Born in the 2018-19 school year out of the desire for a more rigorous curriculum that also lined up with New York State’s changing academic requirements, Pierson Middle and High School’s PLANT program — Preparing Learners for a New Tomorrow — is finally blooming.
Also overcoming the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, the PLANT program is now fully staffed with a dedicated teacher in each of the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. On Monday night, Pierson administrators and educators went into detail about what it means for students — primarily, that previous programs in technology and family and consumer science have been combined and buoyed by the addition of financial literacy, problem-solving methods, career-oriented education, digital citizenship, communication skills, self-advocacy, and more.
“Now we have a layered curriculum approach, which is what we were looking for,” said Brittany Carriero, the Pierson principal, “and it’s now an enriched program, which we’re excited about.”
The program, she said, also reflects aspects of the International Baccalaureate program at the high school, which aims to encourage well-rounded students who are open-minded critical thinkers and capable of rising to rigorous academic challenges.
Veronica Rodriguez-Mora, Pierson’s middle school assistant principal, explained that executive functioning is one focus of the program, while Jaime Mott, the newly hired library media specialist, said that growing lifelong readers is another focus.
Executive functioning refers to the process of teaching students how to organize and plan, navigate impulses and emotions, and prioritize tasks and goals while encouraging flexibility and resilience. There’s also a mentoring piece. “It’s very individualized,” Ms. Rodriguez-Mora said. “Adults are mentors to the students, and these are weekly sessions. . . . The whole class is working on something pretty independently, and you have a mentor checking in with their list of students. The goal of this mentoring model is to build academic self-confidence . . . and also to celebrate progress when progress is being made.”
Students will complete extended, in-depth projects. “That will be their big assessment,” Ms. Rodriguez-Mora said.
Alex Kriegsman, a school board member, lauded the emphasis on executive functioning, and the “calendar” learning process in particular. “I think this is something that schools all over the world tend to struggle with,” he said.
Over in the library area, Ms. Mott, herself a Pierson alumna, said that “everybody’s a reader — they just have to find the right book.” She said she helps students learn research skills and figure out exactly “how to search for what they are interested in.” If classroom teachers need something, “I’m there to get it for them.” She facilitates book groups at each grade level and will introduce eighth graders to the young-adult collection “to carry them into high school.”
Jordana Sobey, a school board member, said she appreciates that aspect. “A lot of parents have asked for more reading in middle school,” she said. “You go from having 20 minutes a day in elementary school, and then there’s no requirement necessarily, and so this is a great way to get that.”
Mash Park Update
The Sag Harbor School Board on Monday voted to formally cancel the bond referendum that would have asked residents to approve $13.5 million for a significant overhaul of Mashashimuet Park’s athletic facilities.
The vote was to have been next Thursday, but in light of a new, recently developed plan to buy property on Marsden Street in conjunction with Southampton Town, the school district has opted to “take a step back and evaluate what our facility needs are,” said Jeff Nichols, the superintendent.
For Marsden Street itself — where the district is buying one vacant lot outright and paying a share of the cost of four more — Mr. Nichols said that “at this point, it looks like it’s going to be athletic fields.” He also pledged to conduct a survey to gauge what parents, students, faculty, and community members “would like to see or what they value in terms of facilities as they pertain to athletics.”
Acknowledging that work still needs to be done at Mashashimuet Park, he said the district plans to coordinate timing of a future bond referendum so that it does not need to ask voters “multiple times” for money.
Committee Members Sought
The district is seeking people to serve on several school board-approved working groups tackling topics like diversity and inclusion, facilities planning, finance, policies, and the Wall of Honor.
“We encourage parents and community members to apply to become members of advisory committees if they believe they can bring a particular skill or expertise to problems or issues to a committee,” Sandi Kruel, the board president, said in a letter this week.
Those who serve on the audit committee must have a background in finance. Interested community members should mail or email a letter of interest to Mary Adamczyk, the district clerk, by Tuesday. The mailing address is 200 Jermain Avenue, Sag Harbor 11963, and her email address is [email protected].