Sag Harbor School District officials will block the annual student art show from the view of local residents coming to Pierson High School to vote on the district’s operating budget and school board candidates next month.
The decision to screen the art show from voters came after Ed Drohan, a candidate for a seat on the school board this year, complained that the art show, which is traditionally hung on the walls of the gymnasium on the day of the vote, was an effort to lobby voters to support the budget.
“The reason I brought it up is not because I have any problem with it but ... I heard it after last year’s election from a couple people who were very passionate about it being electioneering,” Mr. Drohan, a Noyac resident, said.
For this year’s vote, the polling area at the front of the Pierson gymnasium will be separated from the rest of the gym by portable dividers. Voters will enter and cast their votes and then, if they care to see the student art show, they can walk past the dividers to where the art will be displayed in the rest of the gymnasium.
“Some people alleged that the art show was an attempt to influence votes,” Sag Harbor Superintendent Dr. John Gratto said this week. “It’s kind of a shallow allegation. Nonetheless, it offended some people, I guess.”
Dr. Gratto said that the annual art show is hung in the Pierson gymnasium each year on election day so that the students’ work can be seen by the hundreds of residents who come to vote, but might otherwise rarely come to the school. He said the school has been holding the art show on election day for at least 10 years.
“We want to celebrate the work of our students and allow as many people as possible to see what they do,” Dr. Gratto said. “There are people who don’t think that’s fair. This is an effort to make both parties satisfied.”