Tag Archive | "student accident insurance"

School Board Says “Yea” To Student Accident Insurance, Mascot

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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.

Board Aims to Solidify School Mascot

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Yearbook Photo, whale

By Claire Walla

Your perception of the Pierson Middle/High School mascot is probably correlated to the amount of time you’ve spent with the school.

“The whale has always been the mascot,” said school board member Teresa Samot, who grew up in Sag Harbor.

She added, however, that the school has seen a lot of variations over the years, and many uniforms don’t have a mascot at all. Recently, this prompted athletic director Monty Granger to question what the school’s rallying symbol was at all.

The Pierson mascot has been discussed before, but now the school district has expressed interest in deciding, once and for all, what exactly this symbol will be.

According to Samot, not only is the mascot a whale, it’s a very specific whale.

“Many alumni have made it clear that it’s not a whale standing on its tail, or a whale dancing,” she began. “It’s that whale!” she said, making reference to the whale depicted on the wall of the Pierson Middle/High School gym.

Board members Chris Tice and Mary Anne Miller expressed an interest in deciding on the mascot quickly in order to solidify the Pierson “brand.”

“We’re losing fundraising opportunities,” Miller said.

By licensing a specific mascot, the school could use that image on stationary, pens and other Pierson products, including t-shirts and sweatshirts.

“What I’m concerned about, is the whale you use,” said Pierson High School student Amanda Gleeson. “It should be something that we can actually be proud of visually.”

She added that she felt the board should choose mascot options, and then leave the final decision-making process to a student vote.

“We’re really looking for something really simple that we can just put on a t-shirt,” Monty Granger said. And then, invoking the words of Herman Melville, he added: “We may never find the white whale, but we may find one that we think reflects the history and tradition [of Sag Harbor] through time, but is also palatable to students.”

The board is expected to revisit the issue at its next meeting, March 26.

In other news…

What do draw bridges, pine needles and chickens named “Retro” have in common?

All were featured at last Monday’s Sag Harbor School District meeting when students from Kryn Olson’s Elementary School fifth grade science class presented three different science fair projects to the board of education.

According to science fair participant Phoebe Miller, science projects “first start out with an inspiration.”

Standing next to her science fair partner Gabriela Knab and a wooden model of a bridge, she continued: “Ours was the Mystic Drawbridge.”

The girls hypothesized that a drawbridge would not be able to lift without a counter weight. And after experimenting with different weights on the wooden model they constructed, their hypothesis was proven correct.

Student Daniel Capurso focused his project on pine needles, paper scraps and cardboard in order to “make heat from garbage.” Using a plastic cylinder and CDs to shmush the paper refuse into compact circles, he said, “My hypothesis was correct, the paper discs [conducted] more heat” than regular trash.

Finally, standing before one of their scientific subjects, Retro the chicken, Reilly Rose Schombs and Caroline Jungck said that their hypothesis revolved around the correlation between diet and egg quality. After feeding their poultry a new combination of cantaloupe, tomatoes, apples and pears and testing their results, they did indeed prove that the color of the chickens’ egg yolks grew darker as a result of a diet rich with fruit.

Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone related the importance of science at the elementary school level to the growing interest in the Intel science projects at the high school level.

“By focusing on science in the elementary school,” he said, “we can focus on some of the things that are to come.”

Budget Update

The proposed 2012-2013 school district budget — currently set at $34,182,256, representing a 2.88 percent spending increase over this year’s operating budget — plans to appropriate $500,000 from the fund balance to be used for energy efficiency upgrades. However, school board member Ed Drohan cautioned the district against dipping into these funds.

“You’ve got to ask yourself, are we going to pay the price next year?” he asked. “Are we mortgaging the future?”

While the district is going to see some savings from cost-cutting measures taken in the business and special education departments, Drohan pointed out that these will probably be one-time savings.

Instead of dipping into the fund balance to pay for building upgrades, he said the district should think instead of cutting costs elsewhere.

“I think it’s time we approach the [teachers’] union and come to some sort of compromise,” Drohan said.

He noted that the Bridgehampton School District recently managed to negotiate a district-wide freeze on all teachers’ salaries for the 2012-2013 school year. Although District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto didn’t seem very optimistic that situation could be mirrored here in Sag Harbor.

“I have talked to the teachers about concessions and we didn’t reach an agreement,” he responded.

The school board was expected to make its final decision to approve the proposed budget this week. But, according to Dr. Gratto, the state is still “tweaking” some of the finer points of its two-percent tax cap legislation.

The proposed budget currently includes a 1.94 percent tax levy increase, just shy of the two-percent limit. Any modifications to the legislation have the potential to change this calculation, perhaps bringing that total even closer to the two-percent limit.

“We wanted to hold off for that reason,” Dr. Gratto added.

But, because the budget must officially be adopted before the end of the month, he said the board will have no other choice but to vote on the budget at its next meeting, March 26.

The debate over student accident insurance continues

School board members said at a meeting this week that they were reluctant to make a decision as to whether or not the school should carry a supplemental insurance policy until they find out more information, including exactly how many neighboring districts hold such a policy.

