Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor School District"

Principal: Jermain Avenue Parking Lot “Unsafe” for Student Drop Offs

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By Amanda Wyatt

Traffic and parking have always been tricky at Pierson Middle/High School, and the oft-discussed issue seems to be surfacing once again.

Last week, Jeff Nichols, Pierson’s principal, sent home a letter reminding families not to use the lot on the corner of Jermain Avenue by the gym, which he described as an “unsafe drop off/pick up zone.”

“Too much is going on in that lot and it’s not set up to accommodate [that much traffic],” Nichols said in an interview on Tuesday.

Instead, he explained, parents and others driving students to school should use the Division Street lot, which “goes a little smoother in terms of drop off and pick up.”

Since consulting with Sag Harbor Village Police on traffic flow a few years ago, the school has sent out several similar letters in an effort to keep students and families safe.

“The safety of the lots is always a concern,” said Nichols, noting that the board of education’seducational facilities planning committee “has been wrestling with the issue of the way lots are currently set up.”

According to Mary Anne Miller, a BOE member, the facilities committee will continue to discuss the issue.

“These problems aren’t going away,” she said this week. “It still needs to be a priority because it’s a health and safety issue. That’s simply what it is.”

In fact, in the week since Nichols sent out the letter to parents, Miller has personally noticed increased traffic — and congestion — in the Division Street lot.

But the solution to solving congestion and safety issues in the lots, she said, would be “multifaceted.”

“No one endorses big ugly parking lots. We don’t want to make them bigger; we want to fix the one we have,” Miller said.

Miller would like to see the Jermain lot delineated from the main road. She would also like to see more sidewalks and landscaping, which would not only be an “aesthetic improvement,” but would also promote walking.

And that, for Miller, is “the educational piece, which is culture change — what we can continue to do to rely less on traffic and spend more time biking and walking, keep our village beautiful and be better neighbors.”

John Shaka, a board member of Save Sag Harbor and a proponent of active transport, agreed.

Shaka pointed out that already, several East End municipalities have received federal Safe Routes to School grants, which can be used to fund improvements like new sidewalks and crosswalks near schools.

Community members in Sag Harbor attempted to put together their own proposal for a Safe Routes to School grant several years ago. But as Miller explained, the village sits in two townships, and neither municipality was willing to sponsor the grant.

Still, Shaka said he was “interested in resurrecting that grant,” and Miller said, “There’s no reason why we can’t keep that door open.”

“We owe it to the neighborhood to make it safer and more functional, and we certainly owe it to the families and the students to make it safer,” said Miller.

Sag Harbor to Join South Fork School Districts in Grant to Explore Shared Services, Consolidation

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South Fork school districts are banding together for a second time in the hopes of earning a state grant to explore the possibility of school district consolidation and ways in which districts can work together to share services (and save some money).

After a consortium of East End schools failed to obtain a Local Government Efficiency Grant last fall, a number of districts — including Sag Harbor — are joining forces again to reapply for the same grant this year.

Last March, school districts and Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) applied for the grant, which could have provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for a study on how they might consolidate or share services.

Despite strong support from New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele and New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, the districts learned in October that they had not been selected for the grant.

At Monday evening’s board of education meeting, it was announced that Sag Harbor School District was looking once again to partner with BOCES and other districts on the grant application.

“We would like to join with our neighbors and resubmit that application for funding for this grant,” said Dr. Carl Bonuso, the district’s interim superintendent. “We want to do research regarding how we could save money by working together with our neighboring districts.”

“We’re going to take some suggestions given us in terms of the last application and see if we can tweak it and be successful this year,” he added.

Board member Mary Anne Miller, who had been BOE president during the first application process, pointed out that the grant was not “specifically [for] consolidation. It’s just one of multiple options. That was actually not the focus of the grant; shared services was the primary focus.”

The board noted that the school district was not interested in forming one large school district on the South Fork.

As Theresa Samot, school board president, said in a separate interview, the board simply hoped to find ways of “saving taxpayers money,” and that merging schools was not on the table at this time.

According to Samot, Dr. Bonuso will be meeting with several other school district administrations for the first time later this week, after which time she and other members of the board would know more about the grant. She added that the board would update the community on the process at future board of education meetings.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the board of education gave an update on the Dignity for All Students Act, anti-bullying and discrimination legislation that went into effect in July 2012.

