Tag Archive | "sag harbor schools"

Sag Harbor School District Says Goodbye to Three Chief Administrators

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School Business Administrator John O'Keefe, who will leave the district this summer, at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday, June 24. Photo by Tessa Raebeck

School Business Administrator John O’Keefe, who will leave the district this summer, at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday, June 24. Photo by Tessa Raebeck

By Tessa Raebeck

Although school’s out for summer, the Sag Harbor Board of Education will have its hands full with interviewing and hiring new personnel in time for students’ return in September.

In addition to the seven retiring members of the faculty, six of whom have positions that will be filled (one special education teaching position was abolished), interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso, business administrator John O’Keefe, and Todd Gulluscio, director of Athletics, Physical Education, Health, Wellness and Personnel, are leaving the district.

The board on Tuesday, June 24, accepted the resignations of Mr. O’Keefe and Mr. Gulluscio and appointed Dr. Bonuso as temporary assistant to the district’s new superintendent Katy Graves.

Dr. Bonuso will help Ms. Graves settle into her new position for 14 days between July 1 and July 31. He is being paid at a daily rate of $950 for a total of $13,300.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, community member and frequent meeting attendee Elena Loreto questioned the appointment of Dr. Bonuso to the temporary position.

“When you hired Katy Graves, everyone was high on her,” Ms. Loreto told the board. “We were ecstatic we found someone who was so neat, she was even better than sliced bread or ballpoint pens—then why does she need a mentor?”

“Carl, I love you, but we gotta say goodbye,” she added. “Katy is fully capable. Don’t spend the money.”

“Katy requested that Carl remain for some transition planning with her,” replied Theresa Samot, president of the school board. “We did, through our attorney, do a review of best practices, and he reported to us that it’s not unusual when a superintendent is coming from out of the district or out of the immediate area to actually have a transition for them.”

The board pointed to the extent of issues the new superintendent will have to deal with immediately, including capital projects from the bond referendum, for which the bulk of construction will start this summer, and the hiring of new personnel in many important positions. Ms. Samot added that the district budgeted for the transition in the 2014-15 budget.

“The board really carefully considered this issue,” said member David Diskin. “The request is really coming from Ms. Graves. This is a need that she feels is critical to make a great transition.”

“There’s just a lot of stuff happening,” added board member Daniel Hartnett, “and it just kind of struck me as Katy spoke that the reason that she asked for some transition is because she’s experienced…that I think is a sign of professionalism and I think it’s money well spent on our part.”

The board also recognized the contributions of Dr. Bonuso, Mr. O’Keefe and Mr. Gulluscio during their time in the district, as well as Mary Anne Miller, a school board member of six years who chose not to pursue another term.

“Mary Anne leads with her heart,” said Mr. Hartnett. “Mary Anne leads with her heart, but thank goodness, she’s got a great brain to follow. She’s a passionate advocate for public education.”

“I don’t know of many people that spend as much time focused on education that actually aren’t being paid to do so,” added Chris Tice, vice president of the board.

“Her willingness to be unafraid to turn over rocks and to challenge things and ask questions is unique,” said Mr. Diskin.

Dr. Bonuso initially came on as an interim for a few months, but was quickly asked to stay for longer and ultimately served two full years as superintendent.

“He’s been an amazing force not only in the school, but in the community,” said Ms. Samot.

“I think that you brought a new level of heart to this school family,” added Ms. Tice. “That is going to be your legacy when you leave, so thank you for that.”

“I have to say,” added Sandi Kruel, a board member, “that the senior class, you know every one of them by name, how to pronounce their last name…and when you showed up at [the New York State baseball finals] the seniors were like, ‘He’s the man,” and that’s all I can say, you the man. So thank you for being a part of so many of our students’ lives.”

Acknowledging the “100 people to [my] left and right,” Dr. Bonuso spoke of his love for Sag Harbor.

“I’ve been in the business a long time—maybe close to 40 years—I thought I was going to come by for a few months, turns out a couple years because I fell in love with the place and the projects we were working with,” he said, adding that he came out of retirement because, “I think God whispered in my ear, ‘Before you go, you have to see this place.’ It’s just a remarkable experience.”

