Tag Archive | "sag harbor schools"

UPDATE: Town Declares State of Emergency; Nine Inches of Snowfall on the East End

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A backyard pool in East Hampton Friday morning.

A backyard pool in East Hampton Friday morning. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

UPDATE Friday 11 a.m. 

Nine inches of snow fell in Bridgehampton overnight, according to Joey Picca of the National Weather Service. Light snow is ongoing and over the next hour, locations on the East End could see another half inch of snow.

“For the most part,” said Picca, “intensity is winding down and we expect that trend to continue for the next hour or so.”

Winds coming from the north and northwest remain strong and gusty, and the already fallen powder will continue to be blown around throughout the day. The wind chill is expected to remain at anywhere from 0 to -5 degrees throughout the afternoon.

The Town of Southampton has issued a blizzard warning, effective until 1 p.m. Friday.

The South Shore of Suffolk County is under coastal flood advisory Friday from 7 p.m. to midnight. The northwest region of Suffolk County has been issued a coastal flood warning, from 9 p.m. Friday until 2 a.m. Saturday.

All town offices in Southampton and East Hampton are closed Friday due to inclement weather. Many businesses in Sag Harbor and throughout the towns remain closed.

East Hampton Town is still urging residents to stay off the roads and has prohibited parking along public roadways. Any parked vehicles may be towed. Emergencies should be reported via 911 and storm-related non-emergency calls may be directed to 907-9743 or 907-9796.

A man walks down Main Street in Sag Harbor Thursday afternoon.

A man walks down Main Street in Sag Harbor Thursday afternoon. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

 

UPDATE Thursday 6 p.m.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell has declared a State of Emergency, effective 4 p.m. Thursday.

The town is urging residents to refrain from driving during the storm and has prohibited all parking along public roadways. Parked vehicles may be towed.

The LIE (Long Island Expressway) and other major roads will also be closing at midnight due to hazardous conditions, Governor Cuomo announced Thursday.

Southampton Town has declared a limited state of snow emergency, effective at 3 p.m. Thursday. All town facilities and government offices will be closed starting at 6 p.m. and remain closed on Friday, January 3.

The Sag Harbor School District has closed all buildings and cancelled all sports and other activities for Friday, January 3 due to the weather.

All East Hampton Town Senior Citizen programs at the Fireplace Road Facility and the Montauk Playhouse scheduled for Friday have been cancelled.

For non-emergency police calls related to the storm in East Hampton Town, contact 907-9743 or 907-9796.

 

Original Story

A blizzard warning has been issued for Suffolk County starting at 6 p.m. this evening and ending at 1 p.m. Friday. The East End can expect to see up to 10 inches of snowfall, according to Tim Morrin of the National Weather Service’s Upton, New York forecast office.

Most of the snowfall will occur tonight after 7 p.m., Morrin said. A steady, heavy snowfall is expected to start this evening and continue overnight and into tomorrow morning, with a total of eight to 10 inches of snow accumulating.

By Friday at noon, the snow “should be nothing more than a flurry,” Morrin said.

Following the blizzard, the National Weather Service expects the weather Friday to be extremely windy and “dangerously cold,” with the wind chill temperature dropping below zero.

Sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts of up to 45 mph are forecast.

On the roads, East End residents can expect “rapidly deteriorating conditions tonight and into tomorrow morning,” according to Morrin.

Road conditions will remain hazardous tomorrow afternoon, as the windy conditions will likely blow additional snow into the road and add density to the already fallen snow.

Although Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to shut down the Long Island Expressway or any other major highways, his New York City Press Office said the governor is projecting road closures.

“Blowing, drifting snow can make travel difficult and dangerous,” Governor Cuomo said in a press release issued Wednesday, “so I encourage citizens to exercise caution if they have to leave their homes.”

“We recommend,” he added, “that everyone in potentially affected areas utilize mass transit and take steps to safeguard against frigid temperatures. Keep a close eye on the weather, follow any instructions issued by local emergency officials, and check on your neighbors and family members.”

The Suffolk County Department of Public Works has been salting all county roads since early this morning and will continue to monitor and respond to conditions.

The Emergency Operations Centers for both New York State and Suffolk County are open.

All storm-related non-emergency police calls in Suffolk County can be directed to 852-2677.

The New York State Department of Transportation provides a travel advisory system with frequently updated reports. To access it, dial 511 by phone or visit 511ny.org.

Sag Harbor Students Lend a Helping Hand – and Mitten

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Students in Susan Raebeck's Kindergarten class stand in front of the Mitten Line.

