Tag Archive | "Schools"

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.

Bridgehampton School Board Feeling Better Now That Budget Has Passed

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BHSchoolStockImage

By Tessa Raebeck

The mood was considerably lighter at the monthly meeting of the Bridgehampton School Board on Wednesday, June 18. After months of worry over piercing the state-imposed tax cap, there was relief the day after the community approved the district’s $12.3 million 2014-15 budget on the second try.

“It’s been a great year overall,” said Dr. Lois Favre, who is completing her first year acting as both principal and superintendent for the district. “Despite our budget fight, it’s been a great year. I think it’s a good feel in the building, morale is good.”

The budget, which pierces the state-mandated tax cap by 8.8-percent, failed to gain the required 60-percent supermajority in the first communitywide vote on May 20. After a grassroots get-out-the-vote effort by the board, administrators and other supporters, it passed with 62 percent June 17.

Lillian Tyree-Johnson, a member of the school board, extended her compliments to Dr. Favre, business administrator Robert Hauser, and district clerk Tammy Cavanaugh at last Wednesday’s meeting.

“During this revote process,” she said, “it’s been really grueling and you guys have handled it with incredible grace. It was really a tough time and I commend you all for absolutely answering questions with ease.”

“The transparency is impeccable as well,” added Ronald White, president of the school board. “Any question that you guys were ever given, you guys were able to answer it. It was clear and people totally understood, I understood it.”

Also at the meeting, Mr. Hauser updated the board on facilities improvements around the Bridgehampton campus. The bulk of capital projects take place over the summer, so as not to interfere with instructional time.

New equipment for the playground has been ordered and the renovation should be completed by August 15, several weeks before the start of school.

A Bridgehampton resident donated a playhouse to the school that board members are quite impressed by.

“I was actually thinking about moving my office in there,” Mr. Hauser joked.

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.

Sag Harbor School Board Honors Retirees, Grants Tenure

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Retiree Bethany Deyermond is congratulated by school board member Mary Anne Miller while board vice president Chris Tice, president Theresa Samot, interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and board member David Diskin look on at the board of education meeting Monday, June 9.

Retiree Bethany Deyermond is congratulated by school board member Mary Anne Miller while board vice president Chris Tice, president Theresa Samot, interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and board member David Diskin look on at the board of education meeting Monday, June 9. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

At what many members of the Sag Harbor School Board call their favorite meeting of the year, the district recognized the contributions of seven retirees and granted tenure to five teachers Monday.

The retirees, interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso joked, have been in the district for some 20 to 200 years each.

“I’m speaking as a colleague of theirs, somebody who started in the school when all of them had already established careers,” Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone, who started as a teacher at the school, said of his teachers before a crowd of friends and family gathered in the Pierson library.

“From the minute I walked into the building, I could always look to these four ladies for guidance and support and for setting the benchmark of professionalism,” he added.

Art teacher Laurie Devito, Mr. Malone said, has worked for 31 years to “ensure that art has been an integral part of our school and the educational experience for all the boys and girls. When you enter our school, art is truly alive.”

Mr. Malone spoke of the commitment shown by third grade elementary school teacher Bethany Deyermond, who has been in the district for 29 years, to promoting the growth and success of her students.

“All the boys and girls who have had the good fortune to work with her have truly benefited from that experience,” he added.

Those who have been “lucky enough” to work with Nancy Stevens-Smith, the elementary school’s Response to Intervention (RTI) specialist, during her 33 years at the school have learned much under her direction, Mr. Malone said.

“Each year, Nancy guided her students, our school and our entire community to become more aware of the tremendous contributions of African-Americans throughout history and for that we are grateful,” Mr. Malone said.

School board member Sandi Kruel thanked all the retirees, saying she is privileged and honored they have all worked with at least one of her three sons.

When asked what he was grateful for on a school assignment, “my son was grateful for Martin Luther King because if it wasn’t for him, he wouldn’t have been able to have Ms. Stevens as a teacher,” Ms. Kruel added.

Retiree Nancy Remkus has served the district for 31 years, filling multiple roles as a classroom teacher, special education teacher and music teacher.

“The institution that we all call Morning Program started with Nancy’s encouragement and triumphed due to her talents and care,” Mr. Malone said. “Our school is going to continue starting each day with a song and we thank Nancy for that.”

