The Bridgehampton School has had to deal with more than its fair share of controversy this year as two school board members sought to place a referendum on a ballot to close the high school. The topic has been at the forefront of discussion in the district since February, with many residents — and to a certain extent, the board of education — unable to concentrate on anything else.
On Tuesday, the taxpayers of the Bridgehampton School District sent a message about the leadership they would like to see on the board of education, eliminating incumbent Joe Conti from the board of education.
Conti supported fellow board member Joe Berhalter’s two petitions for referendum to close the high school, possibly his downfall in this election as Bridgehampton saw record turnout and he received the fewest votes. In a letter to The Southampton Press Berhalter said he would allow the voters of Bridgehampton to have their voices heard in this election, alluding to dropping his bid to close the high school should Conti not be re-elected.
For the sake of the school district, and specifically for the children who attend Bridgehampton, we hope Berhalter keeps his word. Bridgehampton does not pretend to be Southampton or East Hampton, or even Sag Harbor, nor does it want to be. It knows it’s small and parents who have given the school more than a sideways glance of consideration know it is the district’s very size that allows for individualized education and specialized programs with institutions of higher education like Stony Brook and Dowling College. Bigger is not always better.
That being said, the board of education needs to take this opportunity to continue to strive towards making Bridgehampton the best little school it can be, whether through shared service agreements, the expansion of the Career Academies and through the development of its pre-kindergarten program. It should also do its due diligence in performing a true assessment of what the impact would be on taxpayers should the high school be closed.
This board will need to be aggressive and public in its work should Bridgehampton weather future storms bound to appear on the horizon that question its existence.Â