Students in Susan Raebeck’s Kindergarten class stand in front of the Mitten Line.

By Tessa Raebeck

While her classmates were asking for iPads and Xboxes, there was only one thing on the young girl’s list: a Christmas tree. Her family had never had one.

After making her one-item list in kindergarten last year, the Sag Harbor Elementary School student received lights, a stand and her family’s first tree. This holiday season, they will have their second.

The gifts were made possible through The Mitten Line, a longstanding tradition of the Sag Harbor School District that enables students, families and community members to provide holiday gifts to those in the district who are less fortunate.

School counselor Michelle Grant renamed the custom after a short story she wrote explaining anonymous gift giving and encouraging students to go a step further by taking something off their own wish lists.

“Suddenly,” reads the poem, “I realized how I could show how much I care. I could take something off my wish list and buy a gift instead to share.”

Grant, who colleague Nina Landi calls “the Mother Teresa of Sag Harbor,” runs every aspect of the gift drive, from pinpointing families in need to delivering presents to their homes.

On the wall outside the elementary school gymnasium are hundreds of “mittens,” paper cutouts with descriptions of students and their desired gifts. One mitten asks for Legos for an 8-year-old girl. Another, “Boy, Age 6, Gloves” lies alongside “Girl, Age 16, Skinny jeans.”

Families and faculty members pick mittens from the line, buy the presents and return them to school unwrapped. Grant then delivers them along with wrapping paper, so parents can see the presents and wrap them on their own before giving them to their kids.

With 18 families receiving gifts, a total of 43 kids in grades kindergarten through 12 are represented on the Mitten Line.

Some families are already identified as needing extra financial support, while others come forward during the holidays. All transactions are completely anonymous; only Grant knows which families are involved.

Teachers help identify kids whose families may be in need, although many parents are hesitant to sign up.

School counselor Michelle Grant helps students transport donated gifts.

School counselor Michelle Grant helps students transport donated gifts.

“That’s the hardest part,” says Grant. “There are people who I know [who need help], or I’ll even offer, and they’re like, ‘No, we’re okay.’ And they are okay — for them they’re okay. But we really just want to do something that says, ‘if we can do this, you’ll just have a little extra come January, February, if you need something.’ Some families are hesitant to do that and I understand and we have to respect that; but that’s the hardest part.”

The community will give over 500 gifts this year through the Mitten Line.

Every child receives a stocking with toiletries, books, socks, pajamas, a hat, gloves, a scarf and basic school supplies.

They are also given two or three special gifts, which are determined by lists provided by the family and teachers’ ideas on what their students might like.

Every contribution comes from the teachers and families of Sag Harbor. Grant tries to limit costs to under $20, but she keeps a separate list of more expensive items (bicycles, Kindles, etc.) for when people donate large sums of cash or ask for the opportunity to purchase a larger gift.

Last year, one family was given a full night in New York City, including Jitney tickets, restaurant meals and hotel accommodations.

A fifth grade class has been collecting money all year in preparation for the Mitten Line. With money earned from doing chores and recycling bottles, the class was able to pick its own mitten to fulfill.

In the 16 years she’s been running it, Grant has seen the drive — and the financial disparity between Sag Harbor’s families — grow substantially.

Donating within their own school makes the needs of others — as well as the rewards of giving — more tangible, she said, because students “really know that everything stays for kids in our schools.”

“Our families are so generous,” said Grant. “All the families, not just the families that have a lot, even the families that are on the line — those kids want to help. Everybody wants to help and do something.”

Concerned Sag Harbor Parents Crowd Pierson Library for Math Curriculum Workshop

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Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols presents a workshop on the Math Curriculum in front of concerned parents at Monday evening.

Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols presents a workshop on the Math Curriculum in front of district administrators, the Board of Education and concerned parents Monday evening.

By Tessa Raebeck

Parents told stories of children bursting into tears, berating themselves for being “idiots” and spending hours agonizing over homework at the Sag Harbor School District’s math curriculum workshop Monday night, voicing concern over the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS).

“The first thing we say to her is get out your math homework,” said Christa Schleicher of her daughter, who is in seventh grade at Pierson Middle/High School.

Concerned parents, mostly of seventh graders, filled the Pierson Library to hear a presentation led by Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone and Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols, with assistance from their math teachers.

Developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Common Core is a set of educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade that states voluntarily adopt. CCLS has been adopted by 45 states. New York State (NYS) adopted CCLS in July 2010, but it is being phased in over several years.