Spanish teacher Rafaela Soto Messinger is also retiring from the elementary school, although she was not in attendance Monday.

Director of Pupil Personnel Services Barbara Bekermus honored longtime staff member Laurie Duran, senior clerk typist for the district.

“When I was going to take this job,” Ms. Bekermus said of her position. “I thought, well, at least I have Laurie to teach me this job and show me the ropes.”

“The directors came, they went, and the only constant has always been Laurie—and every director has relied on you to steer the ship and show them the way. I’m grateful that I had my first year with Laurie, because I could not have done it without you,” she added.

A special education teacher for 33 years, Peggy Mott has “worked with some of our most challenging students, not only academically, but emotionally,” Ms. Bekermus said, adding that Ms. Mott advocates for her students and many of them told Ms. Bekermus they never would have taken challenging courses, graduated and mapped out careers without the guidance of Ms. Mott.

Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols celebrated his friend and longtime colleague Douglas Doerr, a science teacher.

“The pride with which he approaches his position here at Pierson is the same pride and commitment that he shows with regard to his own kids and as a single father, I’ve watched his kids grow up and turn into wonderful, wonderful people,” Mr. Nichols said.

Also at Monday’s meeting, five teachers were nominated and unanimously approved for tenure. Teachers can be nominated for tenure after they’ve served three years in the district.

“The board treats—all of us treat—tenure very, very seriously,” Dr. Bonuso said. “It’s not something that we automatically dole out. We know how important the teaching act is.”

For grades seven through 12, Anthony Chase Mallia was awarded tenure for mathematics, Richard Schumacher for chemistry and Kelly Shaffer for French. Elizabeth Marchisella earned tenure for Visual Arts and school counselor Adam Mingione was granted tenure in his field.

“This is one of the many fun things we get to do as a board and we have many very talented staff throughout our buildings,” said Chris Tice, school board vice president.

“To me,” said Dr. Bonuso, “I think teaching is the most noble of all professions, so to have the ability to say thank you to people who have devoted their life to that is an honor.”

Second Budget Vote for the Bridgehampton School District is Tuesday, June 17

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By Tessa Raebeck

After its first budget vote failed to garner the 60 percent supermajority needed to pierce the state-mandated cap on property tax levy, the Bridgehampton School District has decided to bring an identical budget back to the public for a second vote on Tuesday, June 17, this time hoping to earn the support needed to keep the school’s programs and personnel in staff.

The Bridgehampton School Board has proposed a $12.3 million budget.

Administrators say the budget, which pierces the cap with a levy increase of $1.1 million, is necessary to keep the school strong and special. It fell short of a supermajority by 36 votes in the first vote May 20.

The vote is from 2 to 8 p.m. in the school gymnasium. If the budget fails to pass a second time, the district will have to draft a new budget with a 0-percent tax levy increase, requiring an additional $800,500 in spending cuts.

Those cuts, school board member Lillian Tyree-Johnson said, would be “devastating” to the district.

Bridgehampton School Ranked as One of the Country’s Best High Schools by U.S. News & World Report

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Bridgehampton School students Aries Cooks and Tyler Stephens worked with teachers Jessica Rodgers and Joyce Raimondo to complete a mural in the school's cafeteria last June. Photo by Michael Heller.

Bridgehampton School students Aries Cooks and Tyler Stephens worked with teachers Jessica Rodgers and Joyce Raimondo to complete a mural in the school’s cafeteria last June. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Bridgehampton School has earned a spot on the annual ranking of the Best High Schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Out of 19,411 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia, Bridgehampton was awarded a bronze medal, securing its spot on the list. Schools were eligible for the rankings if they had sufficient data and enrollment, which resulted in about two-thirds of the nation’s schools being judged.

They were assessed in a three-step process that took into account: performance on state tests compared to state averages and factoring in economically disadvantaged students; whether the school’s least-advantaged students—black, Hispanic and low-income—were performing better than average than similar students across the state; and college-readiness performance using data from Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) tests (not available for Bridgehampton).

The total minority enrollment at Bridgehampton School is 67 percent.

The school scored a math proficiency of 3.2 and an English proficiency of 3.6. By comparison, the number one high school in the country, the School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas, Texas, scored 3.8 in geometry proficiency and 3.6 in reading proficiency.

