Sag Harbor School Board Reflects On Difficult Year

Pierson Middle-High School.

The last Sag Harbor Board of Education meeting for the school year on Monday night, June 21, was a quick one, with board members and administrators reflecting on one of the most challenging years in memory and extending thanks to people in various roles who provided all levels of support, while also congratulating those moving on and others moving up.

A loosening of restrictions related to COVID-19, due to a rise in vaccination rates and subsequent drop in cases, has allowed many end-of-the-year events to be held at close to regular capacity, outdoors, which school officials said has been a nice for the students and their families. Senior Night, the academic awards ceremony and the National Honor Society induction were all held under a tent outdoors at the high school, and Pierson Middle High School Principal Brittany Carriero said hosting those events outdoors made them feel “new and rejuvenated.”

She added that students were looking forward to both the prom — moved to June 22 because of weather — and graduation, set for 5 p.m. on Saturday at Pierson Hill, with New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. as guest speaker.

Administrators and board members took time to recognize board member Susan Schaefer for her three years of service. Ms. Schaefer, a mother of two sons who have both now graduated from Pierson, has been on the board since 2018, and chose to step down this year. Superintendent Jeff Nichols and several other board members thanked her for her service.

The board also approved tenure recommendations for 10 teachers and teachers’ aides, including Brittany McCabe, Justine Trainor, Christopher Kline, Bianca Gorman, Michelle Cottrell, Heidi Wilson, Ralph Salamone, Evelyn DiLorenzo, Hedy Micallef and Lisa Browngardt.

School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi made a brief presentation about how the district intends to spend grant funding it received as part of the American Rescue Plan, distributed to school districts across the country to address needs created by the coronavirus pandemic. The district must spend the $564,859 it received from the federal government by September 2023, and some of that money must be earmarked for learning loss intervention, particularly for students who are economically disadvantaged, belong to minority groups, or have learning disabilities. A significant portion of the money will be used to update outdated ventilation systems in classrooms, which have been identified as a need in the district’s building condition survey.

As far as addressing learning loss, particularly for students from disadvantaged groups, Elementary School Principal Matt Malone said that enrollment in the district’s summer learning program is “substantially higher” than it has been in years past, and said the district made an extra effort to reach out to the families of students it felt would benefit most from participating in the program.

Elementary School Assistant Principal Betty Reynoso reported on the work of the district’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, sharing that the committee secured professional development for faculty next year, through a group called We The People, which offers diversity and inclusion workshops for teachers and children. The committee is also planning a film festival for next year, and will continue to work on adding more diverse books to classrooms and libraries in all three buildings.