Every seat in the library was filled as parents showed up to express their discontent with the Common Core program, which many believe was rolled out haphazardly without clear direction from the state and to the detriment of students.

“It’s not specific or indigenous to Sag Harbor,” said Nichols, who has three children in the Southampton Intermediate School. “Everybody is struggling with these same issues.”

“We really want to commend the effort of all the instructors in our district who are working through this new initiative,” said Malone. “There’s a lot of challenges and in a way we’ve all kind of been thrown into it.”

At the end of the 2012/2013 school year, NYS math assessments for students in third through eighth grade measured CCLS. Nichols said state assessments assume kids going into the seventh grade curriculum had Common Core instruction since kindergarten, when in reality, mathematics instruction was not fully aligned with CCLS until the 2012/2013 school year for students in grades three through eight and the 2013/2014 school year for high school students.

“That assumption is a big assumption to me,” Nichols said Monday evening, adding that the pacing of the modules is also inaccurate. “They say a lesson will take 40 minutes…reality is it’s not 40 minutes, it’s 60 or 70 minutes.”

“As a school,” he continued, “what we struggle with and what I’m struggling with is to what extent do we let mathematics dominate the landscape?”

Nichols said about an hour and a half of math homework each night is on pace with the modules, a time requirement many parents said is overwhelming for their kids.

“It’s a lot more rigorous,” said Diana Kolhoff, a Sag Harbor resident and math consultant. “So some of the historical traditions that these schools have had are running into trouble with the Common Core. Things that had worked in the past are no longer working.”

“This is probably the most exciting part but also the most challenging part,” said Malone. “This is the part where you wrestle with, ‘are we presenting things in the best way to kids?’ Because it’s really challenging and it’s causing kids to have to work a lot harder than they had to before.”

“I get it all and I get that they’re reprogramming,” said Schleicher. “My struggle and our struggle at home is the amount of it. My daughter, she’s beginning to despise math because it’s so much…she’s getting it, she’s getting better at it, but it’s just taking too long.”

“I’m dealing with the same thing with my children,” Nichols said, calling it a “juggling act” because by diminishing homework, the students fall behind the state’s expected pace in the classroom. He said they are trying to gauge how fast teachers can go without turning kids off math.

“If we have to tweak our workload and at the end of the day where our students are at, we’ll do so,” said Nichols, who has already implemented a few modifications.

To increase instructional time and hopefully minimize time spent on math at home, Pierson added a lab period designed to reinforce the CCLS lesson for students in seventh grade and algebra classes.

Middle School Assistant Principal Brittany Miaritis said lab time provides the students with far more one-on-one learning instruction than available in the classroom setting. Teacher Richard Terry said it has been “very helpful” for his seventh grade students. Additionally, several senior math teachers were moved from the high school to the middle school two years ago, due to their comprehension of what would be required of those students later on.

Although they recognized its challenges, the teachers in attendance appeared to be proponents of the CCLS methodology. Fifth grade teachers George Kneeland and JoAnn Kelly shared a CCLS fluency activity, a fast-paced drill that is supposed to be a fun way to measure a student’s personal best. Kelly said her students love sprints, asking for them almost every day.

Kneeland then introduced an application problem, or “problem of the day,” which is designed to be strategically linked to previous lessons and concepts.

“We were just taught a methodology for doing it and we did it,” he said of his grade school experience. “The Common Core philosophy is taking a step deeper and looking at things so we get a pictorial understanding and more concrete understanding and then transition to what’s called the standard algorithm.”

Janice Arbia, who has four children in the school district, asked, “When they’re actually grading these tests, does it matter how they do it?”

The intent, Malone said, is for students to grasp what they were asked to do, so they can choose the way of solving the problem that works best for them. Energy is devoted to the concepts instead of the calculations.

“One of the big shifts now,” added Terry, “is rather than have a teacher standing in front of the students doing all of this work, the students are becoming an active participant in the lesson.”

“My students coming up this year in geometry are significantly stronger than they’ve been in the past and I expect that trend to continue,” said high school teacher Chase Malia. “I really think my students are much better prepared than they’ve been in the past.”

The administrators said their model of approach relies on feedback from teachers, parents and students. Nichols said that while some parents say their children are overwhelmed, others say they like the rigor and their kids are thriving. He plans to administer a survey to hear students’ opinions on how much they can handle.

“We do have an obligation to make sure that we safeguard kids’ emotional well being,” said Nichols. “And if in fact we’re asking too much of them in terms of the amount of homework, this survey will be able to generate some data related to that.”

