October 6, 2011
Seafaring students from a maritime-themed high school took to the New York Harbor today for a fundraising regatta.
Teams from corporations paid to join sailors on 16 boats, including two named “Extra Credit” and “Late Pass” that were manned by students from the Harbor School, in a race around Governor’s Island, where the school has been the sole full-time tenant since last year.
“We’re finally introducing the Harbor School to the sailing community,” said Murray Fisher, the eight-year-old school’s co-founder and the head of its support foundation.
Coupled with a fundraising gala tonight on Governor’s Island, the regatta appears likely to take in $125,000, organizers said.
That money could go a long way at a school that has to pay for boat fuel and oyster habitats in addition to the salaries of its teachers. Each of the school’s six career and technical education programs — which teach fish farming, boat repair, and deep-sea diving, among other skills — has a full-time teacher and needs an assistant and supplies if students are to get strong enough training to prepare them for maritime professions.
For example, it’s practically a full-time job to arrange logistics for diving students who are taking part in a city project to map the floor of Jamaica Bay, said Nate Dudley, the school’s principal.
“All of these things require additional funds, and that’s where this regatta comes in,” said Aaron Singh, who came to the school as its vessel operations teacher last year after more than 15 years working on boats in the New York Harbor. He said he first got involved in boats through a school program in East Harlem in the 1990s.
Principals union president Ernest Logan, who joined Dudley and Singh on a spectator boat, said the city should give schools the resources to support their themes, rather than leaving them to fundraise for the very elements that make them special.
“Why name a school this way and not support it fully?” Logan asked. “It’s ridiculous.”
But even with budget cuts that have pushed class sizes to their contractual limits and before the substantial take from the regatta, the Harbor School, which draws students from all five boroughs, has built up offerings that aren’t available at any other city school.
Cullen Palicka, a sophomore in the marine systems technology program who participated in the regatta today, said he had sailed for years but now is involved in repairing one decrepit boat and rebuilding a vintage sloop from scratch.
“When I first came here, I wasn’t sure what was going on, except that I saw there was a rowing team,” said a student in the vessel operations program, Antonio Duran. “Now I want to do this professionally.”