Tag Archive | "Bridgehampton"

Stepping Around Snow, the Bridgehampton School Prepares its Gardens for Spring

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Justin LaPointe waters a seedbed during a spring cleaning of the Bridgehampton School's greenhouse on Saturday, March 7. Photo by Michael Heller.

Justin LaPointe waters a seedbed during a spring cleaning of the Bridgehampton School’s greenhouse on Saturday, March 7. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Despite the snow piles, the potholes, and the threat of more 30-degree weather on the horizon, spring is on its way—at least at the Bridgehampton School.

A group of parents, teachers, and students came to school on Saturday, March 7, to clean up the school’s greenhouse before spring and prepare for the coming season.

For the past five years, the Bridgehampton School has been planting a garden on its grounds, primarily tended by the students and led by teacher Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz, who is also the chair of Slow Food East End, with help from a few other teachers. It evolved into a community garden about two years ago, and production is increasing this year, as a committed group of Bridgehampton parents has joined in, coming each Monday to work in the greenhouse.

Philippe Cheng, a parent at the school, redesigned the greenhouse layout this year to make more room—and grow more lettuce. The goal is to increase production and bring more fresh produce into the school’s cafeteria, while educating the students and community about the importance of slow food.

As part of its commitment to community-minded farming, healthy, mindful eating and sustainable, farm-to-table production practices, Slow Food East End funds master farmers for local school gardens. Zachary Johnson, a farmer at Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island, has been supervising and lending a hand in Bridgehampton.

Working together with Mr. Johnson and the school’s cafeteria staff, this season the gardeners will be producing different varieties of lettuce and snap peas, and in the long run onions, potatoes, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and plenty of beets and carrots.

“We really hope to supply all of the lettuce that the cafeteria uses for the week, and to at least provide a vegetable throughout the year, that would be our goal,” said Ms. Carmack-Fayyaz.

Coursework aligns with the garden’s mission. There is a botany and agricultural production elective for Bridgehampton students to learn about growing food and the nutrition and culinary arts elective teaches them how to prepare and eat it.

“It’s very much about those principles of eating good, clean and fair food,” said Ms. Carmack-Fayyaz, who teaches the nutrition and culinary arts elective. Using the garden, students can learn about the creativity behind cooking.

While the students have been involved since the beginning through in-school electives and after-school clubs, two years ago Bridgehampton started the community garden with the goal of involving more people outside the school. The greenhouse now has 13 raised beds, 8-by 4-feet each, that members of the community can take over and use to grow whatever they please in exchange for helping out in the garden.

“That brought more people in, but it’s really the fact that the parents have come in [this year] and so now we have parents, faculty, and students, so we have the whole package—and an extremely supportive administration,” said Ms. Carmack-Fayyaz. “Everything is in place and—it’s just very exciting.”

As the school community has become more involved, so has the greater Bridgehampton community surrounding it. Local farmer Jenn Halsey Dupree will be coming to the school to help the gardeners plant some apple trees. There is already a small strawberry patch and blueberry bushes, and new raspberry bushes will soon be planted.

“Children are all excited about the fruit, they just love it,” Ms. Carmack-Fayyaz said.

On Saturday, the group made plans for future expansion and even greater involvement. Mr. Cheng came up with the concept of modeling the project off of a “field of dreams,” where you build it and they will come.

“I just loved that concept, because we’ve been working on that, but if we reach out and really get more and more people involved and have them have ownership in the garden, that could only make the project grow,” she said, adding the concept could potentially be brought to all the local school gardens.

The Bridgehampton garden team will be building two raised beds in the greenhouse using a grant received from Slow Food East End, and the ultimate goal is to raise enough funds for six more.

“Our idea is, well, let’s build them, we’ll build the two and people will see what it’s like and get excited and be part of the growth going forward, so that we can carry on building them and get community support for them,” she said.

Encouraging anyone who’s interested to stop by and become involved in any way they can, the gardeners at Bridgehampton School hope to continually raise community involvement not just to expand the raised beds in the greenhouse, but also the mission behind them; to raise awareness about what real food is, where it comes from, what to eat and how to eat it.