“Grading” Sag Harbor Teachers: Administrators Discuss Goals Updates at Board of Education Meeting

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External Auditor Alexandria Battaglia, CPA, addresses the Sag Harbor Board of Education Monday night.

External Auditor Alexandria Battaglia, CPA, addresses the Sag Harbor Board of Education Monday night.

By Tessa Raebeck

“This has been a week of very special teams,” said Dr. Bonuso, interim superintendent for the Sag Harbor School District, congratulating the champion Lady Whalers field hockey team and the community team that helped pass the district’s two bond propositions.

Passing the bond was a key component of the district goals for the 2013/2014 school year, which Dr. Bonuso presented to a small group of people gathered Monday for the Board of Education (BOE) meeting.

Dr. Bonuso discussed the headway made on the first three of the district’s nine goals. He said progress was made on the first goal, improving academic achievement, through the resubmission and implementation of Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR), an evaluation system required by the state since 2012. It rates teachers as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective, based on a 100-point scale. Half of the review relies on administrative observations, 10 percent on an “evidence binder” of components like electronic posting and 40 percent on test scores. For teachers whose students are not yet being tested regularly, that portion is determined by a project the district assigns in order to produce a score. Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols said the majority of Sag Harbor teachers were graded “effective.”

“We need to take a second look at this emphasis on testing, the over testing,” said Dr. Bonuso. “We need to take a second look at whether or not we have the materials and modules – let alone the mindset – to approach this in a manner where people are feeling good about what’s happening instead of anxious and discouraged.”

Susan Hewett, a parent, asked the board how teachers are rewarded or reprimanded based on their APPR performance. Dr. Bonuso replied teachers are not rewarded, but if they are determined to be “developing” or worse for two years, “we can literally remove them…even if they are tenured.”

If a teacher is rated “ineffective,” the superintendent said, “We don’t have to go through all the gyrations and all the bureaucracy that in the past we had to in order to remove you.”

The administrators reported on the progress of the newly formed shared decision-making teams, a component of the second goal: to build partnerships with the community. Two teams have met, one for the elementary school and one for Pierson. The district-wide team is looking for two replacements for members who left the committee prior to the first meeting.

Board member Mary Anne Miller questioned the inclusion of the middle and high schools in the same team, which BOE Vice President Chris Tice agreed should be revisited.

The third goal is to ensure sound fiscal operation and facilities management. The district added experienced security personnel and hours at both school, enhanced systems at school entryways and held its first lockdown drill of the year last week. External auditor Alexandria Battaglia said Monday the district is in good financial health, with an unassigned fund balance of about $1.4 million.

In other school news, BOE member David Diskin again asked the board to discuss starting to video record their meetings. Board President Theresa Samot said it was a good idea to look at further.

The next BOE meeting will be held December 2, at 7:30 p.m. in the Pierson Library.

Yes on Both School Propositions 11.07.13

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Next Wednesday, November 13, residents of the Sag Harbor School District will be asked to weigh in on two propositions aimed at maintaining, and improving, facilities at both the Sag Harbor Elementary School and Pierson Middle/High School.

We believe both propositions deserve community support.

The first bond, which totals $7,357,132 in spending, will cost a resident who owns a home with a market value of $1 million less than $9 a month. For that price, the school district will be able to completely renovate the Pierson Middle/High School auditorium, which will not only increase safety, but also give the school adequate seating for assemblies, and allow the district’s performing arts curriculum to thrive. Shop and technology classroom spaces will also be improved, as will the elementary school gymnasium. A partial roof replacement at the elementary school, bringing the Pierson Middle/High School kitchen up to health department safety standards, reconfiguring parking at both schools.

The second proposition, which calls for $1,620,000 in funding, will allow for the creation of a turf field at Pierson Middle/High School, which would include a track, a baseball diamond, softball diamond and a small plaza for spectators. For a homeowner with a residence that has a market value of $1 million, it would cost a little more than $1 per month to fund.

The first proposition is a no brainer. It allows for significant upgrades to both schools that will improve health, safety and curriculum. The second proposition, while it may seem extravagant, would increase safety, save in annual maintenance costs, give the athletic program facilities on par with schools throughout the county and give community members a safe outdoor track to exercise on.

Ultimately we believe bonding for projects like this at a time of low interest rates allows our school district to move long overdue projects forward without placing too large a burden on the shoulders of taxpayers. Which is why we encourage people to support both propositions next Wednesday, November 13.

Pierson Teachers Host Community Forum on Proposed Auditorium Renovations

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By Tessa Raebeck

Exposed wires, breaking seats and a sound system that routinely fails during performances are just some of the things the performing arts faculty at Pierson Middle/High School hope will be fixed by the Sag Harbor School District’s proposed capital projects bond — if it passes November 13.

