By Amanda Wyatt
At the Bridgehampton School Board’s latest meeting, there was a notable absence around the conference table.
Longtime school board member Elizabeth Whelan Kotz resigned from the board on June 29, making the July 10 reorganization meeting the first in seven years in which she did not participate.
Kotz’s term took effect on the first of July, only a few days before she sent her letter of resignation to the board. While her resignation was short-notice, Kotz said she had been mulling over the decision for a while.
“I guess it was probably in the back of my mind for a few months now, but it didn’t really hit me until the last few weeks of this school year,” Kotz said in an interview.
Kotz, who was first elected to the board in July 2005, had served as its president for one year and its vice president for two years. At the time of her resignation, she was a member of a number of different committees.
She added that she and her husband, Stephen J. Kotz – editor of The East Hampton Press – chose to send all of their children to Bridgehampton School. Their daughters Olivia and Genevieve graduated in 2009 and 2012, respectively, while their son, Henry, will be a junior this fall.
“I have been on the board for seven years, and during that time, two of our three children graduated from Bridgehampton High School,” she said. “Our youngest has two years left and I felt that it would be best for all of us if I could be at home more.”
“I also think that this is a good time because the board is cohesive and works well with the superintendent,” added Kotz.
In an interview, Bridgehampton School Superintendent Dr. Lois R. Favre expressed her gratitude for Kotz’s service on the board.
“Elizabeth Kotz has been a valuable, contributing member of the Bridgehampton School District during my short time in the district, and for many years before I arrived,” she said.
“She is passionate about teaching and learning, dedicated to continuous improvement —demonstrated by her ongoing commitment to strategic planning and our Middle States Accreditation process — and child and community focused,” continued Dr. Favre. “She was thoughtful in all of her decision-making and a valued member of our team.”
“We will miss her, but know that she will remain active on our district committees, continuing our work to move the district forward, and for this continued promise of her time, we are grateful,” added Dr. Favre.
Meanwhile, the reorganization meeting saw the reelection of Nicki Hemby as president and the election of Ronnie White as vice president of the school board. Gabriela Braia, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat in May, was sworn in to fill Kotz’s seat.
A native of Romania, Braia has lived in Bridgehampton for 17 years. Her daughter, who will start second grade in the fall, and her sixth grade-bound son both attend Bridgehampton School.
By becoming more involved with the school, Braia hopes to give back to both her kids and the community. She is particularly focused on expanding the school’s athletic programs, as well as other activities.
“[Being on the board] means a lot to me,” she said in an interview. “If I could reach at least one of my goals to see kids in the community offered a little bit more than what they have now, I would be happy.”
“Mrs. Braia joined our Strategic Planning Counsel this spring as a parent member,” said Dr. Favre. “She is bright, articulate and has a pulse on both our students and the community. I believe she will serve the district well as a trustee on the Board of Education.”
Although she will no longer be involved as a trustee, Kotz is hopeful for the future of the board and the school itself.
“I know space is a concern and I do hope that there will be the opportunity as a school to work together with our community to address the need of expanding our facilities,” she said.
“I also hope that the Bridgehampton community, specifically those who do not support the school, will take the time and get involved and get to know the school,” added Kotz.
When asked what she would like to see the board accomplish in the future, Kotz said, “To keep doing what they are doing — advocating for the students of our school. The district has made excellent strides and I have no doubt it will continue to do so.”