By Marianna Levine
The death of Bridgehampton School freshman Pablo Saldivar overshadowed the district’s brief school board meeting last Wednesday night. However, the primary focus of the sparsely attended meeting was the approval of a new teachers’ contract, and the dismissal of two employees.
With several board members absent, and with only the district’s lawyers and school board candidates Joe Conti and Lillian Tyree-Johnson in the audience, the board approved the teachers’ contract, including a three percent increase in a five year agreement, with two years retroactive, which the teachers’ accepted this past Tuesday. Tyree-Johnson brought some levity to the meeting by singularly applauding the approval in an otherwise silent and nearly empty room.
The board also approved the dismissal of a guidance counselor and teaching assistant. After the meeting, school superintendent Dr. Dianne Youngblood explained that the employees were dismissed due to a decrease in the student population.
The meeting started out with a moment of silence for Saldivar, who was killed on April 11 in a car accident on County Road 39 in Southampton. Saldivar, 16, had previously attended school in Hampton Bays and several of his fellow classmates there were expected to attend.
Principal Jack Pryor also mentioned that the school’s third quarter report cards would be due a few days later because of Saldivar’s death and its impact on the school community.
In other Bridgehampton Board of Education news, board member Joe Berhalter wanted to know what progress was being made in food service negotiations for the school’s lunch program.
“We need to move forward with this,” urged Berhalter.
Interim business administrator, George Chesterton said, “Joe’s right about this. There are some new ways we can go to a re-bid. We need to do two things, establish a dollar amount the board would put into a bid, … and look at alternative food options.”
Dr. Youngblood also gave a detailed explanation of the school’s financial division of labor, thereby addressing concerns voiced by an external auditor as well as community members that financial accounting was separated properly.
“I am concerned that progress [in closing the books by the end of the 2009 academic year] has been slowed since February of this year since we had a change of treasurer,” Dr. Youngblood concluded. But she added that for the most part, things continue to remain up to date.
Finally, school board president Jim Walker wondered if buying a $30,000 or $40,000 dollar generator could be justified, when perhaps the school could rent a generator for far less money. The generator is needed so that the school can operate as an emergency relief center during emergencies.
“We’re a place that when the lights go out we can send everybody home so we really only need it in a major emergency such as a hurricane which is somewhat predictable,” said Walker.
Berhalter wasn’t so sure a rental would cost less, but Youngblood stated she would continue looking into lower cost options such as rentals.