most students in Suffolk County.
The YDS survey was part of a larger effort by the New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to look at substance use and other “problem behaviors” — gambling, delinquency, violence and handguns — among seventh through 12th graders. The 200-question survey also measured factors that help to prevent or contribute to these behaviors.
The survey included a total of 16,119 students in 13 Suffolk County school districts. Sag Harbor and Westhampton were the only districts on the East End that participated.
However, only 339 Pierson students were surveyed.
“Sag Harbor is a small school district, and differences are more profound with smaller [sample sizes],” said Pamela Mizzi, director of prevention at the Suffolk County Prevention Resource Center.
Mizzi noted that the survey essentially measures student perception of drug and alcohol use.
 “[It shows] the children’s understanding of their risk and protective factors, and we rely on their honesty on the questions about their use,” she said.
According to one Pierson parent, who wished her name not be published in the newspaper, some students did not provide honest answers while taking the survey, escalating their drug and alcohol use on paper far beyond reality.
Former school board president Mary Anne Miller originally suggested the survey. While at a school board convention several years ago, she met members of the PRC who were conducting a prevention workshop, and she asked them for advice.
“They told me, ‘You can’t attack a problem unless you know what your problems are. Every community has different challenges, so you need data’,” Miller recalled. “They were the ones who encouraged me to go back to the school and ask them to participate in the OASAS survey.”
The survey confirmed that alcohol was undoubtedly the Sag Harbor School District’s main challenge. Roughly 92 percent of Pierson juniors and seniors reported using alcohol in their lifetime, compared to 77 percent of the same age group in Suffolk County. However, about 65 percent of the school’s 11th and 12th graders reported drinking in a 30 day period before taking the survey, and 41 percent said they had engaged in binge drinking.
While about 53 percent of freshmen and sophomores in the county reported using alcohol, the statistic was 67 percent for Pierson. In the 30-day assessment, 32 percent of the school’s ninth and tenth graders said they had consumed alcohol, and 22.4 percent reporting they had binged.
In the 30 day assessment, about 8 percent of Pierson seventh and eighth graders said they had consumed alcohol, and 4.6 percent reported binge drinking. Roughly 28 percent had used alcohol in their lifetime, compared to the county average of 21 percent.
Almost 70 percent of Pierson juniors and seniors and roughly 37 percent of freshmen and sophomores reported that they drank at someone else’s home. However, it was more common for seventh and eighth graders to drink at home, either with or without parental permission.
The survey also measured the lifetime use of “any illicit drug,” which included all substances except for alcohol and tobacco. Just under a quarter of Pierson seventh and eighth graders said they had used illicit drugs, compared to the county average of about 14 percent.
Slightly less than 40 percent of Pierson freshmen and sophomores said they had taken illicit drugs, compared to the county average of 27 percent. However, some 65 percent of Pierson juniors and seniors reported using illicit drugs, compared to the county average of 46 percent.
Roughly 54 percent of Pierson juniors and seniors said they used marijuana in their lifetime, compared to 39 percent in Suffolk County. About 25 percent of freshmen and sophomores said they had used marijuana, which was higher than the county average of 16 percent. However, marijuana use among seventh and eighth graders was about two percent, which was slightly lower than the county average.
Approximately 46 percent of Pierson juniors and seniors reported they had smoked cigarettes, compared to the county average of roughly 25 percent. Among the school’s freshmen and sophomores, it was about 23 percent, or 10 points higher than the county average. While nine percent of Pierson seventh and eighth graders said they had smoked cigarettes in their lifetime, the county average was 4 percent.
The use of prescription drugs, inhalants, chewing tobacco and over-the-counter medications was also reported in somewhat smaller numbers. A very low percentage of kids reported trying cocaine and heroin.
Pierson also scored high on a number of risk factors for drug and alcohol use, including “low neighborhood attachment.” Studies have shown that students who feel connected to their neighborhoods tend to engage less in drinking and substance use. However, Miller noted that in a seasonal community like Sag Harbor, children don’t always know their neighbors.
The survey also reported that some students thought their parents’ attitudes were somewhat “favorable” to substance use. For this reason, district superintendent Dr. John Gratto felt that parents needed to get more involved in combating substance use.
“Kids adopt the values of their parents, generally,” Dr. Gratto said. “If it’s culturally acceptable to drink and use drugs here, then that’s what kids learn.”
According to school board president Theresa Samot, the school will be moving forward in anti-drug and alcohol efforts.
“When I first saw the results, I thought there was a need to really look into this further and start some problem solving,” said Samot. “We’ll certainly want to do more surveys and collect more information.”
 “I think there’s certainly a need for more education and collaboration with the community,” she said.  “The coalition is certainly a good start towards that, so we can really involve different groups in the community and a have a focused effort.”