Sorry Kids, Sag Harbor Spring Break Affected by Snow Days Again this Year

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As his friends look on, Philip Miller catches air on Pierson Hill following the Blizzard of 2015 on Tuesday, 1/27/15

Making the best of the biggest blizzard in years, Philip Miller shreds a buried bench on Pierson Hill as his friends look on on Tuesday, January 27. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

After Sag Harbor students enjoyed their fourth snow day off this school year on Thursday, March 5, Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves announced they would have to make up for the loss of one day of instructional time. As a result, students will lose the last week day of their scheduled spring break and will be required to attend school on Friday, April 10.

“We encourage you to have your children come to school on April 10, but we are understanding if your family has made other plans. Our parents are our children’s finest teachers; time spent with your children is never wasted,” Ms. Graves said in an email to the school community.

Required by law to have 180 full days of instruction each year, school districts are faced with the tricky task of balancing breaks with preparation for inclement weather, which has become a more pressing concern with the extreme storms and conditions in recent years. Extra snow days cut into the scheduled spring break last year, as did Hurricane Sandy the year before.

“I am hopeful that the adage is true that when March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb,” Ms. Graves said in her email. “We certainly have seen March’s winter claws, but we have also enjoyed the beauty of Pierson Hill deep in snow.”

Dr. Lois Favre, the superintendent of the Bridgehampton School District, said it had 180 school days scheduled and would not have to make up any lost days unless school is canceled again.

Ms. Graves said on Tuesday that if the district were to need another snow day, which could occur along with the forecasts of inclement weather for this coming weekend, “we’ll continue to carve away at that vacation time, but we’re really hoping that that’s not going to be the case.”

The next vacation day to be turned into a school day would be Thursday, April 9, also during the spring recess.

In its contract with the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH), the district pledged to never start school before Labor Day, “which is good for our families and our district and it works also for our teachers… we have to respect that,” Ms. Graves said.

The provision is intended to protect members of the community and staff who work second jobs during the summer months and rent their homes out during Sag Harbor’s busy resort season.

Planning for the upcoming 2015-16 school year poses extra challenges because Labor Day is late this year, falling on Monday, September 7. That means the window for the school year is narrower than it normal is. Because Labor Day is always celebrated on the first Monday in September, the district faces such a situation once every seven years.

“We’re adopting a calendar that right now only has two snow days built in, so we’re probably going to have to continue to be thoughtful about this,” said Ms. Graves. “We’re going to have to continue sitting down with our teachers association, PTA [Parent Teachers Association] and the Board of Education and probably coming up with a contingency plan.”

One option she mentioned is adding flex dates during the summer, when children have a day off but faculty and staff come in for training.

“I don’t know what those other options look like right now, but the New York State Department of Education gives us just a tiny little bit of latitude and that’s what we might need to bring to the table—is just a little bit of latitude and to see what we can do for next year,” Ms. Graves said.

Bridgehampton School Teachers Update Board on Evolving Pedagogy

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By Tessa Raebeck 

Bridgehampton School teachers updated the Board of Education Wednesday, February 25, on their teaching methods and PBIS, the school’s Positive Behavior Intervention System.

Special education science and math teacher Jeff Neubauer showed videos and shared the science and thinking behind “these new ways of approaching education.” Bridgehampton teachers Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz, who teaches environmental design and runs the up-and-coming robotics program, and Helen Wolfe, a math and science teacher, were also there in support of Mr. Neubauer.

In drafting this philosophy, the teachers took their academic experiences in a special education classroom and transferred those lessons to apply the methods to the larger student body.

The three core tenets of the philosophy, which was fostered by a handful of Bridgehampton teachers with help from Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre, is a diversity of instruction methods and teaching styles, a focus on rewards rather than punishment in terms of student behavior, and a focus on transition, or accurately preparing students for work in a modern world through programs like robotics and coding, Mr. Neubauer said.

Special education teachers, Mr. Neubauer told the board, are able to work together in the classroom and thus, “we get to see a myriad of teaching styles.”

