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Nicki Hemby

Posted on 07 August 2010

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The newly appointed President of the Bridgehampton Board of Education talks about the challenges she sees the district facing in the next year, why she thinks new superintendent is a perfect fit for Bridgehampton and the bridges the school will need to build to connect to its larger community.

I know your nomination to school board president did not come as a surprise. What do you think you will bring to the table that is different from past leaders of the Bridgehampton School Board?

I hope to lead the board of education with many of the traits that the former BOE presidents have. I do, however, plan on keeping the entire board well informed on all issues large and small in order to make solid, timely and well thought decisions.

Bridgehampton School has been expanding in recent years under the leadership of school board president Elizabeth Kotz, facing and defeating hopes by some community members to close the high school, the passage of several referendums, including for the replacement for new windows at the historic school, the hiring of a new school superintendent and has strived for accreditation through Middle States. Do you see the next year as a transition period and what challenges do you think you will face?

Elizabeth kotz is a fabulous BOE member and former president. My accepting the nomination for president has no reflection on all the hard work she put into the board as president last year. 

As far as the district being challenged by several community members, I feel this fight was won by the community, not the board of education. That’s not to say we didn’t have a full year.

Although the windows have been on the table for years now, the replacement plan has recently come full circle and we are all very excited to get the renovation moving. I thank [former superintendent] Dr. [Dianne] Youngblood for all her hard work regarding accreditation with Middle States. She was definitely an intricate part of the beginning processes.

As a full board of education, we worked very hard last year to choose the right superintendent for our district. I feel we found the perfect fit in Dr. Favre.

I don’t know what changes will come in the upcoming year, and yes, I do see it as a transition year. As a board it is important to us to stay on task with all of our current issues and tackle any new ones that may arise. With a new superintendent as well as business administrator we are all trying to learn each other work habits and personalities. I feel in September we will find ourselves rolling up our sleeves and digging in.

This year, the board hired new Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre to replace Dr. Dianne Youngblood. What was the process of selecting a new superintendent like and how do you think Dr. Favre surpassed other candidates?

Last year the school chose the firm School Leadership to assist us with our superintendent search. The experience working with them was very professional and we were delighted with the selection they brought before us. I can remember Dr. Favre leaving her first round of interviews and having to take a deep breath as her passion to educate was delightfully exhausting.

She uses terms like “my kids” and “we have an obligation to educate” and that won me over. Dr. Favre comes with a list of accomplishment and accreditation’s not to mention an impeccable track record of success. Her being here at Bridgehampton is a win win for the both of us.

Closing the school was an issue that, in part, led you to run for school board. Do you see that as an issue that is off the table?

It a funny issue that seems to come to the surface about every 10 years or so. If I am correct, we should have a nice span of time to work on making bhs the best public school on Long Island. And hopefully by then the naysayers will have their fill.

The school board is largely made up of parents of students within the district. Is that a benefit in your view, or should the board be more diverse in the sense of the larger community?

Well, as much as [former board of education member] Mr. [Joe] Berhalter and I disagreed on issues, he was an asset to the board. Having a different point of view and being able to express it always a healthy thing. The thing about elections is that almost anyone in the district can run, and I encouraged anyone to do so if they feel it’s their time. It is my understanding that he plans to sit on a few committees as a community member, which I was happy to hear.

We had three community members run this year, all very qualified in my eyes to serve on the board. I feel with Mrs. [JoAnn] Comfort and Mr. [Lawrence] Lapointe being district taxpayers and business owners, they bring more to the table then just parental concern. It’s a hard job where criticism comes quick and you are not always “Mr. Nice Guy,” but there are those moments when you see something fabulous coming together, when the principal introduces new curriculum, when teachers become excited to explore new ideas and students share in their accomplishments. These are the moments, no matter if you are a parent in the district or a district taxpayer that make it all worth it.

For several years now, the Bridgehampton community has been one that is viewed as divided. How can the board, in your leadership, reach out to the greater community to involve them in the work at Bridgehampton School?

I think we have begun to do that over the past several years already. I also think we have more bridges to cross. Bridgehampton is so rich with arts, culture, history and pride that it sometimes becomes a bit overwhelming. I hope hope the district can take advantage of all our community has to offer. I would also like to see more families in district whose children do not attend Bridgehampton School to take advantage of some of the programs we offer, such as our summer tennis program, summer music program or our PSAT and SAT prep courses, to name a few.

As both school board president and a parent, what are some of the areas you would like to see improved within the Bridgehampton School District? Do you have specific goals going into the next year?

I would like to see the district consider an an e-school program or something very similar over the next couple of years.

The Slow Food movement has taken serious root on the East End and the Bridgehampton School has benefited from that, beginning its own architectural landscape design course and recently breaking ground on its own greenhouse. How would you like to see that program expand at Bridgehampton?

Like a weed. Sorry, I know that is a bad joke. The Slow Food movement as well our school programs and greenhouse have the boards full support. I know we would love to see an overflow into our lunch program as soon as possible.First we need to finishing raising enough funds to finishing erecting the greenhouse. I believe we are about $5,000 short, so if you know of anyone who would like to make a contribution to an amazing cause that will not only educate but feed a district, let us know.

As a mother, and leader at Macaroni Kid, a website dedicated to children’s activities and education, what are some of the best things the Bridgehampton community has to offer parents and children?

That’s funny you ask –  my business partner is from Water Mill, so we constantly compete to see whose community have a larger venue. The Hampton Library has so many friendly and creative programs they run, that it’s no wonder they max out on occupancy at times. Our historical society holds dozens of family friendly events through out the year, and let us not forget our fabulous Children’s Museum of the East End, Child Care Center, Senior Citizens Center and the South Fork Natural History Museum. Bridgehampton is bursting with culture and pride. What a great opportunity I have to be a part of it.

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