At a community forum Tuesday on the proposed renovation of the Pierson auditorium, teachers told stories of the dangers and inefficiencies of the current space, which was part of the original Pierson construction in 1907 and was converted from a gym to an auditorium in the 1980s.

“The foundational criteria for everything that we were doing was health and safety,” explained Peter Solow, an art teacher who serves on the Educational Facilities Planning Committee, the group of community members which formulated the bond propositions.

The auditorium renovations are included in Proposition 1, which holds the bulk of the proposed improvements. The proposal aims to create safer egress from the theater, increase seating capacity, improve the theatrical lighting and sound systems, and add support facilities and supplemental air conditioning.

“It will make it more efficient on a daily basis, but it will also make it safer,” said Solow. “If we had to evacuate this place very quickly, it could be problematic.”

The teachers estimate that about 60 high school students and 90 middle school students are involved in performing arts at Pierson in some capacity each year, while all students use the auditorium during assemblies.

The auditorium currently has no designated handicapped seating area and no room for the pit orchestra, which ends up using about 50 audience seats during performances. During a play last spring, an audience member sat in a chair that promptly broke, resulting in a fall. In addition to new seats, the bond would increase the seating capacity so the entire student body of the high school could fit in the auditorium at once. The school currently puts on multiple presentations of the same assembly, often at additional cost.

The bond also provides for storage space for instruments and equipment.

“No matter what condition things are in, obviously we are going to do our best and put on the performances,” said Paula Brannon, director of Pierson musicals. “I see things backstage that are safety hazards that are beyond the control of custodial staff or administrators to fix anymore.”

Brannon said sets and costumes which could be recycled for use in future performances are often thrown out because there is nowhere to store them.

“At the end of every show we have a decision,” she said. “Do we throw this away or do we try and save that? And if we save that, we’re now to the point where we have to throw something else away in its place. It will just continue the costs.”

“If you do go backstage right now — and a child does go backstage — there’s tools, there’s glass, there’s wood, there’s screws, there’s nails, there’s all kinds of things — and no lights,” added music teacher Eric Reynolds. “.It’s very dangerous to have a shared space without any kind of room to store some of that material.”

Reynolds said there is not an empty spot to be found in the existing space and instruments and other materials are often lost due to lack of organization.

“One of us is always scrambling to find an instructional space,” he said of the music teachers. “Right now our students really don’t have any rooms to practice in.”

Currently, makeshift dressing rooms are housed in classrooms and bathrooms, making it awkward to navigate the school during production week. Brannon said that during performances, students must “run the entire width of the school” to get to the stage.

“They deserve their own space,” said Reynolds, who added that when audience members use the bathroom during intermission, “you walk in there and the entire cast of boys from the musical is in the bathroom.”

Members of the faculty also spoke of “many incidents” of sound and lighting systems failing during performances. Because the sound system is “antiquated,” Brannon said the school must rent sound equipment every year, using $8,000 of the funds allotted for musicals.

“We love to be self-sufficient, we try really, really hard, but there’s just a lot that we can’t overcome,” said Brannon.

Reynolds said the school started renting outside equipment because on opening night of “Chicago” three years ago, the entire sound system — including all the mics — “totally failed.”

“So, three years later, we hire professional sound guys at a large cost. It would be great not to have to do that,” he said.

Pierson’s audiovisual coordinator Austin Remson recalls, “assemblies where five minutes before the show was going to start, there was a short that blew all the circuits. Unfortunately, that happens very often where this stuff is old, it’s very old.”

When searching for a new light board five years ago, Remson had trouble locating one that worked with the outdated system.

“The only board we could get is a used board from 1995 because our system is what we call DMX and the world is now AMX,” he said. “So that took a great deal of effort to try to find something when the old board completely broke and that [newer] board now has about five channels on it that don’t work.”

“How many Band-Aids are we going to put on?” he asked. “How much money are we going to keep throwing at the problem that is recurring?”

Remson said on a regular basis, an entire row of lights will go out, with replacements costing some $45 a bulb.

“It’s amazing how many crises happen on almost a daily basis that have to be remedied very quickly,” continued Remson, adding that sometimes when he climbs up to change the bulbs, he finds wiring harnesses that have “completely melted.”

“This is really dangerous,” he said. “It’s a little scary.”

The bond would create a controlled climate in the auditorium, which was quite cold on Tuesday. Remson said he asked the custodians to turn the air conditioning off during a particularly cold assembly last week and they replied they were afraid to because they didn’t think it would come back on.