Mr. O’Keefe has been the business administrator since 2012. He will be leaving the district for a position as assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations in the West Hempstead School District. His resignation is effective July 16. Mr. O’Keefe was instrumental in passing the bond referendum last fall and in getting the district’s Moody’s bond rating upgraded this spring.

“You’ve put us in the best financial shape we’ve been in since I’ve been in the district,” Ms. Kruel said to Mr. O’Keefe.

Mr. Gulluscio’s term ends June 30. A native of Shelter Island, he will be returning home to serve as director of Physical Education and District Operations in that district, where his wife also works. During his time in Sag Harbor, he oversaw several trips to state championship for the Pierson Whalers.

“You would be hard-pressed to ever find anybody as good at what they do than the two gentlemen who are in the room right now,” said Dr. Bonuso, adding, “It’s been a privilege to have them at the left and right side these past couple years.”

“You both leave the district in much better shape than when you got here, so thank you,” added Ms. Tice.

Move Over Sag Harbor Express, The Pierson Press Has Arrived

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Students read the Pierson Press in Sag Harbor Village. Photo by Kelli Delaney Kot.

Students read the Pierson Press in Sag Harbor Village. Photo by Kelli Delaney Kot.

By Tessa Raebeck

They conducted interviews, took photographs and wrote various forms of editorial content—and they did it all before summer vacation.

The first issue of the Pierson Press was distributed to students and businesses around town last week, six glossy pages featuring business stories about local restaurants, columns on talented Pierson alumni, and will-be recurring feature pages like “Sag Harbor Style.”

Nine students, three from Pierson Middle School and six from the high school, worked on the paper alongside math teacher Jason LaBatti and parent Kelli Delaney Kot, a club advisor. Judy Clempner of The Sag Harbor Express helped with layout and art teacher Peter Solow also provided assistance.

“I’m excited,” said cultural editor Ella Parker, who is going into her sophomore year at Pierson, adding that the paper is more kid-oriented and appealing than your standard student newspaper.

“There’s more pictures and I think people respond to color and large print… Unfortunately, I think we’ve hit an age where we’re so drawn to Instagram and to social media and I think this really appeals to what kids want now,” added Ella, proudly holding up the issue.

Sag Harbor’s official student newspaper is printed on glossy pages in full color. The front page grabs readers’ attention with a large photo of sophomores above the fold and, to its right, “Pierson Paparazzi,” a reel of pictures taken “out and about on campus.”

Also on the front page, is a feature written by Ella on Doppio East, Sag Harbor’s newest restaurant.

“Part of the learning curve,” said Ms. Delaney Kot, “was seeing how to create a story from start to finish and calling people for quotes—not being shy walking into Doppio and saying, ‘Could this be the new hotspot? I’m going to write about it.’ All that stuff’s not so easy when you’re 14, 15, 16.”

Ms. Delaney Kot, whose daughter Lily is in Ella’s class and also worked on the paper, is the founder and editor in chief of KDHamptons.com, “the luxury lifestyle diary of the Hamptons,” and has worked as a fashion editor for Condé Nast and at Us Weekly.

“They’re all reading Us Weekly, whether their parents really want them to or not,” she said of high school students, saying the goal was “to create something that was completely different from any other high school student newspaper and something that was glossy and color-driven and photo-driven.”

A goal of Pierson Press, in addition to setting itself apart from your standard run-of-the-mill, black-and-white and boring student newspaper, was to include shared experiences alongside “info snacks,” as the editorial team calls them.

For “info snacking,” they have tidbits “where kids can jump in, it’s easy to understand what the piece is about, cool picture, maybe you have a laugh and then you can move onto another piece,” said Ms. Delaney Kot. “It was important to have a balance where this was a fun read.”

“Yeah, it’s not so heavy on information, I agree, it’s not too serious,” added Ella.

“Sag Harbor Speak” features common language among teenagers, “a cheat sheet to understand the vernacular of Pierson students.” Though is “doe,” you’re crazy is “u cray,” and yes is “yewwwww.”

Pierson student Eve Bishop wrote a travel diary about her trip to New Orleans and a student trip to Washington, D.C., with Mr. LaBatti was featured, bringing the paper beyond Sag Harbor.

“I think what I like best about the paper,” said Mr. LaBatti, “when it was finally finished and I looked over it, is that it celebrates what they did.”