Called “the Dignity Act,” the law prohibits discrimination based on a wide variety of factors —including race, sexual orientation, sex, gender, weight, disability and religion — in schools or at school-sponsored events. For the first time, faculty and staff in New York schools are required to undergo training on how to deal with bullying and discrimination, and they must also report incidents in a timely manner.

Board members noted that the district planned to hold additional workshops on cyber-bullying and other related topics in the coming months.

Gary Kalish, assistant principal of Pierson High School, serves as Pierson Middle/High School’s coordinator for the Dignity Act. He said it was important to let students “know that all of these different kinds of harassment and discrimination is unacceptable.”

“And it’s my job to take care of it, not yours,” he added.

According to Matthew Malone, principal of Sag Harbor Elementary School, one of the important parts about the legislation was identifying the need for ongoing education about what bullying is.

The Internet, added board vice president Chris Tice, has changed the face of bullying. For example, she said, students will use social media websites or seemingly harmless cell phone applications like Instagram – a photo sharing service tied to Facebook – to bully or harass classmates.

Tice added that education about technology and bullying needs to take place for elementary school children.

“That wasn’t around two years ago. Instagram is another form of communication and kids are doing it in school in most grades,” she said.

Parents, said Tice, also need to be educated about the kinds of technology out there being harnessed as a tool for bullying.

“Their parents have a responsibility there, but I bet most parents don’t even understand Instagram,” she said. “I think the technology is really what’s ramped up a lot of the bullying, even at young ages, and I don’t think we’re doing as much as we could be in that area.”

Sag Harbor Traffic & Transportation Forum Slated for Saturday

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By Kathryn G. Menu

As a child living in a house on Main Street, Jonas Hagen remembers practically growing up on the streets of Sag Harbor with his friends.

“We would literally just walk around all day,” said Hagen, an urban planner living in Manhattan who still visits his family in Sag Harbor on a regular basis.

Now, says Hagen, the idea of his sister’s children – who live in the village — making their way from Main Street or the local schools to Mashashimuet Park by themselves does raise red flags.

“Sag Harbor grew as a pedestrian village, so it is inherently pretty easy to get around, but I think in recent years with the increase in automobile traffic it has become more difficult to get around,” he said, “particularly for the more vulnerable populations – children and the elderly.”

It is for this very reason that Hagen has been tapped to lead a community workshop organized by the not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor this Saturday. The Sag Harbor Active Transport Workshop will be held in the parish hall behind St. Andrew’s Catholic Church on Division Street from 1 to 4 p.m.

The workshop is open to the public and aimed at discussing both the problems, as well as creative solutions, to address traffic calming and transportation needs in the village. Topics will include traffic calming, bicycle lanes, sidewalks, Safe Routes to School programs, parking, public transportation, the use of public and green space and any other related issues residents want to discuss.

“The idea is to get people together and hear about the concerns they have about getting around our village,” said Hagen.

Elizabeth Mendelman, a member of the Springs School District Board of Education, will also speak at the meeting at 3 p.m. That district just secured over $580,000 in Safe Routes to School funding for sidewalks and other improvements.

Championing initiatives in Sag Harbor like Safe Routes to School and others that promote walking and biking, and help reduce the amount of traffic in village is hardly new.

In 2007 and 2008, parent Ken Dorph spearheaded a movement to persuade Sag Harbor Village, and later Southampton Town, to seek out Safe Routes to School funding. The program would have provided for improvements to make biking and walking to Sag Harbor Elementary School and Pierson Middle/High School easier — and safer — for students.

However, both initiatives failed to find funding support from local municipalities, which was required in order to apply for the grant.

Locally, in addition to the Springs School District, which was awarded funding through an application made by East Hampton Town in January, Southampton and Tuckahoe school districts have also been the recipients of Safe Routes to School funding.

Safe Routes to School is a national grant program launched in 2005 by Congress. In New York State, the Department of Transportation administers the program, which has provided over $1.15 billion in funding nationally.

Safe Routes to School, however, will not be the only topic on the agenda during Saturday’s brainstorming session. According to Save Sag Harbor board member Susan Mead — who worked with fellow board member John Shaka on organizing Saturday’s event — the organization views the meeting as the first part of a serious initiative to develop a comprehensive traffic calming and transportation plan for Sag Harbor.

