Letters October 2


Buying Lunch


To the Editor:

There has been some controversy over my position at Pierson and I would like to take this opportunity to clear up some confusion if I can. First, I want to thank all of the teachers, staff members, friends in the community, parents and students who have come forward in my support and expressed concern over the circumstances surrounding this; your affection and encouragement means more than I can say.

When a new program begins in any district, and for that matter in private business as well, sometimes it is administered through trial and error. When Pierson first indentured with a contract food service company, the salaries paid to support staff should also have been considered a part of the food service profit and loss; because they were not included there was never a true fiscal report of that department. In an effort to be responsible to the taxpayers your Board of Education has now required all expenditures related to food service, including staff costs, be reported together as it should. 

Even though the food service department lost considerably less this past school year than they did at the end of the 2006-2007 school year or previous years with my salary and benefits included, the department still lost money. Rather than subsidize the lunch program as many school districts do, the Board of Education felt eliminating a position would be a more direct means to financial stability. In July my full time position as Food Service Director was eliminated. It was thought that because the current kitchen and dining room staff had been fully trained in their current duties that given the size of the district it would not be too much for them to absorb some of my duties within their current positions/salaries and no manager would be required. My position had civil service requirements, but as long as certain management duties I performed were now done by administration all requirements would be fulfilled.

While it may seem that I got the short end of that stick, this is common in smaller districts and was the responsible thing for the BOE to do. Although it truly pulled the rug out from under me and my life has changed entirely, it was not personal. If it were, I would not have been appointed as the musical theatre director for both the middle and high school for the current school year as well as the senior class advisor. Perhaps the elimination of my position could have been done differently, but remember that the BOE was elected to safeguard your interests as taxpayers and that was the basis of their decision.

Great strides were made in food services while I was there. Statistically, during our contract with Aramark we averaged 54 lunches daily; with Whitsons we sold about 78 lunches  per day, and last year on our own 110 lunches per day were averaged (while this was reported from the district as 11%, we had 490 students enrolled at Pierson, so unless this percentage was applied using total enrollment  from both Pierson and the elementary who are not offered lunch, it was more than twice that percentage).We went from the original contract food service that was little more than re-heating frozen fried foods to a self operating full service cafeteria. We served nutritious meals, ala carte and snack items prepared fresh on the premises; students were offered healthy choices in fresh fruits and vegetables, entrees prepared fresh daily, homemade baked goods and baked packaged snack items. We more than complied with, and in fact surpassed federal and state mandates for wellness, the national school lunch program and the Suffolk County health department receiving glowing reports from all during health inspections, audits, scheduled and spontaneous visits. We supplemented the income received for lunches by catering in-house events such as administrative meetings, awards ceremonies, science fairs, meals provided for poll volunteers, promotions for various groups, orientation programs and moving up ceremonies. These were catered events that were previously given to outside local sources and allowed us to add nearly $7,000 more to cover the costs of running a food service department (this figure was added after the audit report was submitted). In addition we implemented the much needed and well-received breakfast program. I developed inter-department accounts to save the district time and money, allowing home economics and various groups to order through the cafeteria at cost. Plans of providing the catering for the sports banquet ($5,000) were discussed as well as possibilities of providing Bridgehampton School District with their lunch needs and offering our elementary students a bagged lunch program. We were looking into an after school snack program and/or providing take-along snacks for our sports programs.

All of the additional food services we did provide and were looking to provide generated or would generate supplemental income to the department to help pay the expenses we were not covering. While it was never the goal to make a profit from providing students with meals, the department does need to be self-sufficient. Adding additional services as discussed may have been a means to that end, but because we were very young in our self-operation the BOE felt it too risky to chance some of these additions just yet.

Your lunch program is in good hands; the cooks and cashier are capable community members and mothers of students who brought collective professional food service experience to those positions when they were hired. They will be maintaining the program at the quality level the students are used to with the goal of breaking even financially. I would encourage you to support the program in any way that you can. For every full lunch served to students the district receives a monetary reimbursement from state and federal funding sources; this is to encourage students to make healthy choices. In addition to the reimbursements, the more full lunches that are sold the more commodity foods are made available to the district directly. Enroll your student in the prepaid lunch program, you won’t have to worry about their lunch daily and they will be provided a balanced meal; if you cannot afford lunches you may qualify for the free or reduced lunch program for your student(s), the district receives reimbursement and commodities for those as well; it is very discreet and the child will never be overtly identified. Breakfasts are included in these programs also. Seniors, you are of course enjoying your off campus privileges this year, but it can get very costly! Why not get your lunch in the cafeteria first, and then go off campus? Perhaps the cooks could look into the possibility of a grab ‘n go lunch for seniors that would be packed and ready at the start of your lunch period. Faculty participation has steadily increased over the past two years, yet there were still those that could not make it down to the cafeteria for various reasons. Another possibility would be a pre-ordered packed lunch or sandwich of the day delivered to the faculty rooms in the mornings between breakfast and lunch. If everyone only buys drinks or snacks occasionally in the cafeteria now, and the lunch program is re-evaluated again at the end of this year and found a financial liability, you won’t have a place to buy anything in the building in the future. BUY LUNCH!!