“There was some information about stuff going on outside of the school, but it was mostly about their lives,” he added.

Following the first issue’s success, the staff at the Pierson Press is optimistic about next year, during which they hope to put out not one issue but 10, with a full paper coming out each month of the school year and continual updates to a page for the paper on the school’s website, which is set to be revamped.

“Also, have the kids manage it and do the editing and proofing,” said Mr. LaBatti, adding that in the long run he hopes to incorporate the paper into an expanded computer science curriculum.

Recurring features in the paper will be the “Teacher Feature,” a Q&A with a Pierson teacher, Pierson Paparazzi, Featured Athlete, Awesome Instagrams, Sag Harbor Style, and Featured Alumnus, which this time around highlighted celebrated musician Rafaela Gurtler of the class of 2009.

“To have a handful of teenagers working on this once a week over a two-to-three month period and to have this result look so professional and perfect—not one typo—is really a testament to how hard everybody worked on it,” Ms. Delaney Kot said.

Sag Harbor School District’s Athletic Director and School Business Administrator to Resign

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Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio, School Board member Sandi Kruel, Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and School Business Administrator John O'Keefe celebrate the approval of the capital projects bond in November 2013. Photo by Michael Heller.

Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio, school board member Sandi Kruel, Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and School Business Administrator John O’Keefe celebrate the approval of the capital projects bond in November 2013. Todd Gulluscio and John O’Keefe are resigning from the district Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

According to the agenda for the Sag Harbor Board of Education meeting Tuesday, June 24, the board will accept the resignations of School Business Administrator John O’Keefe and Todd Gulluscio, Director of Athletics, Physical Education, Health, Wellness, and Personnel.

Mr. Gulluscio’s resignation was confirmed several weeks ago, but Mr. O’Keefe’s came as a surprise when the agenda was posted on the district’s website. The business administrator has been in Sag Harbor since 2012. Prior to joining the district, he was the Chief Financial and Operations Officer for the Cleary School for the Deaf in Nesconset for three years.

Once accepted, Mr. O’Keefe’s resignation will be effective July 16. Mr. Gulluscio’s term ends June 30.

The resignations come at a time when the district is already doing a lot of interviewing and hiring, as seven longtime teachers and staff members are retiring. Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso is also leaving his position, although he is set to be appointed as temporary assistant to the new superintendent Katy Graves. Dr. Bonuso will help Ms. Graves settle into her new position for 14 days between July 1 and July 31. He is being paid at a daily rate of $950, pending board approval Tuesday.

Pierson and the Ross School Win Big at the 12th Annual Teeny Awards

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Pierson High School students rehearse the final dance number of "A Chorus Line" in the high school auditorium January 26. Photo by Michael Heller.

Pierson High School students rehearse the final dance number of “A Chorus Line” in the high school auditorium January 26. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Up against 15 other competing high schools, Pierson High School and the Ross School took home 10 awards between them at the 12th Annual Teeny Awards ceremony at Longwood High School Sunday, June 8.

Hosted by East End Arts, the Teeny Awards recognize exceptional acting, directing and technical work in the theatre productions at local high schools. The 2013-2014 awards saw the entry of over 30 dramas, comedies and musicals, with more than 1,000 students involved in the casts, crews, pit and production teams.

“Whatever position you hold in a theatrical production–it is of the utmost importance,”  Teeny Awards Coordinator Anita Boyer said in a press release Sunday. “Each member of the troupe relies on the others in order to pull off a show and being a part of it is such a unique and incredible experience.”

 

Pierson High School

Before a crowd of past Teeny Award winners, theatre owners, local politicians and other distinguished guests, Pierson students performed the number “What I Did for Love” from “A Chorus Line,” warming up for what would be a long night of shaking hands and grabbing trophies.

Pierson took home one of the biggest awards of the night, winning “Best Ensemble” for its production of “A Chorus Line.”

The technical end of “A Chorus Line” was also featured in a heavy showing during the awards. Shelley Matthers was recognized for her role as stage manager and Shane Hennessy took home a technical design recognition award for his role in lighting design for ”A Chorus Line,” as well as Pierson’s other productions “A Murderer Among Us” and “The Fantasticks.”