“John and I both live on busy streets — Hampton and Main — and we noticed the increase in traffic this last summer,” said Mead. “We really want to focus on issue identification. Different streets have different issues, and of course the walk to school program is something we also have to take a look at because it is important we take an integrated approach to slowing down cars, while also aiding pedestrians and cyclists.”

Mead said for Save Sag Harbor, taking a serious look at traffic and transportation issues in the village was a natural progression from its focus on the business district and development.

“Our goal is keeping Sag Harbor in a healthy balance,” she said. “And addressing transportation and traffic issues is a part of keeping the village functional.”

Sag Harbor School District’s State Aid Cut

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By Amanda Wyatt

In the midst of preparing its budget for next year, the Sag Harbor School District may potentially hit a roadblock with the recent announcement of a sizeable reduction in the aid it receives from New York State.

During a budget workshop on Monday evening, John O’Keefe, the district’s business administrator, presented the board of education with a preliminary estimate of anticipated state aid based on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recently released executive budget for 2013-2014.

Next year, it looks as though Sag Harbor may receive $1,308,882 in aid, compared to 2012-2013’s base year aid of $1,440,778. This represents a cut of 9.15 percent or $131,896, said O’Keefe.

“This isn’t just Sag Harbor,” he noted. “This is any district that has a high wealth ratio…There are dramatic drops across the board and throughout the island, as well, depending upon the wealth of the district.”

However, it appears as though Sag Harbor stands to lose more funds than many other districts on the East End. For example, Bridgehampton could face a reduction of $46,529, while Southampton and East Hampton may see reductions of $42,397 and $77,769, respectively.

“So it’s something we’ll have to keep an eye on as we go forward in the budget process,” O’Keefe said. “[But] there’s no sense of panic or anything yet. We’re budgeting very conservatively, both on the revenue side and on the expense side.”

However, he added, these projections were based on incomplete data, and the final state budgets are usually “more generous.” By April, the district should know the final amount of aid it will receive.

The district’s new athletic director, Todd Gulluscio, and Montgomery Granger, the director of buildings and grounds, were also on hand to present the budgets for athletics and facilities, respectively.

Gulluscio noted that this year, Sag Harbor has 61 athletic teams — 35 of which are hosted by the school — and approximately 373 students participating in sports.

The proposed athletic budget for 2013-2014 is $855,607.49, which is a $17,107.99 or two percent increase from this year’s budget. Gulluscio said that this is partially due to an increase in salaries, including the shift from a part-time to a full time athletic director.

According to Granger, the district plans to spend $385,500 in fuel, electricity and gas, which is $24,812 or six percent less than the current energy budget.

Some of the money saved, he said, may be put into improvements in security, including cameras, door sensors and a buzzer system.

The operations budget for next year is $597,300, which is $44,253 or 6.9 percent less than this year’s budget. The maintenance budget is $495,500, which is $31,051 or 5.9 percent less than this year’s budget.

Granger also gave an update on the district’s capital projects, which are all fully funded. The district has $249 left over from construction of the elementary school’s playground, and a balance of $56,950 for energy conservation. There is also $90,400 remaining for health and safety projects and $500,000 for energy management (HVAC) projects.

The next budget workshop will be held on February 11.

Bridgehampton School Earns Middle States Accreditation

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By Amanda Wyatt

After years of intensive study and work, the Bridgehampton School has been accredited for the first time by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

At the board of education’s (BOE) most recent meeting, Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre proudly displayed the school’s certification, which will last for the next seven years.

“Being accredited is validation that the Bridgehampton School Community is on the right track with regard to curriculum alignment, student achievement and recognizing our strengths, as well as our needs,” said Dr. Favre in an interview this week.

Nicki Hemby, board of education president, echoed Dr. Favre’s sentiments in a separate interview.

“I am so delighted by the accreditation and I am grateful for the support and enthusiasm from our parents, students and staff members,” she said. “The entire community of Bridgehampton should be very proud.”

Hemby expressed her gratitude to Dr. Dianne Youngblood, former school superintendent, and Elizabeth Kotz, former board president, who had initiated the accreditation process. She also thanked Dr. Favre “for helping us see it through.”

