By Claire Walla
For the past year, Sag Harbor School District has not carried a supplemental form of insurance known as student accident insurance. For some members of the Sag Harbor School Board, the program was not worth its cost to the district — some parents didn’t see high returns on their claims.
“It was more of a cost benefit issue,” recalled District Business Manager Janet Verneuille.
However, after hearing complaints from parents and concerns voiced by members of the school board, this week the board voted 4-3 to reinstate a new student accident insurance plan. School Board President Mary Anne Miller and board members Walter Wilcoxen and Gregg Schiavoni voted against reinstating the insurance plan.
After previously considering a few different options, the board ultimately decided to go with a company called Chartis, which carries an annual fee of approximately $45,765—or, $45 per student. There is also vanishing deductible of $250 with a two-year limit of benefit payments. The plan will go into effect as of July 1, 2012.
District Business Director Janet Verneuille reached out to neighboring school districts on the East End at the request of the board to find out whether or not they had student accident insurance. Seven responding districts — from Hampton Bays to Montauk — carried the insurance, Verneuille reported back. However, she said the prices were significantly lower elsewhere.
“I found the cost difficult to swallow,” admitted board member Chris Tice. However, she added, “I still go back to the point that, when you have students on your premises… there’s a lot that our health insurance doesn’t cover. It is very normal and expected that the school would have this insurance.”
“You open the door and there can be an accident,” said board member Sandi Kruel, a staunch supporter of student accident insurance.
Unlike liability insurance, which the school is required by law to carry, student accident insurance would kick-in for student injuries not thought to be connected to negligence on the part of the district.
Board member Gregg Schiavoni expressed some concern about voting for student accident insurance after the board had already voted to approve the proposed 2012-13 budget, as it would drive the cost of the budget up by nearly $46,000, treading dangerously close to the two-percent tax cap limit. Schiavoni wondered if the board should also consider cutting roughly $46,000 worth of expenses from the proposed budget.
However, Superintendent Dr. John Gratto added, “I don’t want to do that because I don’t want to take out anything in the budget.”
He went on to say that the budget had been very tightly whittled down to its current state and student accident insurance didn’t take top priority.
Instead, he said, “I would wait until the school year is underway and find something that we haven’t spent money on.”
Dr. Gratto pointed out that the school had made very conservative estimates in the budget regarding the number of transfer students expected to enter the district next year. Though revenues from the transfer student population could top $700,000, the budget only anticipates $400,000 in revenues, making anything over that amount surplus.
In other news…
The district voted to approve its traditional mascot: the whale.
But not just any old whale.
During a school board presentation last Monday, March 26, Dr. Gratto showed a collage of images showcasing nine different whale designs found throughout the village. Many Sag Harbor institutions — from Bagel Buoy and the Wharf Shop to the United Methodist Church and the signpost for Sag Harbor Hills — feature their own versions of the world’s largest mammal.
One rather jovial whale is portrayed standing upright and sticking its tongue out, seemingly in the midst of dancing a jig — this is not the sea creature that will come to represent Pierson.
The board made very clear that the Pierson Whalers will be represented by some version of the whale currently gracing the wall of the Pierson Gym.
“It’s the spirit of this whale,” clarified board member Chris Tice.
She further noted that the final whale image — which will ultimately be used as the official emblem of the school for promotional materials, like t-shirts, letterhead and the school website — can be tweaked a bit so that its outline will be displayed to its full potential in all formats.