The primary concern expressed by the faculty Tuesday was not for a warmer room or nicer seats, but for the students.

“Students that had their moment to shine and they’re half lit or students who are not able to be lit because we don’t have the capability,” said Remson. “Our students are fantastic and they really deserve a space that’s inspiring and safe.”

The Pierson performing arts department will host another community forum on the proposed improvements on Tuesday, November 5 at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium.

Sag School Board Talks Parking, Process for Bond Proposals

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By Tessa Raebeck

“We’re just trying to get facilities that are as good as the children we serve,” Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the Sag Harbor School District, said of the district’s proposed capital improvements bond at Monday’s board of education meeting.

In anticipation of the November 13 vote on the bond, district representatives addressed concerns and opinions voiced by community members in recent weeks — particularly in regards to the proposed parking lot renovations — and clarified the design process that would take place should the bond pass, as well as details of the current diagrams. With the help of district architect Larry Salvesen, Dr. Bonuso emphasized all plans are conceptual schematics that could undergo continual revisions that would not change the face of the projects, but could alter their scope.

The bond is separated into two distinct propositions. Proposition 1, with a projected cost of $7,357,132, covers the majority of the proposed capital work. Through five categories (architectural, HVAC, plumbing, electrical and site), it addresses facilities preservation and renovations, building code compliance and ADA compliance, health and safety issues, energy conservation improvements and efficiencies and supports the district’s curriculum.

In addition to capital improvement work like installing CO2 sensors and re-piping the domestic hot water heater, Proposition 1 includes: the renovation of the Pierson Middle/High School auditorium, as well as construction of support facilities; renovations to the Pierson shop/technology classroom space; expansion of the Pierson kitchen; the addition of a storage room in the Sag Harbor Elementary School (SHES) gymnasium; and the restoration and reconfiguration of the Jermain Avenue parking lot at Pierson and the Hampton Street lot at SHES.

At the estimated cost of $1,620,000, Proposition 2 will be voted on separately and provides for the installation of a synthetic turf athletic field, a two-lane walking track and other site improvements, such as a scoreboard.

At Monday’s meeting, Dr. Bonuso and other administrators emphasized the timing is as good as any to execute the bond, as bond rates have lowered and the district will receive approximately 10 percent in state aid.

“Most of these things we would go ahead and we’d do it anyway [through annual budgets], the problem is we would pay more money and we would have to wait a whole lot longer to reap the benefits,” explained Dr. Bonuso.

Due to the state-imposed property tax cap, completing such projects through the annual budget would negatively impact the funds allotted for school programs, the district said in a newsletter on the bond.

“We know what the worst choice is,” said Dr. Bonuso. “The worst choice — forget all the options, everyone has their opinion on what to do — but I think everyone pretty much agreed on what is the worst thing to do — the worst thing to do is to do nothing.”

In addition to failing pavement and crumbling curbs, the district said the parking lots’ designs are unsafe for both children and the community at large and maintained that the parking lots absolutely need to be reconfigured and restored, but the district remains open to suggestions as to the best ways to do that for Pierson’s neighbors, passing pedestrians, school children, cars and emergency vehicles.

“We look at it in a schematic fashion,” explained Salvesen. “We get a general understanding of the approach to the project and create a diagram that represents what is proposed and then we use that to create a cost estimate.”

That process was completed before the bond was presented to the community. If the bond is passed, the next step toward enacting the proposed projects is the design/development stage, during which the scope is reviewed and the design is refined. After additional community input, the final recommendations are brought to the board before the plans are sent to the State Education Department for approval.

If the bond is passed, the Educational Planning Facilities Committee, a group of 21 teachers, parents, administrators, board members and members of the community who met at least six times over the past year in preparation of the bond, would be reformed to invite continued conversation and review possible changes. After additional community input, the final recommendations are brought to the board before the plans are sent to the State Education Department for approval.

Following the recent dialogue between members of the EPFC and the community, Salvesen has drawn in several amendments to the parking lot plans. The original diagram for the lot at Jermain Avenue, for example, did not have an explicit sidewalk drawn in until this week.

“That’s something that would come with the evolution of the design,” Salvesen explained. “There is money to put a sidewalk along there; it is a desired element.”

According to the district, some residents were concerned the Jermain Avenue lot changes would infringe on Pierson Hill or the property’s trees.

“We are not going to negatively impact Pierson Hill,” clarified Dr. Bonuso. “We love Pierson Hill, we love the tradition. We’re going to be very respectful of it.”