The Middle States Association (MSA) is a non-profit organization that evaluates and accredits schools, colleges and universities in the Mid-Atlantic region. The decision to be accredited by MSA or any other organization is voluntary, and helps to confirm the quality of the participating educational institutions, according to Dr. Favre.

Dr. Favre explained that accreditation is “a self-study process that begins with a survey of staff, students and stakeholders, and ends with a plan for forward movement.”

All faculty members worked on self-reviews for accreditation. Some even served as internal coordinators, which Dr. Favre referred to as “the cheerleaders for the process. They assure data collection, and assist in assuring input from all stakeholders.”

Parents, board of education members, community members and even students were involved in the accreditation process, as well.

Last May, the school submitted its lengthy self-study to MSA. The full report is available on the school’s website under the “Strategic Planning Counsel” tab.

But as Dr. Favre noted, the accreditation process was a time-consuming one.

“It requires data-based decision making, as well as consensus building, but it is time well spent,” she said. “It requires us to visit the 12 standards for accreditation, determine where we are within each standard, and then prioritize what needs our attention, in what order.”

She added the standards for accreditation ensure quality in terms of the school’s mission and philosophy, governance and leadership, finances, facilities, and health and safety, among other things.

As Dr. Favre explained, accreditation is a cyclical process.

“We are accredited for seven years, and will make a report at mid-year, and then at about the five year point, we will begin the process again,” she said.

“The work of the self-review process is ongoing, goal oriented, and data driven,” said Dr. Favre who added that accreditation means “Bridgehampton has what it takes to meet and exceed our goals.”

“This is validating to a small staff that works continually to assure that we educate the whole child,” she said. “Considering all of the various pieces to accreditation assured that we didn’t miss anything.”

Replacing Sandy School Days Proves a Challenge

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By Amanda Wyatt

A month after Hurricane Sandy barreled through the East End and shut down local schools – most for a full week – administrators and school board members are now scrambling to find ways of making up for lost instruction time.

And with weather forecasters and the Farmers’ Almanac predicting a particularly cold winter, with lots of precipitation for the Northeast, more missed school days might be on the horizon.

At public schools, which are required to hold 180 days of classes by state mandate, finding enough make-up days to cover just the school days lost to Hurricane Sandy is proving a challenge. In Sag Harbor, students missed five consecutive days of class due to the storm and its aftermath.

According to Theresa Samot, president of the Sag Harbor Board of Education, this is unprecedented.

“I don’t think anything like this has ever happened before, not as long as I can remember,” saidSamot.

Days for inclement weather and other emergencies, or “snow days,” are always built into school calendars, said Samot. Some years, she said, Sag Harbor hasn’t had to use any of its scheduled snow days, taking these unused days to extend vacations or weekends.

But this year, vacation time will not be extended. In fact, it is already being shortened.

Last week, the board of education announced that April 1 — originally part of Spring Break — would become a school day. The district’s two scheduled snow days, May 24 and May 28, will also be regular days of instruction.

Still, there are two days that have yet to be rescheduled. At the board’s next meeting, scheduled for Monday, December 3, Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso will make recommendations for the board to consider, said Samot.

According to Dr. Bonuso, one option is to convene classes on Thursday, February 21 and Friday, February 22, which were originally part of winter break. If additional snow days are needed, the Wednesday, Tuesday and Monday could also become scheduled school days.

However, Dr. Bonuso noted that the decision is up to the board of education and that other recommendations could be made at next week’s meeting.  Following the meeting, the board is expected to send out a formal letter to the community detailing any additional changes to the calendar.

Meanwhile, Bridgehampton School is also trying to find extra instruction time in its calendar. Principal Jack Pryor noted these are “new waters” for the district, which lost three days of classes due to Sandy.

The good news, Pryor said, is that there were three snow days built into the calendar. The district was able to add another day to its calendar by holding school on Election Day – November 6 – which was originally supposed to be a superintendent’s conference day.

“Right now we’re in about as good a shape as anybody around here in that we still have one snow day available,” said Pryor. “We’re now in contact with the PTA, working with them as to what happens if we have a wicked winter.”

If needed, Pryor said, the school has the option of holding classes on April 1, as well as using another day scheduled for a superintendent’s conference later in April.

These decisions, he said, will “ultimately be made by the superintendent and the board of education.”