Currently, the district does not have student accident insurance; it was canceled last spring when board members agreed that, overall, the insurance plan was not giving parents an adequate financial return on their medical bills.

As a supplement to the school’s liability insurance, this type of coverage relates to injuries that are not determined to be related to negligence on the part of the school. (For example, if a child should get injured in a sports game.)

The board is divided on the need for such a program. While some board members feel the school has an obligation to cover all student injuries, others feel the current options before them are not sufficient.

“I’m actually in favor of a parent-pay plan,” said board president Mary Anne Miller, who pointed out that the school offers insurance to parents at a much lower rate: from around $20 to $245 for the year with no deductible, versus a $250 deductible for student accident insurance.

“It’s less money out of the parents’ pockets.”

Board Divided Over Supplemental Accident Insurance

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By Claire Walla

Ever since the need for student accident insurance was brought into question last year, it has been a hotly debated item among Sag Harbor School Board members.

Last year, the board voted to eliminate the service (which is not required by law). However, at the urging of some Pierson parents, the school has been asked to reinstate it.

Student accident insurance is a policy that provides limited coverage if a child is injured while at school or during a school activity.  This is different from liability insurance — which the school is required to carry — which would cover the cost of a lawsuit if it was ruled there was negligence on the part of the district.

“We are the owners of the biggest house in the community,” said school board member Sandi Kruel. “We open up our door every single day and we have high-risk activities. For us not to protect ourselves and the children is totally appalling to me.”

At a school board meeting on Monday, January 6, the district’s director of business operations, Janet Verneuille, presented six student accident insurance plans for the board to consider, only two of which she said were viable. A company called Chartis offers one option at $46,453 per year, while Pupil Benefits — the company the school district used up until last year — is $39,521.

According to Verneuille, the problem with Pupil Benefits had to do with “reasonable and customary” costs, which are the costs the insurance company itself determines for a medical procedure. If a family doesn’t have medical insurance, student accident insurance will gauge the amount of money it pays for services based on these “reasonable and customary” estimates.

Because medical expenses are relatively high on the East End, Verneuille said the correlation between the two left many families without much of a financial return.

“The cost benefit wasn’t there,” she said.

Board member Walter Wilcoxen noted that issues surrounding Pupil Benefits arose when a parent in the school district complained of receiving only $300 back on a $3,000 medical bill.

However, board member Chris Tice said that discrepancy was not always true.

“I’ve heard from parents who said they benefited [from student accident insurance],” she said. “Not everyone who filed claims was dissatisfied.”

Plus, she added that student accident insurance could be helpful for those families that don’t currently have health insurance.

“How is that the responsibility of the district as a whole?” Wilcoxen countered. “The primary question is whether or not it’s our obligation to do this. I think it’s the parents’ obligation to provide health care for their children.

Plus, he continued, “For what you’re getting back, it’s not worth it.”

Board member Gregg Schiavoni agreed.

“I think it’s a perk if we carry it,” he stated. “But, for what it’s costing the district to carry this insurance, the payout isn’t worth it. We’re barely under the tax cap. If we want this policy, we’ll have to make cuts to stay under the cap.”

Kruel noted that student accident insurance would come out at about $45 per student, which she said was “miniscule” in the grand scheme of things, considering the school’s budget is currently proposed to come out to $35 million.

She added, “If the bus proposition passes, we’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars to play with.”

(Part of the 2012-2013 budget presentation included a proposal for the district to purchase six new buses, which Verneuille estimated would save the district up to $1 million over the next 10 years.)

By the end of the meeting, the board was not ready to make any decisions as to whether or not to adopt a new student accident insurance plan until finding out what the “reasonable and customary” rates would be for both Chartis and Pupil Benefits. Verneuille said she would reach out to the insurance companies and try to provide updates at the board’s next business meeting.

In other news…

The Sag Harbor School Board approved plans to tear out the existing maple-wood floor in the Sag Harbor Elementary School gymnasium and replace it with a rubber material called “pulastic.”

According to Principal Matt Malone, a thin layer of concrete beneath the current wood floor cracked because of a steam leak from a pipe beneath the gymnasium. This ultimately caused a portion of the wooden surface to “bubble up,” he said.

“Some of that same problem, though to a lesser scale, has been detected in other segments of the floor,” he explained.

Malone and the district’s buildings and grounds director, Montgomery Granger, said the pipes have been repaired. But the floor — which is relatively new, having been paid for by a bond resolution in 2008 — definitely needs replacing.

District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto said the floor will be replaced at no cost to tax payers because it is considered a defect and is covered by the school’s insurance.

While several board members lamented the loss of the gym’s relatively new maple flooring, Malone said the Pulastic surface is more durable and easier to maintain than the maple wood.

“Every day we have about 500 people coming into the gym for morning program,” Malone added. “That wear and tear is something that’s been problematic for a long time.”

As for the timeline of the project, Dr. Gratto said construction can begin as soon as next week and run through winter vacation. The goal, he added, is for the school ”to open up on the 27th with a new gym floor.”