Emily Selyukova was also recognized for technical design for her work as set designer and student director for “The Fantasticks.”

Emily and the entire cast of “The Fantasticks” took a Judges’ Choice Award home to Sag Harbor for their work as a student run and directed production.

The Lead Actress in a Drama award went to Rebecca Dwoskin of Pierson for her performance as Olga Buckley Lodge in “A Murderer Among Us.”

 

The Ross School

The Ross School also had a strong showing. Joannis “Yanni” Giannakopoulos was named best supporting actor in a drama for his performance as Scotty in “Median.”

Ross also earned best supporting actress in a drama, with Amili Targownik winning the award for her solo showing in “The One-and-a-Half-Year Silent Girl.”

The supporting actress in a comedy award resulted in a surprising tie, but the twist simply gave Ross School two awards instead of one; For their performances in “The Grand Scheme,” Daniela Herman, who played Bethel, and Naomi Tankel, who played Clarice, were honored.

Inga Cordts-Gorcoff was awarded a prize for her role as stage manager for “One Acts” at Ross.

The Eight Guinea Pigs of Sag Harbor’s IB Program are Ready to Graduate

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IB Diploma Candidates Max Snow and Bryant Yunker play a scientific song for fellow soon-to-be graduates Chance Sevigny, Kyle Sturmann, Garrett Potter, Tiger Britt and Carli Fischer at the IB recognition ceremony in the Pierson Middle-High School library Thursday, May 29 (Drew Harvey is there but not pictured).

IB Diploma Candidates Max Snow and Bryant Yunker play a scientific song for fellow soon-to-be graduates Chance Sevigny, Kyle Sturmann, Garrett Potter, Tiger Britt and Carli Fischer at the IB recognition ceremony in the Pierson Middle-High School library Thursday, May 29 (Drew Harvey is there but not pictured). Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck 

Adequate sleep, a social life and good grades: a diploma candidate in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program must choose two.

At a recognition ceremony for the first group of Pierson High School IB diploma candidates, eight seniors who were the guinea pigs when the school started IB in September 2012, Vice Principal Gary Kalish joked that students could only choose two of the three—and, perhaps surprisingly, the students laughed.

“Two years ago,” said Garrett Potter, a senior and IB diploma candidate, “we, Cohort 1, made the conscious decision to take on the challenge of the IB diploma program head on. And I can honestly say, two years later, I have not only improved as a student through the program but as a person.”

The eight inaugural students, Tiger Britt, Carli Fischer, Drew Harvey, Garrett Potter, Chance Sevigny, Max Snow, Kyle Sturmann and Bryant Yunker, were recognized in a ceremony before teachers, parents and administrators last Thursday, May 29, in the Pierson library.

As the district’s IB coordinator, Mr. Kalish led the initiative to introduce the international curriculum to Sag Harbor. A rigorous college preparatory program that seeks to educate the whole student, emphasizing critical thinking, creativity, responsibility and cultural understanding, IB is currently offered to Pierson students in grades 11 and 12.

Following recommendations made to the board of education by Mr. Kalish and Principal Jeff Nichols in March, the district is in the process of extending the IB curriculum to include a Middle Years Program (MYP) that would make it available for students in grades six through 10.

IB is designed to give students a global perspective, with more group discussion, problem solving and abstract thinking than traditional lecture-style classrooms. To qualify for the diploma, the eight members of the group had to complete six IB classes, as well as the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course, Extended Essay Project, and Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) activities.

In addition, the students completed internal and external assessments demonstrating understanding of different subject areas, including math and science portfolios, research investigations and research papers and oral commentaries, which included some 20 minutes of speaking in another language, “quite an impressive feat,” according to Mr. Kalish.

“What really makes the IB program unique, aside from those six courses and their assessments, is what the IB weighs as equally important in terms of their preparation for life after high school,” said Mr. Kalish.

Students are pushed to be critical thinkers, develop natural curiosity, act with integrity and honesty and show empathy, compassion and respect for others, Mr. Kalish said.

“I’m not going to sit here and say it was easy,” Garrett said, adding nothing worth accomplishing is ever easy.

“What I would say to Cohort 2,” he said, addressing the group of junior students in their first year of IB seated in the audience, “is I know things may seem tough at times, [but] that feeling of accomplishment when it’s all over—it’s all worth it.”

Garrett apologized to the graduating group’s parents for “stressing you guys out sometimes,” and thanked the administration “for going through this process with us and doing it together.”

“We know it was equally as hard for you, but we believe it was a mutualistic relationship, in that we all benefited from it greatly,” he added. “I believe the program has many more good years in the school.”

Theory of Knowledge, an essential component of IB, is a two-semester course that challenges students to question the bases of knowledge in the disciplines they study and to develop the ability to analyze evidence and express it in a rational argument.

“The best student does not need to wear their grades on their sleeves to demonstrate their stature,” said TOK teacher Sean Kelly. “Fearlessness, toughness, dedication and, most important of all, integrity…When you consider the expectation and standards inherent in the IB program, you can see how it can reveal the best in students.”

Student Drew Harvey said the biggest switch in adapting to the IB program was on the shoulders of the teachers.

“They had to change their whole curriculum and go outside what they’ve been teaching for the past 10 to 20 years,” Drew said.

“Mr. Kelly taught us to think outside the box and create our own opinions,” he said, adding the students’ were primarily pushed through writing.

History of the Americas teacher Ruth White-Dunne, he said, “did a really fine job of teaching history in a way we never thought was possible [and] showed us historical perspective by showing us all the causes and effects of global issues for all sides and parties.”

“That really opened our eyes to another way of thinking that was echoed through Mr. Kelly in his class,” added Drew.

Another key component of the IB curriculum is the Creativity, Action, Service requirement. Students must obtain 50 hours of each of the three components. The means to do so vary widely; creativity hours can be earned through playing an instrument or making art, action through moving your body via horseback riding or bushwhacking, and service through helping the community.

Seniors Carli Fischer and Kyle Sturmann told the room about their experience initiating recycling in the elementary and middle schools.

“These kids got pretty jacked up,” Kyle said of the younger recyclers. “I’m not gonna lie, they were into it.”

Sag Harbor School District Says it Will Save Taxpayers Thousands with Unprecedented Bond Rating Upgrade

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Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio, School Board member Sandi Kruel, Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and School Business Administrator John O'Keefe celebrate the approval of the capital projects bond in November 2013, which will see significant savings to taxpayers as a result of the district's bond rating upgrade in May. Photo by Michael Heller.

Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio, School Board member Sandi Kruel, Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and School Business Administrator John O’Keefe celebrate the approval of the capital projects bond in November 2013, which will see significant savings to taxpayers as a result of the district’s bond rating upgrade in May. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

In a move that will result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings for taxpayers, the Sag Harbor School District has been upgraded by Moody’s Investors Services from a single-A credit rating to double-A status.

“This significant upgrade is based upon the district’s strong, successful financial management practices over the past several years, which have resulted in both improved and satisfactory reserve levels,” the district said in a press release.

Each year, Moody’s checks in on the district as it enters budget season. The district borrows money annually for its cash flow purposes called TANs (tax anticipation notes) and has historically held a single A1 rating for borrowing, with the potential to advance to a double Aa3 rating.

School Business Administrator John O’Keefe decided to spearhead the effort to advance the district’s rating.

“I moved forward with the process because I felt over the last few years, the district has made some great strides,” Mr. O’Keefe said at a school board meeting May 27.

“We were successful,” he added. “We moved out of a single rating—which is the rating the district has always held since its graded history—we moved to a double rating, effective immediately.”

As a result of this upgrade, the district anticipates saving approximately $330,000 in interest for the work proposed in the $9 million capital projects bond voters approved last fall, as well as approximately $15,000 in bond insurance premiums. Additional money is expected to be saved during the annual TAN borrowing.

“It’s not very common,” Mr. O’Keefe said of the upgrade. “Especially to move in this fiscal climate where districts are getting tighter and tighter with the tax cap, it’s more common to move the other way.”

“Really, that’s work for children, because that kind of money can be freed up for programs and for important things,” added school board member David Diskin.

Sag Harbor Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio Resigns

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Sag Harbor Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio will leave the district next year. Photo by Amanda Wyatt.

Sag Harbor Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio will leave the district next year. Photo by Amanda Wyatt.

