By Tessa Raebeck
With two seats up for grabs, three Bridgehampton parents have come forward to announce their candidacy for the Board of Education (BOE).
Michael Gomberg, Jeffrey Mansfield and Kathleen McCleland will be running for the three-year terms on the school board, which start July 1 and end June 30, 2017.
The seats are left vacant by the departure of BOE members Gabriela Braia and Elizabeth Whelan Kotz, who have decided not to run for reelection.
With his family’s home just two blocks from the Bridgehampton School and two young children in attendance, Michael Gomberg says he is running for the board because he has a vested interest in the school.
The Gomberg family have had a house in Bridgehampton since 2003 and moved from New York City to reside on the East End full time almost two years ago. His two children attended the Child Development Center of the Hamptons (CDCH) last year, but are now in the second grade and Kindergarten classes at Bridgehampton.
“Part of the reason my wife [Anne Tschida Gomberg] and I both decided to move out here full time was the allure of a small nurturing community like Bridgehampton,” Mr. Gomberg said Wednesday morning.
With a background in finance and accounting, Mr. Gomberg, who said he is “very good with numbers,” feels he is prepared to tackle budgetary issues, which always pose a challenge for the small district.
Mr. Gomberg said he is in favor of the current board’s plan to attempt to pierce the state-mandated tax cap. The candidate said he also values increasing technology and foreign language offerings in the school, if afforded by the budget.
“I would like to build the school to attract more people into it,” said Mr. Gomberg. “It’s really dependent on how this [budget] vote goes…there are so many things the school can do. It’s a great facility and its teachers there—everybody is so nurturing and so hands-on. It’s really a terrific environment.”
“I really do believe I would be an ideal fit for the board, just from that background [in finance and accounting] and my kids are attending, so I do have a vested interest,” he added.
Active on the Bridgehampton CAC, the PTO [Parent-Teacher Organization] and the district’s long term strategic planning committee, Jeffrey Mansfield sees a position on the school board as “just another chance to get involved at a fuller level and try to make a difference” he said Tuesday. Mr. Mansfield is the president of the Bridgehampton School Foundation.
Mr. Mansfield, who has three young children in the district in Pre-Kindergarten, first and second grade, said Bridgehampton School is “a special place,” with its unique small size and racially and economically diverse student body.
“There’s a lot of love there,” he said. “My kids—they love going to school there, they feel safe and they’re learning a lot.”
“My mom was a school teacher for over 30 years, so education’s always been very important to me—and I have the time,” he added.
In addition to having the time necessary for a commitment to public service, Mr. Mansfield said he is running for the board because “I love the community and I want to give back and I want to serve.”
Mr. Mansfield is also in favor of the board’s decision to pursue piercing the tax cap for next year’s budget.
“I’m a conservative when it comes to fiscal policy, I believe in low taxes,” he said. “But, if there’s one place as a country—and certainly as a community—we can’t afford to skip, it’s on education.”
Through his involvement around Bridgehampton, Mr. Mansfield said he has observed great pride in local public institutions such as the library and fire department, but the same pride does not always extend to the school.
“I’d really like to try to make those inroads and get the community at large behind the school because it is our school, it’s our Bridgehampton School,” he said, adding he would like to see local professionals “get involved with the students” by coming into the school to demonstrate the possibilities outside of Bridgehampton.
“It’s a small enough school where I think we can do those types of things whereas a big institution, a lot of times it’s like a battleship—it’s very hard to turn a battleship, but in a smaller, sleeker vessel it’s more maneuverable,” he said. “And maybe it’s naivety, but I can’t wait and I hope I have the opportunity to get in and get my feet wet and then to try to bring some energy and new ideas to the school.”
The third and final candidate, Kathleen McCleland, also has two young children in the district, in first grade and the Pre-K 3 program.
Having grown up in Bridgehampton, Ms. McCleland moved back home in 2004 to start a family. She is involved in the PTO and the Bridgehampton School Foundation, through which she said she has had the chance to learn more about the operations of the school board.
“I think it’s a really important and exciting time in education locally and nationally,” she said Wednesday. “There’s a lot of changes and because my children are young, I just think it’s important to be involved…most importantly, I’m just really passionate about providing the best education that we can for my own kids and other kids in the community.”
With a degree in international relations, Ms. McCleland spent most of her career working in Manhattan as a corporate event planner for Goldman Sachs. She currently works as a pastry chef for the Bell and Anchor, of which her husband Sam is co-owner and executive chef. Her professional life, she said, has prepared her for the board by fostering organization, time management and creativity.
“I believe in public education and I think that we have a really wonderful school in Bridgehampton,” she said. “I think we can provide a great education and I’d like to be a part of that.”
Like the other candidates, Ms. McCleland said she is in favor of piercing the tax cap.
“The things that we would have to give up if we do not try to pierce the cap are just invaluable,” she said. “It would be too much of a sacrifice for our children and I don’t think that we should have to do that as parents in the public education system…of course every penny counts, especially today, but the most important thing is really that our kids get the quality education.”
The school board elections and budget vote will be held Tuesday, May 20 from 2 to 8 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Bridgehampton School, 2685 Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton.