Tag Archive | "sandy kruel"

Sag Harbor School’s Budget Advisory Committee Proposes $29.5 million

Tags: , , , ,

The projected Sag Harbor school budget for next year is $29.5 million, a 3.3 percent increase over last year’s spending plan, although those numbers are not final.

The Sag Harbor school district’s budget advisory committee (BAC) has been meeting regularly to work on the 2009-2010 school budget to bring their recommendations to the board. On Monday, school superintendent Dr. John Gratto headed the meeting and said that he would be giving a “condensed version of the budget.”

Gratto explained that some of the major increases over last year’s budget include teacher salaries and the district’s contribution to the teacher retirement system. The district was required to estimate the increase in teacher salaries because teacher contract negotiations are still being hashed out.

The estimated increase for teacher salaries is just over $800,000, the teaching assistant salaries have an increase of $190,000 and the district’s contribution to the retirement system is estimated at an additional $40,763.

This year, the BAC also worked on reducing expenditures and cutting costs. In doing so, the committee shaved $278,825 from the BOCES contract by changing certain services provided by BOCES. Gratto also announced, that the school was able to save $126,549 by purchasing a bus and a van.

There was also $40,000 savings from the combination of the Athletic Director and Facility Manager positions and a $17,899 savings in a reduction for dental insurance costs.

In their findings, the BAC and the district administration also outlined that the estimated tax rate per $1,000 assessed value is a 5.78 percent increase for East Hampton ($660.80 to $699) and a 5.8 percent increase for Southampton residents ($4.03 to $4.26).

The draft budget also has a 2.5 percent buffer, adding approximately $600,000 for unforeseen expenditures.

That buffer became a point of contention at the meeting, when Mary Lynne Hess, BAC member, thought that it would not be enough of a cushion.

“We need to accrue for the retirement for next year,” she said.

But former school board president Walter Tice, a BAC member, said, “This is one of those unusual years, the amount is uncertain from this year to next year’s budget.”

School board member Mary Anne Miller said that some school districts go up to eight percent, which is highly controversial in those areas, but the state comptrollers recommend at the most, an increase of four percent. Gratto said that he thought the 2.5 percent “buffer” is a good compromise.

Chuck Neuman, president of the Noyac Civic Council, said that he was concerned about covering the costs of retirement. 

“Len [Bernard, business manager for the district] and I did a cost analysis for retirement,” Gratto said, “but we don’t have that many teachers at the age of retirement.”

These preliminary numbers will be presented to the board of education on February 23, leaving an entire month for the board to make changes before it needs to be finalized.

Also during Monday’s meeting, BAC member Sandy Kruel asked the superintendent about a rumor that the district was canceling its participation in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Gratto replied that “it is not false,” and informed the room that he sent a letter to the organization in an effort to save $5,000 — the membership fee.

Gratto said that could change, now that he has received feedback from others.

“Now I’ve been hearing what a terrible decision that was,” he said.

Kruel said that it is a “great program,” and that the organization offers a scholarship of nearly $30,000 to one graduating senior from the school — every year.

“I can reverse that decision,” Gratto said.

But Noyac resident and BAC member Elena Loreto was not in favor of keeping the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in the school.

“I think it is a great thing, that is $5,000 we can use somewhere else,” said Loreto.



School Approves Laptops for All Students

Tags: , , , ,

Next year, the Sag Harbor School District is hoping to give all students in the fifth and sixth grades a laptop that would stay “in school” and the technology department has a long-term plan on how to get computers on the laps of all Sag Harbor students from fifth through twelfth grade by 2013.

At Monday’s school board meeting, Vincent Raicovi, technology coordinator for the Sag Harbor school district, explained how such a plan may be feasible through a lease program similar to one established in the Westhampton school district.

For the next four years, the plan would cost the district $894,000 which includes teacher laptops and smart boards for grades five to 12.

The lease program, which includes 160 laptops for students in fifth and sixth grades, will cost the district $87,000 in 2009-2010. The following year, 320 laptops will be leased at a cost of $174,000. In 2011-2012, there would be 480 laptops leased for $261,000, in 2012-2013 the cost would be $372,000 for a total of $894,000 for four years. This would give the district 720 laptops that would fulfill the need for the students in grades five to 12 in its final year.

Raicovi said he believes that leasing computers is a better idea than purchasing them for several reasons.

“If we implement this plan to lease things instead of buying, then we aren’t stuck with older equipment,” he said. He also added that warranty, breakage and theft could be covered with the leasing models.

“In Westhampton, the usage is through the roof,” he said, “and there were noticeable improvements with test scores.”

“When kids walk out of here they will be immersed with technology,” superintendent Dr. John Gratto said.

PTA president Chris Tice asked about the philosophy of starting with the fifth and sixth graders first rather than working from the twelfth grade down. Raicovi replied that there were a lot of questions about that and said that a main concern is that these laptops not be taken home.

Rick Kraebel, a technology specialist for the district, said the fifth and sixth graders are also centrally located which would be physically better for keeping track of the computers.

Budget advisory committee member Sandy Kruel asked what would happen to the current computer labs and if those classrooms could then be opened up. Raicovi said he didn’t see that happening immediately, but perhaps in the second year of the project some of the lab computers may be available for other uses. Raicovi also said those labs may be needed for computers with advanced software.