“We’re going to be very respectful of the trees,” he continued. “In one or two instances, we’ve already picked out which trees we will purposely transplant just to make sure that we save them.”

Salvesen said after reviewing the plans with the district’s traffic engineer consultant, they found moving the parking lot’s entry point further away from the bend at the northwest side of Jermain Avenue would also increase safety. The district also chose not to pursue the expansion of the elementary school’s secondary Atlantic Avenue lot that was part of a proposed bond that failed to garner community support in 2009.

“That has been completely removed from the project in an attempt to address overall cost concerns,” said the architect.

Since its construction in 1946, the Hampton Street parking lot at SHES has stayed in the same configuration, according to Salvesen. After reviewing the plans for that lot with the traffic engineer, the district is considering altering the project to include one entry point, rather than two. Instead of the 25 additional parking spots in the original diagram, the revised plan would add 17 stalls.

“It’s not about the numbers here, safety is the point,” said Salvesen.

Members of the board were grateful community members had come forward with their concerns and hopeful the bond would ultimately pass.

“These are schematics,” reiterated Daniel Hartnett, a school board member. “We had to put something up to present to be able to move this forward…There is the opportunity — should the bond pass — as we move forward for people to come in and express their views and for us to tweak what we end up doing.”

Chris Tice, vice president of the school board, said such collaboration is “great because they’re voicing a variety of different perspectives and the more perspectives the committee and the board and the administration hear, the better solution we’ll have.”

If Sag Harbor voters pass the propositions, the estimated costs are the cap. Salvesen has built in contingencies so that the projected costs represent a high estimate, he said. By law, the district cannot spend more than is approved by voters. If the projects cost less than estimated, the district will return the money to the taxpayers.

Salvesen held that his firm, BSS Architecture in Patchogue, has a proven record in bonds staying well within their budget.

“Since the early 90’s,” he said, “we’ve done $1.7 billion in school improvement bonds and we have not gone over.”

“Well,” said Mary Anne Miller, a member of the board, “That’s why we hired you.”

Sag Harbor School Board Clarifies Public Input Policy

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By Tessa Raebeck

In honor of School Board Recognition Week, Monday’s meeting of the Sag Harbor board of education commenced with a short commemorative concert by members of the Pierson Middle/High School orchestra.

“We talk about music to the ears, that was music to the heart,” commented Dr. Bonuso, interim superintendent for the district.

Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone presented the board with letters of thanks from the younger students.

“My teacher says that you work long hours, exactly how many hours do you work?” a fourth grader asked in one letter.

Another read, “Thank you for volunteering the time but please don’t work too hard.”

Following the moment of praise, the board returned to work, approving a first reading of board operating procedures. The packet includes a handout prepared by Mary Adamczyk, district clerk, outlining Policy 3320, which addresses public participation at board meetings.

The handout is supplementary to existing policy; it does not change it. Rather, it explains the policy which was revised last spring. The revisions allow community members to sign up for Public Input I, a period of public comment that happens at the start of board meetings, on a sign-up sheet outside the library up until the time of the meeting, rather than through the district clerk’s office the Friday prior as was previously required.

“This just clarifies that a little more,” explained Theresa Samot, president of the school board.

Chris Tice, school board vice president, suggested printing Adamczyk’s handout on the back of every meeting agenda, so the community is clear on how they can participate. Tice said the idea was a suggestion of John Battle, a member of the community who regularly attends school board meetings.

The board will review the wording of the handout and the operating procedures, implement revisions and discuss them further at a second reading during their next meeting.

In other school news, the board accepted a donation from the Reutershan Educational Trust, which has the sole purpose of fostering art programs within the school district, for $30,700 in supplies, materials and equipment to support the programs and $5,863.67 in salaries and benefits for district personnel to supervise. Following comments by board member Daniel Hartnett, the board agreed to look into establishing a board liaison to the trust.

The next school board meeting will be held November 18 in the Pierson library.

Shierant Hired as Interim Athletic Director for Sag Harbor Schools

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By Amanda Wyatt

Film star John Wayne might have played a sheriff in Hollywood westerns, but John Wayne Shierant — Sag Harbor’s brand new interim athletic director and a self-professed fan of his namesake — has his own tough job to do.

 

With the fall sports season already underway, the Sag Harbor Board of Education appointed Shierant (who usually goes by “Wayne”) to the position at its August 27 meeting.

 

“I’m delighted to point out a very special individual,” Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso said of Shierant. “We had a wonderful conversation and he had equally wonderful reference checks, and people glowingly talking about [him].”