In any event, school administrators point out it is crucial to find enough time to hold 180 days of school. As Pryor mentioned, there are “tremendous legal and financial implications into altering the minimum number of days.”

With Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR) and other demanding new state mandates, teachers are now being held more accountable for student performance, said Pryor. For this reason, he explained, there is additional pressure to make the most of the school day –both students and teachers simply cannot afford to miss significant amounts of instruction time.

But for private schools, which do not operate under the same laws as public schools, missed classroom time is not quite as grave.

The Ross School, for example, missed four days as a result of Hurricane Sandy. While the school is required to hold a certain number of classes in order to be accredited, Interim Head of School Greg Maloberti said that they “aren’t in any danger of breaching that.”

Still, Ross faces an additional challenge with its boarding school, he noted. For example, many international students book their flights home months in advance, so shortening vacation time or tweaking the calendar would present a problem.

“So we actually don’t have a lot of flexibility to make up these days,” Maloberti said.

But not all instruction time was lost during the storm, he added. In the days after Sandy hit, the school held seminars on essay writing and proper citation for its boarding students.

While Ross does not have plans to reschedule classes, administrators are mindful of the possibility of future snow days.

“We’re hoping that we’ll be able to enjoy a mild winter and might be able to make up [missed school days] that way,” Maloberti added. “But if nature deals us a different hand, we’ll have to reassess this in the spring.”

Sag Harbor Athletic Director Likely Announced Next Week

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As Interim Athletic Director (AD) J. Wayne Shierant prepares to leave the Sag Harbor School District next month, it appears as if the search for a full time, permanent AD may soon be coming to a close.

Last Friday, November 16, an interview committee for the position — formally called the Director of Athletics, Health, Nutrition, Wellness, and Personnel — met with five preliminary candidates. According to Shierant, the contenders included two current Athletic Directors, one former AD with 10 years of experience and two physical education teachers.

At a district board of education (BOE) meeting on Monday, November 19, Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso announced the interview committee had narrowed the finalists down to two.

“We have a couple of finalists that right now are being recommended,” he said. “We are hoping in the last week of November to interview two finalists and then [make] a recommendation to the board of education again, hopefully before the beginning of December.”

While Dr. Bonuso said that the board of education could not “share too many more specifics” about the individual candidates, he did note, “we had some good people we were meeting.”

He also added: “We are not just going to recommend finalists because we must move along. We will only recommend finalists if we are confident they are very good candidates, and that’s the [sense] I’m getting from the interview committee.”

At a previous BOE meeting on November 14, Shierant said that the potential ADs were “all viable candidates at this point in time, and hopefully from there we’ll get a good athletic director.”

“This, in my opinion, is an excellent opportunity, a good job. I know a few of the applicants personally, and I think you’re going to be in good shape when this is said and done,” he said.

At the meeting, the BOE noted that advertisements for the athletic director ran in local newspapers and on several websites, including that of Section XI, the governing body of high school athletics in Suffolk County. Applicants “from near and far” submitted their resumes, not just from neighboring towns, Dr. Bonuso added.

However, a few of the finalists for the position are “local guys,” Shierant said, noting that employing someone familiar with the area might be to the district’s advantage.

“When you come to the East End, you have to understand the culture. You have to have had some familiarity with how the sports are run out here,” he noted.

In previous meetings, the board of education has expressed their hope to employ a committed, long-term athletic director.

“My hope for you is that you have someone who will come here and finish their careers here on a long-term basis,” agreed Shierant.

“You have a very, very good staff. They just need direction and a little bit of guidance, that’s all it is,” he added. “So again, I think when this works out, you guys are going to be fine.”

In any event, Shierant noted, the AD should “absolutely” be ready to take over his responsibilities come January 2013.

“He’ll be able to hit the ground running,” he said.

The search for an AD appears to be particularly relevant in light of a recent presentation made about sports participation by Shierant at a BOE meeting on November 14. As it turns out, students at Pierson Middle/High School are avid athletes.

Over the course of the fall, winter and spring seasons, students at Pierson play on 12 varsity teams, 10 junior varsity teams and 15 middle school teams. Some of those teams include students from East Hampton High School, the Ross School and the Bridgehampton School.

“I think the amount of participation you have here is exemplary,” said Shierant.

