By Marissa Maier
Despite wrapping up the meeting in just an hour, the Sag Harbor School Board and the community discussed a wide variety of issues at the board of education meeting on Monday, February 8. The topics of the evening included an update on the teacher contract negotiations, the prevalence of alcohol use among underage athletes, an update on the school’s investigation of the International Baccalaureate program, and parent groups partnering up to get out the vote this spring.
After the school board offered to meet on February 7 and the Teacher’s Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) proposed 16 alternate dates, both parties have now agreed to meet on Saturday, February 27, confirmed school superintendent Dr. John Gratto. The full school board will be present at this bargaining session, except board president Walter Wilcoxen who will be away.
At Monday’s meeting, leading TASH member Jim Kinnier said he was “happy to hear” that the board was available to meet in the near future.
“I urge all parties involved to focus on everyone’s shared interest. We want a vibrant community. I think focusing on the goal of having a strong school and being flexible is really important,” noted parent and wife of a Sag Harbor educator Helen Atkinson-Barnes. “I would like to see this settled. I want to move on and I think everyone else does too.”
Parent Chris Tice asked both parties to publicly commit to “stay all night” on February 27 until a deal is struck. Tice asked the board and TASH to discuss this suggestion and return with an answer by the next board meeting on February 22. Wilcoxen suggested she pose this question again at the upcoming board meeting.
Alcohol and Athletes
Montgomery Granger, school director of physical education, health and athletics, recently attended a New York State Public High School Athletic Association conference in which the American Athletics Institute presented the findings of a study regarding student athlete’s use of alcohol. Overall, the study revealed that nearly 60 percent of student athletes consume alcohol, with Nassau and Suffolk County showing the highest levels of underage drinking, noted Granger. He added that the school community is still in the process of digesting this information, which has been distributed to the administration and the nutrition and wellness committee. Granger said the school could feasibly conduct an in-house anonymous survey to learn the levels of underage drinking among athletes in the district. At the BOE meeting on Monday, Granger noted the county passed a law in 2007 prohibiting the serving alcohol to people ages 21 and under. The school currently requires athletes to sign a contract which includes a provision which discourages drinking alcohol.
“The goal isn’t to stigmatize. It is to identify the problem and help them,” remarked Granger.
Update on International Baccalaureate
Foreign language teacher Toby Marienfeld noted she and five other teachers recently visited the Northport School District to observe the International Baccalaureate program in action. She said the visiting team spoke with administrators, instructors, guidance counselors and students. On the way home, the Sag Harbor group talked amongst themselves. Marienfeld reported the group’s feelings on the IB program were mixed. She, however, was disheartened that they only met with Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols to discuss their visit and not with the school board and superintendent.
In his budget presentation, Nichols outlaid $15,000 for basic IB training and $10,000 in application fees. Marienfeld argued that if the board is moving forward with the IB program she would hope the input of the educators would be included.
Wilcoxen explained the school is in the midst of investigating the IB program and enrolling educators in level one workshops is the final stage of this process. After the training is complete, Wilcoxen said the board would gather all parties, including the teachers who visited the Northport school, to vet out the pros and cons of implementing this type of curriculum in Pierson. Board member Dan Hartnett added the board hoped to investigate the IB program over a couple of years, which also spreads out the expense. Hartnett works for the East Hampton School District, which has been exploring IB for the past few years, he noted.
Get Out the Vote
Parent Laura Avedon announced that her parents group hopes to work with the PTA, PTSA and SEPTA to encourage voter registration for the school board election and budget vote this spring. Wilcoxen noted these groups aren’t allowed to support a specific candidate but could help in any efforts to “get out the vote.” Avedon pointed out her group compiled data from the last two school votes and discovered roughly 25 percent of the votes were cast by parents in the community.