By Amanda Wyatt
It may not be the most heated race in history, but with just a few weeks until Bridgehampton School’s annual budget vote and school board election, the three uncontested candidates are still keeping their eyes on the prize.
Board member Lawrence LaPointe will be running for his second three year term, while Gabriela Braia, who was appointed to the board last summer, will also be running for another term.
JoAnn Comfort, who was first elected to the board in 2010, will not be seeking reelection. Her seat is expected to be filled by newcomer Jennifer Vinski.
Vinski, a kindergarten inclusion teacher in the Southampton School District, has twin boys in second grade at Bridgehampton School as well as a three year-old daughter who she hopes to enroll in the pre-kindergarten program in September.
“I’d love to be able to offer some new ideas and suggestions, or just have some sort of influence, because hopefully [my children] are going to be in Bridgehampton for another 10 years,” she said. “If any change is going to happen, I’d like to see it happen while my kids are still young.”
Vinski, who has a master’s degree in special education from Long Island University, knows what a challenging time it is for schools.
“Between budgets and teacher evaluation systems and testing, I know it’s a tough time, and I would just like to maybe try to have some influence in keeping Bridgehampton the amazing school that it is,” she said.
Vinski said she hoped to be an advocate for kids and “make sure we hold on to programs as we start having budget cuts and things like that, and that children stay a priority and that we can keep focused on them, [as well as] the staff; teachers are just as important.”
“I would love to see this beautiful school as one loving family where everybody works together and fights for one good purpose, which is children,” Vinski added.
Braia, a real estate agent who has children in second and sixth grade, originally ran for the board last May. While she was not elected, she was asked to fill a seat after board member Elizabeth Kotz resigned in July.
“I will continue what I started last year. My goals are the same — basically, to [improve] the school and to bring more kids in the school – because we do not have enough to grow the school population,” she said.
Braia said that she was also mindful of the school’s finances. While she said Bridgehampton has been “very effective” fiscally, she recognized the challenge presented by the state-mandated two percent tax levy cap.
“The school finances are not an issue yet, but eventually down the road, if we’re not careful, they will be. We don’t not want to get to where other [districts] get,” she said.
“I’d like to keep the programs for the children because we do not have many and if we reduce whatever we have, we’re going to have nothing,” Braia added, noting she would like to see the school expand its extra curricular programs.
LaPointe, a landscape designer, was elected to the board in 2010. He has a child in seventh grade and two who have already graduated from the school.
“I feel it’s a really good environment. All of my kids have done well going through the school, and if I had more kids, they would be going here as well,” he said.
LaPointe hoped that a second term would enable him “to utilize what I’ve learned the first term to perhaps help build a better system…There are a lot of issues in the school that I would like to address in my second term.”
Like Braia and Vinski, he also cited finances as a challenge for the board.
“It’s very difficult passing budgets, keeping things on track with the two percent cap…I know that we as a board don’t want to see taxes go up in our district. And we’ve been pushing hard in every aspect we can find to cut costs without sacrificing anything that would [impact] our students, education-wise,” he said.
In addition, LaPointe mentioned that he would like “to be more active in trying to expand our sports, trying to build up a better athletic department.”
The board election, along with the district’s budget vote, will be held in the Bridgehampton School gymnasium on May 21 between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m.