According to Shierant, the number of individual students enrolled in sports is estimated at 373, which Shierant said accounts for 83 percent of the school.

“You’ve got a really good cross-section of your student body participating in athletics throughout the course of the year,” Shierant said. “For a small school, you guys do good, I’m telling you.”

Having Our Say

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The Sag Harbor School District is in the midst of a search for a new superintendent. And we trust this time it will be done differently than last time.

In case you don’t remember, back in 2008 when the district hired Dr. John Gratto as its new superintendent, it did so with virtually no input from the public. One day he wasn’t the superintendent, next day he was — the deal was sealed before the community was given a chance to meet him. By the time the board introduced him publicly, the ink on his contract had already dried.

Not that the community really gets to have the final say on such matters. That decision belongs to the board. But we feel strongly allowing public input into major hiring decisions can go a long way toward building consensus and at the end of the day, most everyone can feel they had input into the decision to select the right man (or woman) for the job (even their man or woman wasn’t ultimately chosen).

Setting aside your personal opinions on whether you think Dr. Gratto was a good administrator or not during his time here, one fact remains. Because he was hired under a veil of secrecy, he faced a certain amount of resistance among some factions. That meant he had un uphill battle to wage against preconceived notions before even stepping foot in his office on his first day on the job.

And that wasn’t fair — either to Dr. Gratto or the community.

Public input into superintendent searches isn’t unheard of in this district. Before Kathryn Holden, Dr. Gratto’s predecessor, was hired, there was an opportunity for residents to “meet the candidates” prior to the board’s final selection — and that’s plural — it was not just Holden, but the other finalists who were introduced to the community.

And though the school board made the decision in the end, when Kathryn Holden did take the helm of this district as superintendent, there was a collective sense of ownership (if that’s the appropriate word). She was not the board’s superintendent, but rather our superintendent. We had chosen her as a community, come what may.

Now we’re in a situation where we again need a new superintendent. Next week, the district is giving the public a chance to meet the representatives from School Leadership, LLC, the consulting firm overseeing the search, so residents can offer their opinion on what qualities are important in choosing a new superintendent.

It’s a nice first step.

But it is a first step, and we hope not the only step the district will offer the public in the process of making this important decision.

With that in mind, we encourage the school board to make this process transparent — certainly more transparent than it was last time around. For the community to really feel it has a stake in this decision, we would strongly suggest that once School Leadership has narrowed its field of potential superintendent candidates to say three or so, residents be given an opportunity to meet those candidates face to face — learn what they stand for, fill them in about their expectations and weigh in on what they consider to be the most important matters to parents. We know that some candidates may not be eager to do this, especially if they haven’t informed their current districts of their job search — but feel its vital from our point of view.

It’s true that in the end, the Sag Harbor School Board is an elected body which represents us in many decisions that affect the students, teachers, parents and taxpayers in the district. They do have the final say. But when it comes to the filling of an important leadership position like that of superintendent the community’s voice must be heard during the process – and we’re not just talking about a meeting with the consultants, but rather a face to face with the top candidates themselves.

As a side note, we would also encourage the board (and by extension, School Leadership) to seek out superintendent candidates who are truly interested in committing themselves to this district for a decent amount of time. We’re a bit tired of administrators who come here for just three or four years before moving on or out. It would be nice to have a superintendent on our side who is interested in more than just riding out the last few years of their career on the East End and we advocate strongly for candidates who are interested in making a long term commitment to Sag Harbor, its students and residents.

We deserve nothing less.

In Wake of Tragedy, A Focus on Bullying

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By Kathryn G. Menu

It wasn’t pre-planned, but mere days after the apparent suicide of an East Hampton High School junior, and the emergence of an Internet firestorm of rumors surrounding his tragic death largely devoted to whether or not it was connected to bullying and sexuality, the first meeting of the Pierson Middle/High School Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) was held.

Pierson Middle/High School history teacher and high school GSA advisor Sean Kelly said both inside and outside the alliance, there has been an ongoing dialog among students about the death of David Hernandez Barros. However, Kelly added with so many questions still unanswered, as a group the GSA has chosen not to have this moment become one of judgment, but rather push the organization forward in its advocacy for tolerance between all students who attend Pierson Middle/High School.