I will miss seeing and interacting with the students everyday; I miss them all very much already. I am delighted that I can still provide direction and a little sparkle to their step on stage and that I can be here to participate in the final year for the class of 2009- they are all very dear to me; when I was congratulated last year on my youngest child graduating (my son Zack), I replied, ‘oh-he’s not my youngest, I have about 60 more to go!’

 Again, thanks to all for their words of encouragement and support.

Paula Brannon

Sag Harbor


Still Stealing Bikes


To the Editor,

As a former Sag Harbor resident that had his favorite old Raleigh bike stolen about ten years ago, I’m amazed to read in the police reports of your paper that this continues on a weekly basis.

Surely the police department could place a decoy bike with a hidden locator device and track these thieves.

David McCabe

New York


Food for Thought


Dear Bryan,

Your editorial “Protecting the Trees” in the September 18 issue of The Express is excellent and I agree with you completely. As an 82-year-old, life-long resident of Sag Harbor, I feel many of the changes that have occurred over the past decade are often more of a minus than a plus. Now, a lovely 100-year-old oak tree is to be chopped down because there have been three accidents in the last two years where that oak stands, on Jermain Ave. There have also been thousands of cars traversing Jermain in those last two years. I can’t help but wonder why three accidents is a valid reason for a — seemingly — quick decision to chop down that tree.

I am in no way comparing the life and safety of a person to the loss of a tree, I assure you. However, I have to question what caused those three accidents. Not the tree. Cause was either excessive speed — in a 25 mph zone, — driving under the influence or, very simply, a poor driver. To hit a tree so hard that the car flips over and lands on the other side of the road is, to me, a definite indication of one of those reasons. As you wrote, there must be other alternatives including insurance dealings and the worry of lawsuits, and they should be seriously considered.

One of my favorite poems is “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer, beginning with:


“I think I shall never see

A poem as lovely as a tree”


And ending with:


“Poems are made by fools like me

But only God can make a tree.”


Food for thought.


Leatrice B. Christensen

Sag Harbor


Good-bye Philly


I just want to let you know that more people attended your wake and funeral that attended a home game at Marlin Stadium in Miami. If you remember, I sent you the Palm Beach Post which had a picture of an empty stadium with less than 400 fans in the stands. In fact, the relief pitchers were counting heads as the game went on.

Do you remember…

All of the times that you drove me to Islip as I caught the 7:15 a.m. flight to Palm Beach. I still owned the Ideal and commuted monthly to Florida. You scared me one time because you stopped for gas! I thought I would miss my plane.

Do you remember…

All of the trade shows we attended in New York City. When we hopped on the Jitney, 80% of the bus knew us and the other 20% were trying to figure what celebrities we were.

Do you remember…

All of the dinners we ate at John Ducks with Paul from Huntington Tobacco. We shared him as a salesman because many of our products overlapped. Paul always had the duck and ate with his mouth open and you and I would comment on such a slob he was on the way home.

Do you remember…

All of the lunches we shared over the years. Whenever I came to Sag Harbor, I would come in your store and yell at the top of the stairs: “Philly Lunch!” Lisa was so happy to get you out of the store.

Do you remember…

All of the porch parties at Jane Harris’s house. Attending were Tom and June Bubka, Jack and Judian, Yazmine, Jane and of course Jackie and I. Since I hosted these parties we only drank champagne. The last party was the summer of ’07 and I cooked striped bass. You can’t find striped bass in Boca! We used to ask strangers to take our picture on the porch.

Do you remember…

You backed out of my driveway this past winter going back to your hotel room. We had spent the night enjoying Palm Beach with our wives. We had dinner at Taboo, a very famous restaurant. You ordered pizza, which shocked me and upset Roseanne. Ed Robertson, from Sag Harbor, was our driver, whom I hired to surprise you.

We hugged each other good-bye and off you went. I told you I would see you this summer. I regret so much now that Jackie and I didn’t come to Sag Harbor this summer. Please forgive me for that. I attended your wake and funeral to say good-bye to you and support your family. They knew how close we were. I even stayed at Ted’s house the entire four days I was home.

You and I were both blessed to live and work in Sag Harbor. You stayed and my circumstances made me leave. Well Phil, you brought me back home and I want to thank you. I promise I’ll stay in touch with your family. May you rest in peace my friend. I love you.

George Finckenor, Jr.

Boca Raton, Fla.