School Board Discusses Homecoming Venue Change

Students watch the bonfire during the 2013 Pierson High School Homecoming Celebration and Bonfire that was held on Long Beach on Friday night, 9/27/13
Students watch the bonfire during a former Pierson High School Homecoming celebration on Long Beach. Photo by Michael Heller

By Carrie Ann Salvi

Changes to the location of Pierson High School’s homecoming festivities were announced at Monday’s Sag Harbor School Board meeting, and were met with concern by some board members.

Homecoming – traditionally held on a Friday night and celebrated with a bonfire on Long Beach – would be moved indoors to the school gymnasium in a decision made by the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA). That group cited inconsistent attendance, wind, weather, and the risks of holding an event in proximity to the water, where it is dark, explained Pierson principal Jeff Nichols during Monday’s board meeting.

Homecoming is scheduled for Friday, October 9 and Saturday, October 10.

According to Mr. Nichols, a majority of day time events Friday would occur during academic support – before 2:45 p.m. – to ensure greater participation by the whole student body. Activities would be scheduled in the gym, with hopes that it would be safer, better attended, and that activities would be organized that get away from a competitive environment where class is against class, he said.

“Again, it is the PTSA’s decision, along with the booster club,” said Mr. Nichols. Homecoming is a shared endeavor between the Booster Club and the PTSA, he explained.

Homecoming Saturday will continue as it traditionally has: floats will parade down Main Street on 9 a.m., culminating at Mashashimuet Park, with games to follow at 10:15 a.m., he added

“The PTSA has made this decision?” asked school board member Sandi Kruel. “They haven’t had their first meeting of the year. That is a little upsetting.”

“For a community that screams communication, communication, communication, to sit here tonight and hear that, it makes me kind of sad…to not have a dialogue,” she added.

“My understanding, in the beginning of the process there were many people involved including many members of the Booster club,” responded Mr. Nichols. Stephanie Bitis, the board member who serves as liason to the PTSA said, “ It happened between the last day of the school year and the first day of school.”

School board vice president Chris Tice, who ran Monday’s meeting in president Susan Kinsella’s absence, said the decision should be postponed.

“It sounds like there may be a benefit to having a discussion that anyone in the public can participate in, certainly parents and students, so that is a larger group to weigh in versus the board of one organization,” said Ms. Tice.

The bonfire during the 2014 Pierson High School Spirit Night and Pep Rally held on Long Beach. Photo by Michael Heller
The bonfire during the 2014 Pierson High School Spirit Night and Pep Rally held on Long Beach. Photo by Michael Heller

“I struggled a little when Jeff told me about the change, because I did enjoy it at the beach,“ said Superintendent Katy Graves, “but this is a PTSA decision.”

“I don’t know if starting it in school means that it is stone that it can’t continue at the beach, maybe they can do both,” said Ms. Bitis.

Also tabled was a decision on the board’s video taping policy, which they once again decided to put off in order to have legal counsel available for consultation during the discussion. Earlier this year, the board decided to suspend recording of public comments. Some members of the board have expressed reservations about that decision, and it became an issue discussed at length during the recent school board elections.

Matt Malone, principal of Sag Harbor Elementary School, announced that the gym floor has been redone, work on the library floor has commenced, and “all of the rooms are shined up and restored.” Mr. Malone said that while the majority of students start on September 9, pre-kindergarten students will start on September 10. The annual elementary barbecue is scheduled for September 18, and families can join in at 3 p.m., he said.

The elementary school is also completely wired to comply with state security guidelines, said Scott Fisher, director of technology. He said that alerts indicating when the doors are ajar have been implemented as have three to four panic buttons which will automatically let parents, teachers, police, and students know when an emergency situation is occuring. New cameras have also been installed and work will now begin to address security at Pierson Middle High School.

An investigation into the potential uses for Stella Maris School, which the board has received an appraisal on, will take place August through October, said Ms. Graves.

“It will start with conversations and meetings with stakeholders,” she said.