With 31 teachers and 159 students in pre-K through 12th grade, Bridgehampton has one of the lowest student/teacher ratios, 5:1. The ratio at Pierson Middle-High School in Sag Harbor is 9:1, East Hampton and Southampton both have a 10:1 ratio and Hampton Bays’ ratio is 14:1.

The only other East End school district to be awarded a medal and spot on the list is Greenport, which earned Silver. The district’s numbered ranking, available for Gold and Silver award-winners but not Bronze, is 121 in New York State and 1,525 in the country.

The complete list of the 2014 Best High Schools is at usnews.com/education/best-high-schools.

UPDATE: Sag Harbor Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio Expected to Resign

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Sag Harbor Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio is expected to resign at the end of the current school year, which formally ends July 1. Photo by Amanda Wyatt.

Sag Harbor Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio is expected to resign at the end of the current school year, which formally ends July 1. Photo by Amanda Wyatt.

By Tessa Raebeck

A source in the Sag Harbor School District confirmed last week that Todd Gulluscio is expected to resign from his position as athletic director for the district by the end of the current school year.

Mr. Gulluscio has declined to comment, other than to say he left the district on good terms. Other sources in the district likewise confirmed there is no ill will involved in his decision.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso said Wednesday, June 11, that Mr. Gulluscio has not submitted his official resignation yet but he expects a formal announcement on the decision will be made within days.

“We will have official word very shortly of the opportunity that has presented itself to Todd,” Dr. Bonuso said.

Although there is not yet confirmation, it is rumored that Mr. Gulluscio is relocating to the Shelter Island School District, where his family lives and where his wife is a teacher.

“It seems that there is a real good possibility for him that he may very well avail of himself,” Dr. Bonuso said. “But that can only happen if there is something far more formal and official that needs to be done.”

“So, he’s trying to be very good about not putting out any unofficial word or anything that has not been confirmed or affirmed, but because he wants to keep us out in front of what is a very likely possibility at this point he passed along unofficial word, just so we can prepare ourselves should it happen,” the interim superintendent added.

Mr. Gulluscio, a native of Shelter Island, joined Sag Harbor 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, from 2009.

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

Before Mr. Granger, the district struggled to fill the void left by Nick DeCillis, who was athletic director from 1995 to 2007. Wayne Shierant, Bill Madsen, Mike Burns and Dan Nolan all held the position in the interim, making Mr. Gulluscio the sixth athletic director since Mr. DeCillis.

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.

Pierson has seen much success in its athletic programs under the guidance of Mr. Gulluscio, with the field hockey team winning the state championship in the fall and the baseball and softball teams winning their respective Class C New York State Regional Finals Saturday, June 7, for the second year in a row.

“I think he’s done a remarkable job and I think just about everybody who has had the opportunity and privilege of watching him do his job would have the same sentiment,” Dr. Bonuso said. “But again, we want him to do what is best, obviously, for him and his family. I know how committed he is to this school family, but I guess sometimes you need to do what you need to do.”

Bridgehampton Student Harriet DeGroot Receives Chemistry Award

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Bridgehampton School tenth grader Harriet DeGroot was nominated by teacher Helen Wolfe for Outstanding Scholastic Achievement in High School Chemistry and received the award from the New York Chemical Society’s Long Island Subsection. Photo courtesy Bridgehampton School.

Bridgehampton School tenth grader Harriet DeGroot was nominated by teacher Helen Wolfe for Outstanding Scholastic Achievement in High School Chemistry and received the award from the New York Chemical Society’s Long Island Subsection. Photo courtesy Bridgehampton School.

By Tessa Raebeck

Harriet DeGroot, a tenth grader at the Bridgehampton School, received the New York American Chemical Society award for Outstanding Scholastic Achievement in High School Chemistry for 2014. Nominated by Helen Wolfe, her science teacher at Bridgehampton,  Ms. DeGroot was chosen for the award, which recognizes the best high school chemistry students at each high school in Nassau, Suffolk and Queens Counties. She received the award from the New York Chemical Society’s Long Island Subsection.

 

Hoping to Save Programs, Bridgehampton School Will Bring Budget to Voters a Second Time June 17

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Bridgehampton school personnel say extracurricular activities (like the community garden, pictured above) are what makes Bridgehampton School special and are worth piercing the tax cap. Photo by Michael Heller.