On September 29, Barros, 16, reportedly took his own life in his East Hampton home. Police have yet to confirm the suicide, although in a story that appeared in the October 11 edition of The East Hampton Star by reporter T.E. Morrow, Barros’ mother confirms her son’s suicide. She alleges he was the victim of bullying at East Hampton High School because of his sexual orientation.

In response, East Hampton School Superintendent Richard Burns released a statement late last week, lamenting Barros death and the prevalent nature of bullying throughout society. Burns also noted the school district hosts numerous programs and workshops around the subject and has Gay-Straight Alliance clubs. In East Hampton, those clubs exist both in the high school and in the middle school.

On Monday at 6 p.m. the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth Network will host a town meeting at East Hampton High School to discuss the circumstances surrounding Barros death and how the community can come together to help youth before suicide is even a consideration.

In a press release, the organization said it also wants to encourage the creation of an LGBT community center in Suffolk County.

In Southampton Town, October has been declared Bullying Prevention Month, and Councilwoman Christine Scalera and the town’s youth bureau have organized a series of lectures around the issue.

Last night, “Blueprint for Addressing Bulling” was held at Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton. The series will continue next week with “Cyber-bullying: The Inside Track for Kids and Parents” on Wednesday, October 24 at 7 p.m. at the Hampton Bays Community Center on Ponquogue Avenue. Lastly, “A Survivor’s Story” will be held on Tuesday, October 30 at 7 p.m. at the Flanders Community Center on Flanders Road.

On Wednesday, Kelly said he was convening the second meeting of the high school GSA that afternoon and planned to talk to the group about attending forums in other communities, in particular the discussion on Monday night in East Hampton.

As for the creation of the club, which was championed by some parents last year and only recently was approved on a conditional, six-month basis as an enrichment program, Kelly said he believes it is critical for the student body.

“I think it is important for the LGBT students to have a place they feel comfortable — a place that supports them and supports their needs,” said Kelly. “I think it is also important that the school has a place where everyone — LGBT or straight — can get together in a casual setting. This group is here for everyone.”

“Pierson is a pretty tolerant school, I believe, relatively speaking when it comes to LGBT issues,” said Kelly. “We have students who are comfortable, again relatively speaking, being openly gay in our school. There are also students who are gay but are not out and it is important the GSA exists for them as well — a space they can be comfortable in without having to announce their sexuality.”

Kelly said he wants the mission of the GSA to be student driven, but ultimately in addition to being a safe space for students to converge, he also wants it to be a group that can engage in advocacy and education — raising awareness about the impacts of bullying and the benefits of tolerance.

While having a school GSA is not mandated by the state, there are laws in place to protect students in school from bullying — no matter their sexual orientation or personal situation.

In July, New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act took effect and requires all school to report incidents of bullying and discrimination.

Formal reports will be filed with the state at the end of 2013.

According to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among four to 14 year olds and the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds. According to a Yale University study, victims of bullying are two to nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims.

It is for this very reason that school districts across the country have begun implementing programming to deal with bullying.

At the Bridgehampton School, principal Jack Pryor said the district has focused on bullying prevention for years, especially as technology has developed. Through concepts like instant messaging and social networks, bullying can often follow kids home from school. Like Pierson Middle/High School, Bridgehampton School regularly has group discussions with speakers like members of the Suffolk County Police Department about the impacts of bullying, both socially and legally.

Bridgehampton School has also adopted PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports), a process that creates a social culture that encourages positive behavior in school and in the community at large.

“You have to practice these things every year, but also all year,” said Pryor. “It never ends for us.”

Pierson Middle/High School vice principal Barbara Bekermus agreed.

Bekermus said they begin early in the middle school breaking students into smaller groups for conversations related to anti-bullying and tolerance. The days of the annual assembly about bullying, are over, she said.

In fact, the school is sending 30 student leaders to the Middle School Tolerance and Anti-Bullying Conference, hosted by the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, on Wednesday, October 26 in Commack.

“We also ask teachers to fit these conversations into their curriculum,” said Bekermus. “It is explored in literature, history.”

“I think with the Dignity Act, a positive thing is people are talking about this much more,” she said. “Sometimes we have to hold people accountable. We have to let our students know that if you report something, we will do something about it.”

“A lot of times, people think we won’t, but I promise we will,” she added. “And if we don’t let it go even just one time, maybe we can start to turn things around.”

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.