When asked if the board was in agreement with the proposal, after heads nodded in agreement, board of education president Walter Wilcoxen said, “Go for it.”

Raicovi said he is going to work on some more figures for leasing versus purchasing and will get back to the board with that information.

Technology Budget

On Monday night, prior to a board of education meeting, the technology department gave their budget presentation to discuss cost savings that have been put together by the personnel in that department.

During the budget presentation Raicovi, explained that there will only be a two percent increase in the technology budget over last year’s budget even including the proposed lap top initiative. Some of those savings have come from leasing additional technology equipment instead of purchasing.

Raicovi also informed the room that the new phone system, which will be supplied by Optimum Lighpath, has saved the district $40,000. The phone system change will improve the current system and improve the data connections for Internet use at both the elementary school and the middle/high school. Raicovi announced the switch over to the new company will take place on Monday, February 2.

The only concern of the presentation was that $16,800 was budgeted for 12 cell phones in that department. Kruel brought the issue to the attention of Raicovi who said he is going to do some investigating.

“That is the next thing to attack,” Raicovi said.

“You guys shouldn’t be texting,” Kruel replied.

Raicovi explained that the cell phones are budgeted with Nextel and he said he will look into the current plans.

On Wednesday, Gratto said it is likely that the amount will be amended before the final budget presentation.

“It was a good catch,” Gratto said, “I wondered the same thing, seems like an awful lot of money.”

Bad Connection for School Phone System

Tags: , ,

The phone lines have been “busy” in the Sag Harbor School District as of late, but not in a good way. Two weeks ago, prior to the holiday break, anyone who tried to call the elementary or high school in the district was greeted by a busy tone emanating through the other end of the receiver. Interestingly enough, the administrators, staff and students can call out, but phone calls going in are constantly met with the sound of a busy line.

And as recently as yesterday afternoon, the phones were again affected by the weather and calls to the school went unanswered.

Countless similar incidents in recent months have left parents, administrators and local business people frustrated by an inability to reach anyone in the district. Phone service has been interrupted at least five times since the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year.

“The problem is old wiring,” explained school district superintendent Dr. John Gratto on Tuesday. He added that every time it rains a considerable amount water leaks into the system and the system goes down.

In order to offset the problem, the school’s website now includes “emergency numbers” in case a parent needs to get in touch with their child during the school day. These numbers are actually the cell phone numbers of staff members in the school’s offices. But this system is only for parents looking to reach their children in the event of an emergency, and not other community members trying to reach staff or conduct business with the district.

Months ago, Gratto said that the district was considering an entirely new phone system, not only to save money, but in order to reduce the problems the school was experiencing with the phones.

In early November, Gratto said that the district decided to leave the Metel phone company, their current provider, and switch to Cablevision’s Optimum Lightpath for both internet and phone service, which he said could save the district nearly $30,000 this year alone.

Gratto said that the phones will be converted by January 16, and that the new data system, which includes content filtering and web server email, will be switched over by Friday, January 23.

But former school board president and current budget committee advisory member Sandy Kruel said that the district completely re-worked the entire phone system just four years ago.

“I have parents calling me at home,” she said on Tuesday. “They want to know what’s going on with the phones.”

She also said that the parents have expressed their frustrations with the system to school district administrators at PTA and PTSA meetings.

“They have been to the PTSA asking questions and all we keep hearing is they are going to fix it,” she said. “It’s a challenge — definitely a challenge.”

Vincent Raicovi, the district’s technology coordinator, said that the system would be fully functioning by the end of this month.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” Raicovi said. He explained that the problem lies not with the phone system, but with the service provider and expects the new phone system will alleviate the problems with the Internet service as well, which he said has been disconnecting often.

“What we are doing for the Internet service is increasing our bandwidth at least six times to where it is now.” This, he said, will help improve efficiency.

On Wednesday morning, with the wind and rain he said it was lucky the lines were still working, and “knock on wood,” they didn’t go out. By the afternoon, of course, that changed.

According to Raicovi, there are 110 extensions in both the elementary and high schools that are affected when the lines go out.

On November 25, Raicovi said new fiber optic lines were installed by Cablevision and now the school is awaiting the final touches for the system to be switched over.


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

Tags: , , , ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Meanwhile, upstairs in the library parents were learning from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Frisicano to Resign

Tags: , , ,

After almost two decades as principal of Sag Harbor Elementary School, Joan Frisicano has announced she will retire. The news came during a meeting with co-workers and staff after school on Wednesday, November 12 when Frisicano announced that she will be stepping down as principal of the school as of January 1, 2009.

“I have been holding back the tears,” close friend Sandra Kruel, former school board president, said when she learned the news on Wednesday night. “She was the epitome of an amazing leader — I don’t think the district has any idea what they are losing.”
“She is so dedicated,” said board of education president Walter Wilcoxen. “I think a lot of people will be sad to see her go.” When asked who will take over, Wilcoxen said, “I think [assistant principal] Matt [Malone] is perfectly capable – wonderfully capable.”
Kruel said that Frisicano took only five short years to turn the elementary school into a Blue Ribbon school. She has touched the lives of thousands of kids, said Kruel adding that there are not many people who can say they have done that. Kruel added that Frisicano has created a great foundation for whoever takes over her role.

The Sag Harbor Express would love to hear your thoughts on the impact Joan Frisicano has had on our community and what her departure means for Sag Harbor School District. Please comment below.