Bridgehampton school personnel say extracurricular activities (like the community garden, pictured above) are what makes Bridgehampton School special and are worth piercing the tax cap. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

After its budget fell short of approval by just 36 votes, the Bridgehampton Board of Education agreed last Wednesday, May 28, to present the same $12.3 million budget to the community for a second vote on June 17.

The 2014-15 budget, a 9.93-percent or $1.1 million increase over last year’s due largely to contractual obligations, required a supermajority of 60 percent because it pierced the state-mandated tax levy cap. With just 247 residents casting ballots, it came in short at just above 54 percent with 134 yes votes and 113 no votes.

“Certainly, while the support of the budget was positive, it wasn’t quite positive enough to get us to be able to pierce the levy limits,” said Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre. “In planning the budget, the board considered all possible scenarios. With community support, it decided the only way to move forward successfully was to pierce the cap.”
Members of the school board were optimistic they will see a larger, more supportive turnout June 17.

“I think it’s a learning experience,” BOE president Ronnie White said. “Maybe we should go back to the drawing board and try to get some of the folks, the naysayers, and really educate them on the actual numbers.”

Lillian Tyree-Johnson, a school board member since 2009, sent out an email May 21, the morning after the budget’s defeat, to her personal contacts with an attachment of Bridgehampton’s registered voters, whether they had voted in 2008 and 2009 (when Ms. Tyree-Johnson ran for the board and began keeping a tally of voters in an effort to mobilize them) and whether she thought they would vote yes or no.

Two days later on May 23, Ms. Tyree-Johnson sent a follow-up email with another spreadsheet, this time not including her thoughts on how people would vote.

“We just didn’t realize that it was going to be controversial,” she said in a phone conversation Tuesday about her decision to mark how she believed people would vote. “Some of our people that do really support us just get a little complacent and we don’t push so hard.”

Ms. Tyree-Johnson said her intention was not to target people, but merely to rally supporters to encourage people they knew who were on the list and did not vote to come out June 17.

“I did not send a list of parents trying to shame anybody, because for sure I don’t think you get anywhere with shaming everybody,” she said. “I’ve just been trying to encourage people who love it, who love this school.”

Mr. White said Wednesday the board never discussed the email collectively, adding that the list of registered voters is public information available under the Freedom of Information Law.

“Above and beyond being on the board, she’s a patron of the community,” Mr. White said of Ms. Tyree-Johnson. “So, whatever it is that she wishes to do to help our district out—I think she’s communicated with counsel to make sure the things she was doing were legit and legal, and it appears that there was no breach of any kind of confidential information.”

Ms. Tyree-Johnson wrote in the email that should the budget fail a second time, “The cuts that will have to be made are devastating.”

If the budget fails again, the district will be required to draft a new budget with a 0-percent tax levy increase, which would require an additional $800,500 in spending to be cut.

Dr. Favre sent out a letter to members of the Bridgehampton School community outlining some of those losses.

“The list is horrifying,” said board member Jennifer Vinski. “It would be devastating to our school and most importantly our children.”

Those cuts would include disbanding the pre-kindergarten classes for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“That’s a huge loss to me, because I think that’s what makes our school so special,” Ms. Tyree-Johnson said Tuesday, “especially for a school district where there’s a lot of lower income [families], because they can’t afford to send their kids to a private nursery or a pre-K program.”

A defeat would also require the district to cut its after-school programs, driver’s education, extracurricular clubs, drama program, field trips, swimming program, all summer programming (Young Farmers Initiative, Jump Start, drama program), Arts in Education and Character Education Programming, any increases in technology and updates to music equipment, the Virtual Enterprise program and internships, vocational education opportunities for students through BOCES, newsletters and printed communication and several teacher/aide/staff positions, among others.

Staff development programs mandated by many new state educational initiatives, summer guidance and library materials would also need to be reduced.

The proposed budget would enact a $10.6 million tax levy, an 8.8-percent increase from the current school year’s. For a homeowner of a $500,000 house, the annual tax bill would be increased by approximately $56 a year.

The second budget vote is June 17 from 2 to 8 p.m. in the Bridgehampton School gymnasium.

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.”