By Tessa Raebeck

An unnamed source high up in the Sag Harbor School District confirmed Tuesday, June 3, that Todd Gulluscio has resigned from his position as athletic director for the district.

Mr. Gulluscio, a native of Shelter Island, began in the district in January 2013. He took the position previously held by Montgomery Granger, who served in a joint position as director of athletics, health and physical education, as well as supervisor of facilities and grounds, since 2009.

Mr. Granger stayed on as director of buildings and grounds after Mr. Gulluscio’s appointment to a new position, director of athletics, physical education, health, wellness and personnel.

Before Mr. Granger, Mike Burns and Dan Nolan acted as interim athletic directors as the district struggled to fill the void left by Nick DeCillis, who was athletic director from 1995 to 2006.

Prior to coming to Sag Harbor, Mr. Gulluscio worked in the Greenport School District for over seven years, the last two and a half years as its athletic director.

When reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Gulluscio declined to comment.

Pierson Middle School Student Calls on Classmates to Stick Up for Others in Anti-Bullying Film

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By Tessa Raebeck 

Bullying has come to the forefront of the national dialogue in recent years, but it’s always been a constant among seventh graders.

“We really wanted to take a stand against bullying,” said Olivia Corish, a seventh grader at Pierson Middle School, whose latest short film, “A Cry for Help,” has made waves as a statement against both being a bully and being a bystander.

Through the film, which was shot entirely on her iPhone and edited using Final Cut Pro, Olivia called on her classmates to be “upstanders,” or someone who “steps in and says you’ve gotta stop,” she said Tuesday.

In the film, shot at Pierson, a young girl played by Anna Schiavoni, Olivia’s best friend and go-to lead actor, traverses the school day as best she can, but is frequently intercepted by a herd of bullies as she navigates the halls.

Playing the “victim,” Anna’s character struggles when she has a sign saying “Loser” taped to her back, is not picked for a sports team in gym class and is first forgotten and later ridiculed when another girl is passing out invitations to her party. As she tries to get through the day, the victim is laughed at, pushed or completely isolated. Even taking a sip of water is dangerous, as a passerby shoves her head into the fountain.

Shot in black and white, the YouTube film is reminiscent of the silent films of the 1920s. There is no dialogue, only sad music, “I’m in Here” by Sia Furler and Sam Dixon.

In one scene, the victim is putting on lip gloss in the bathroom at Pierson as one of the bullies looks on. A dialogue frame pops onto the screen with words said by the bully, “Why are you wearing lip gloss? It’s not going to make you look any prettier.”

The decision to keep the film silent was in part logistical, as play practice was going on at Pierson while the film was shot, and audio “can be really hard,” Olivia said, but it was also symbolic.

“We also thought that our video shouldn’t be dominated by words. It’s kind of the small things that hurt,” Olivia said. “It’s the silent things—like maybe someone just bumping into you or laughing behind your back—and we thought that that really didn’t need any words to describe it.”

The turning point in the film comes when the lip gloss bully is confronted by the “hero,” played by Gabriella Knab, who serves as the story’s upstander.

The inspiration for the hero upstander came from a tolerance and anti-bullying conference Olivia and other Pierson students attended at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center in Glen Cove.

Every year, the center invites student leaders from across Long Island to participate in the half-day conference, at which they hear from a keynote speaker, then break into small groups to exchange ideas and action plans of how to combat bullying and prejudice in their schools.

“We try to be [upstanders],” Anna said Tuesday.

“As much as possible,” added Olivia.

“A Cry for Help” premiered May 10 at the inaugural Young Filmmakers’ Festival at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton. In the weeks since, it has received 135 views on YouTube and has been widely shared by Sag Harbor parents on Facebook.

Anna and Olivia, however, are more concerned with the tangible response to the film’s message they have seen in school.

“They have really loved it,” Olivia said of her classmates. “I think it really inspired a lot of them to take a stand against the small bullying that happens.”

Anna said she too has been inspired by her role as the victim in the film.

After a school year of watching a certain bully in her class pick on another student, stealing his food and being generally unpleasant, she decided to step in. Anna asked the victim whether he enjoys having his food stolen, to which he replied no (perhaps unsurprisingly).

