By Marianna Levine
Following a Bridgehampton School Board work session last Wednesday evening, School Superintendent Dianne Youngblood confirmed that she will be retiring in August of 2010, after five years as superintendent and two years as Bridgehampton’s principal.
“Its good news because I’m retiring,” she added. Her history with the school runs deeper, as she had also been the school’s guidance counselor for six years starting in 1985.
Although the Bridgehampton superintendent’s position has been posted on official educational websites, Dr. Youngblood has said she isn’t officially announcing her retirement until this August.
Applications for the position have already been accepted, and are currently being reviewed by Dr. Youngblood. Kotz added that, although nothing has been officially organized as yet, “we hope to make up some sort of new committee which will include board members, community members, and maybe students” to review the applications as well. She did stress nothing was worked out as yet and that more information about this may be discussed at the next school board meeting on June 8. Kotz also mentioned “what we want really here is a business official/superintendent.”
The recent election that has resulted in three new members joining the school board in July, also prompted a contentious discussion Wednesday night on who gets to observe voters on election day.
Board Member Joe Berhalter’s request to iron out the rules concerning poll watching during school voting was answered with a board resolution banning poll watchers at school board elections. All board members except for Berhalter voted for this resolution, citing that poll watching during school board elections wasn’t common practice on the East End.
The poll watching issue came up prior to this month’s election when candidates Joe Conti, Laurie Gordon, and Nathan Ludlow requested poll watchers on Election Day. Initially the board had approved the poll watchers but had excluded the candidates’ spouses. That decision was reversed when it was discovered they could not limit who could be a poll watcher as long as they were registered to vote in the State of New York.
Prior to the vote, out-going school board president Jim Walker voiced his anger and frustration at what he perceived to be Berhalter’s continuing mistrust of the school district. Berhalter apparently had asked to see the absentee ballots in the name of “openness and transparency.” However, Walker and board vice-president Elizabeth Kotz wondered what exactly he wanted to accomplish by looking over the ballots.
Walker declared, “you are insinuating that signatures were forged and are questioning the trust we put in people like Joyce Manigo (the district clerk) and others who are sitting next to us at this table. I find this appalling to me as an individual.”
Kotz continued “I want to refer you to a letter we received from our attorneys who told us it was up to us how we do this anyway, because it isn’t usually done. Poll watchers are usually there to make sure people aren’t turned away in elections, and what you’re doing is suspecting people who have signed to vote.”
At the end of the workshop, the issue of transparency came up once more, and Walker asked if Berhalter would be willing to rescind his request under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to see the absentee ballots. Berhalter declined to do this stating, “I want to compare signatures and ballots.” To which District Clerk Manigo replied, “the majority of absentee ballots do not require signature cards. The majority are new voters anyway.”
After the workshop Berhalter explained, he did not use FOIL officially but had asked along with another board member to compare the signatures on the absentee ballots, the envelopes, and voter registration lists. It is something anyone can ask to do because of FOIL.
Although the workshop was short, a few other items were discussed. During the Superintendent’s report Dr. Youngblood gave an update on the Middle States Accreditation process stating that Bridgehampton’s application was received. She also updated the board on the hiring process for a secondary school English teaching post noting that over 60 applications were received and that she hoped the BOE would be presented with a candidate for approval by July.
Interim business administrator George Chesterton also updated the board on the school’s food bidding process. The school’s bid had been returned by the state since they had changed the bidding process this year and needed a lot more detailed and specific information concerning food safety and specific food specification.
In the end Chesterton said, “I don’t think we’ll be able to do it in time and these requirements may make the bids more costly, and as a result I would like to recommend we continue the lunch program we have now.”
Board member Nicky Hemby also requested that the board approve the presenting and opening of board member packets for the newly elected board members prior to their July starting date so that they can get a head start on learning board procedure. This and a resolution to let the new members sit in on executive sessions which had been suggested by out-going board member Susan Hiscock was unanimously approved.