 

Shierant’s first day in the district was August 28, and he is scheduled to serve on a part-time basis through December 21, or until the board finds a permanent athletic director. Over the course of this 70-day period, he will be paid $22,750.

 

A retired athletic director (AD), Shierant has four decades in athletics to his credit. In 1970, he began his career in West Islip, where he taught physical education, coached track and field, and served as head football coach. From 1996 to 2009, he was the director of athletics in West Islip, overseeing 94 teams in the district.

 

Raised in Pennsylvania, Shierant studied physical education at Sterling College in Kansas and received his master’s degree in health education from Adelphi University. He also has a professional diploma in education administration from Long Island University.

 

While at Islip, Shierant was praised for his success as a football coach. Newsday referred to him as one of the “top football minds” in the history of Long Island high school sports, noting his winning percentage of 0.805.

 

“I was surrounded by great people at Islip,” said Shierant. “I had great administrators, great assistant coaches and the community was very pro-athletics…[It’s] no different than the people that are in Sag Harbor, taking pride in their community.”

 

Since retiring, Shierant has done interim work in Rocky Point, Southold and Connetquot school districts. In the winter, he spends time playing golf in Naples, Florida.

 

At the board meeting, Dr. Bonuso noted the importance of having a seasoned AD.

 

“We wanted someone who literally could hit the ground running,” he said. “There’s an awful lot to be done.”

 

“That’s a very special position to give because we’re talking not just about competitive sports per se, but we’re talking about a curriculum that’s changing day in and day out, we’re talking about a wellness program,” Dr. Bonuso added. “We’re talking about ‘athletic director’ in a very broad and very special and important sense.”

 

The board of education added it has decided to wait to appoint a permanent AD until the role and responsibilities of the position have been clearly defined.

 

Under the leadership of former superintendent, Dr. John Gratto, the position of AD had been combined with that of director of buildings and grounds. Montgomery Granger served in this dual-capacity until August, when the district decided to reduce his job to director of building and grounds.

 

But as Pierson coach Sean Crowley pointed out during the public input portion of the meeting, Shierant will be the sixth athletic director in seven years. In addition to Granger, William Madsen, Mike Burns and Dan Nolan have all served as AD since the departure of Nick DeCillis in 2006.

 

In related news, the board also announced it will hold two forums in coming weeks to meet with potential candidates for the open position on the board of education. That position has been vacant since board member Walter Wilcoxen resigned in late June, shortly after winning reelection to the board for a third term. Candidates will be publically interviewed by the board at 6 p.m. on September 11 and September 14. The seven contenders for the position are Marian Cassata, Stephen Clarke, David Diskin, Tom Gleeson, Jonathan Glynn, Susan Kinsella and Thomas Re.

 

YARD is Good for This Year

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By Claire Walla

After meeting with representatives of the Youth Advocacy Resource Development (YARD) program, Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto announced that the two parties had come to a decision.

“We agreed that the YARD summer beach program would remain under the auspices of the school district for 2011,” he said.

The school board has agreed to operate the program and the district will still essentially “own” the summer beach program this year.

However, Dr. Gratto continued to say that going forward the school board expressed an interest in detaching the summer beach program from the school’s list of responsibilities. The program could remain in operation, in this case, if it were to become a separate entity entirely (YARD is currently under the school’s insurance policy); or, Dr. Gratto added, “perhaps it could be run by Southampton Town.”

“It’s not a done-deal, per se,” school board president Walter Wilcoxen added.  From here on out, the future of YARD and it’s dependence on the school will be based “on the will of the board.”

School board member Dan Hartnett added that YARD was created at a time when “it was a completely different era,” before districts were subjected to such strict financial controls and annual audits.  “The question now is: how can we look at the needs of the kids and still be served in an era of accountability.”

He continued, “I’m happy that we’ve reached a decision to look at the beach program this year, because it is a beloved program.  And certainly there is time between now and next year to look at ways to administer and supervise it in a way that doesn’t harm the school.”

In other news…

To address the ways in which technology has changed the nature of communication, the board of education will revise board policy to take into account new ways of distributing information, i.e. texting and tweeting… yes, even Facebook.

“This is an important topic,” said school board member Dan Hartnett. He explained that there is a Sunshine Law in New York State, which prevents a board of elected officials from meeting in private when a majority of members is present.  Understandably, this notion is complicated when it comes to today’s swift back and forth of snippets of information.

“We should ask that all broadcast emails be copied to the [district] clerk, so that [all information] can be accessible to the public,” said school board president Walter Wilcoxen.