“He was like, ‘No, not really, but I think it’s just one of those things that you let happen,’” she recalled. “And I’m like, ‘No. You’re not supposed to let that happen.’”

During the class period in which his food is traditionally stolen, the day Anna spoke up, the boy instead reportedly said to his bully, “Actually, I think I want to eat my food today.”

As of Tuesday, the bully was no longer asking him for food.

“And now it stops, like in my film,” Olivia said of her friend’s story. “Just like that.”

 

FILM URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=An_ZDfsr_pg

Sag Harbor’s Substance Abuse Prevention Program Will Extend to Include Elementary Schoolers

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Consultant Marian Cassata Updates the Board of Education last August. Photo by Ellen Frankman.

Consultant Marian Cassata updates the Sag Harbor Board of Education on the district’s substance abuse prevention program last August. Photo by Ellen Frankman.

By Tessa Raebeck

Initiatives to combat substance abuse among Sag Harbor teenagers will reach all the way down to kindergarteners next year, district officials confirmed Tuesday.

The evening’s board of education meeting included an update on the district’s drug and alcohol abuse prevention program by Marian Cassata, a prevention consultant and the former director of Pupil Personnel Services at Pierson Middle-High School.

Ms. Cassata, along with her husband Bob Schneider, the former principal of Pierson, is active in the Sag Harbor Coalition, a group of community members dedicated to reducing the use of alcohol and other drugs among local kids. She and Katherine Mitchell of East End Counseling LLC were hired as consultants to address drug and alcohol prevention in the district last spring.

The increased attention to drug and alcohol abuse prevention comes following data from several surveys of local youth that found the rates of alcohol and drug use among Sag Harbor students are higher than average rates in Suffolk County.

Sag Harbor’s drug and alcohol abuse prevention program has traditionally started in middle school, when children are believed to be at the beginning stages of coming into contact with substances. The focus on younger grades has been on other relevant health topics, such as eating well and resisting peer pressure. But an effort to address what some say is an alarming number of Pierson High School students abusing alcohol and other drugs have caused the district to change its program.

Next year, the drug prevention program in the district will involve children as young as 5.

“Next year is the full implementation of that bottom strand of the pyramid,” Ms. Cassata said Tuesday.

Following recommendations made by the consultant to the board in August, the district decided to switch from its existing drug and alcohol program to HealthSmart, “a comprehensive K-12 health education program,” according to the company website.

For students in kindergarten through the fourth grade, the HealthSmart program includes four units: Personal and Family Health, Safety and Injury Prevention, Nutrition and Physical Activity, and Tobacco and Alcohol Prevention, introducing substance abuse prevention to Sag Harbor kids at a much younger age than the current program.

A source familiar with the current program who wished to remain anonymous expressed concern that students will be introduced to adult topics like drugs at an earlier age and said the district needs to educate parents prior to its implementation on what their children will be exposed to under the new program.

Ms. Cassata and Ms. Mitchell, as well as members of the Sag Harbor Coalition, believe an all-inclusive program is the most effective means of delivering a consistent and effective health curriculum that will prevent kids from abusing substances.

Ms. Casata said Tuesday staff development for the HealthSmart curriculum at the elementary school level will begin in June and the program will be “up and ready to launch fully in September.”

Ms. Casata told the board in August that the materials are estimated to cost in excess of $13,000 at $400 a kit and that she had already worked to secure grant money to fund the program.

According to Business Administrator John O’Keefe, drug and alcohol prevention services for the current school year, 2013-14, were budgeted at $25,000. The district has budgeted $20,000 for next year, 2014-15, slightly less because more funds were required to get the program up and running this year, Mr. O’Keefe said. Those funds cover payments to Ms. Cassata and Ms. Mitchell, as well as payment for guest speakers and “things like that,” he said.

Bond Upgrade

Also at Tuesday’s board meeting, Mr. O’Keefe announced Moody’s Investors Service has upgraded the Sag Harbor School District from a credit rating of A1 to Aa3, the first upgrade in the district’s history.

“This significant upgrade is based upon the district’s strong, successful financial management practices over the past several years, which have resulted in both improved and satisfactory reserve levels,” the district said in a press release.

As a result of this upgrade, the district anticipates saving approximately $330,000 in interest for the work proposed in the recently approved $9 million capital projects bond, as well as approximately $15,000 in bond insurance premiums. The district also plans to save additional money during the annual tax anticipation note borrowing.

“Really, that’s work for children, because that kind of money can be freed up for programs and for important things,” school board member David Diskin said Tuesday.

Sag Harbor Voters Pass School Budget; Samot, Kruel and Kolhoff Elected to School Board

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Sandi Kruel celebrates being reelected to the Sag Harbor School Board with Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio and interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso after polls close in the Pierson gymnasium Tuesday, May 20. Photo by Michael Heller.

Sandi Kruel celebrates being reelected to the Sag Harbor School Board with Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio and interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso after polls close in the Pierson gymnasium Tuesday, May 20. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Sag Harbor voters easily passed the school district’s $36.8 million budget for the 2014-15 school year and reelected two incumbents, Sandi Kruel and Theresa Samot, and first-time candidate Diana Kolhoff to the Board of Education.

The budget passed by a 72-percent margin, 578 to 222. Turnout was lower than usual with 800 ballots cast, compared to last year’s approximately 1,100.

The budget represents an increase of $1.36 million, or 3.83 percent, in spending from last year.

With a tax levy increase of 1.48 percent, the spending plan came in below the states 1.51 percent tax levy cap for the district, which is determined by district-specific calculations. The total amount of the spending increase to be raised by taxes is $484,543.

For Sag Harbor homeowners of a house valued at $1 million, the monthly tax bill is projected to increase by $5.83 in Southampton and $5.80 in East Hampton.

Under new legislation announced by Governor Cuomo, STAR-eligible homeowners in Sag Harbor will qualify for a rebate. Homeowners are eligible if their house is their primary residence and the owners’ combined annual income is $500,000 or less. Since the district will stay under the New York State mandated tax cap on property taxes, it is allowed to grant a rebate to eligible homeowners in October.

Incumbents Sandi Kruel and Theresa Samot congratulate each other on their reelection to the Sag Harbor School Board. Photo by Michael Heller.

Incumbents Sandi Kruel and Theresa Samot congratulate each other on their reelection to the Sag Harbor School Board. Photo by Michael Heller.

 

School Board Elections

In the race for three seats on the Board of Education, incumbents Theresa Samot, Sandi Kruel and newcomer Diana Kolhoff secured positions.

Sag Harbor residents were allowed to vote for three candidates.

Ms. Samot, the current president of the board, came in first with 587 votes, and Ms. Kruel, who will begin her fourth term on the board, came in second with 526 votes.

A newcomer, Ms. Kolhoff earned 503 votes, earning the final position on the school board. With 346 votes, challenger Thomas Ré fell short of securing a seat.

There were also a handful of write-in votes: John Battle had three votes, Stephen Clark had two and Mary Anne Miller, a longtime school board member who decided not to pursue another term, had one write-in vote.

The three seats were left up for grabs by the expiration of Ms. Kruel’s, Ms. Samot’s and Ms. Miller’s three-year terms.

“I’m just so excited,” Ms. Samot said after the results were announced Tuesday night in the Pierson Middle-High School gymnasium. “It’s really, I think, a new chapter in the Sag Harbor School District, with the new superintendent and the building project and all the good things that are happening, the expansion of the IB program.”

“So, I’m just so excited to be part of it and I want to thank the community for their support,” she added.

“I’m excited,” Ms. Kruel said in between hugs with administrators and fellow board members. “I’m excited going forward. I’m excited with what we’ve done and about moving forward with the new superintendent—and making our schools greater than they already are.”

Having moved to Sag Harbor about five years ago, Ms. Kolhoff is new to the school board, but has two daughters attending the Sag Harbor Elementary School. She and her husband, Randy, own Black Swan Antiques.

Ms. Kolhoff worked as a high school math teacher for 12 years and is currently a mathematics education consultant. She trains grade school teachers in best instructional practices and aids them in the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards.

“I got into mathematics because I like solving problems and I’m good at it,” Ms. Kolhoff said at a Meet the Candidates forum earlier this month. “So, if elected, that’s what I would like to do. Whatever problem comes up, let’s figure it out and find a good solution.”

The new board members will begin their three-year terms July 1 and stay on until June 30, 2017.