“The real thing we came to,” he said of he and his colleagues, “was that diversifying instruction and motivation really became the pillars of what we wanted [education at Bridgehampton] to be.”

The Positive Behavior Intervention System, or PBIS, focuses on rewarding good behavior in students, rather than punishing bad behavior. Originating in the district about five years ago, the system was designed to provide good behavior with rewards in a consistent fashion across grade levels and classrooms.

Good behavior in the classroom, Mr. Neubauer said, allows for a safer environment, where students can feel comfortable learning, asking questions, and expressing their creativity. With the slogan that ease of use equals implementation, the teachers created a Bridgehampton PBIS website. The platform, which uses technology to streamline the process, has earned recognition at the local, state and regional levels.

All behavioral actions are logged onto the PBIS website by teachers, producing a vast display of data on behavior trends in Bridgehampton.

Teachers can use the extensive data to make informed decisions on how best to deal with behavioral issues. They can track, for instance, that most of the negative write-ups for a student occurred during first period, then see that they were predominately for tardiness. The data allows teachers to “isolate the problem and try to solve it,” Mr. Neubauer said.

“We want to make school a place where you don’t have behavior issues, so every kid can learn and be able to be creative and have this freedom,” he added.

In other school board news, the board decided to pursue a budget that will not pierce the state-mandated property tax cap, which it expects to adopt at its meeting on April 22.

The annual community forum on the budget will be held Wednesday, March 11, at 7 p.m. in the school gymnasium. The next meeting of the school board is March 25 at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria.

“Clyborne Park” Opens March 12 At Hampton Theatre Company

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postCard-clybourne-park-patronMail

“Clybourne Park”—the wickedly funny and provocative play by Bruce Norris about how the different faces and shades of racism can make a straightforward real estate transaction anything but—will be the third production of the Hampton Theatre Company’s 30th anniversary season. The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play opens on March 12 at the Quogue Community Hall and will run through March 29.

The two acts of “Clybourne Park” are in fact two separate plays set 50 years apart and spinning off Lorraine Hansberry’s landmark drama, “A Raisin in the Sun.” With a cast of seven taking on different roles in the play’s two halves, act one is set in 1959, as nervous community leaders anxiously try to stop the sale of a home to a black family. Act two is set in the same house in the present day, as the now predominantly African-American neighborhood battles to stand fast against the onslaught of gentrification.

Calling the play, which won the Olivier and Evening Standard awards for its London production, a “sharp-witted, sharp-toothed comedy of American uneasiness,” Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times that “the very structure of ‘Clybourne Park’ posits the idea of a nation (and even a world) trapped in a societal purgatory of ineptitude and anxiety.”

The cast of “Clybourne Park” features four Hampton Theatre Company veterans and three newcomers. Matt Conlon was most recently on the Quogue stage in the fall in the role of Ellwood P. Dowd in “Harvey,” following his turn in the title role in “The Foreigner” last March. Joe Pallister, who also appeared in “The Foreigner,” was last on the Quogue stage in last spring’s production of “God of Carnage.”  Ben Schnickel is familiar to Hampton Theatre Company audiences from “The Foreigner,” as well as “The Drawer Boy,” “Becky’s New Car,” and “Rabbit Hole.” Returning to the Quogue stage for the first time since her appearance in “Desperate Affection,” Rebecca Edana first appeared with the HTC in the company’s revival of “Bedroom Farce.” Rounding out the cast and trailing extensive lists of New York and regional credits are Juanita Frederick, Shonn McCloud, and Anette Michelle Sanders. HTC Executive Director Sarah Hunnewell will direct.

“Clybourne Park” runs at the Quogue Community Hall from March 12 through 29, with shows on Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Information is available at hamptontheatre.org. Tickets can also be purchased by calling 1 (866) 811-4111.

 

Almond Expands Into Tribeca

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Chef Jason Weiner.

Chef Jason Weiner.

By Gianna Volpe

Chef Jason Weiner now has another Almond to love, which brings the count up to four if one considers his lovely wife – namesake to the now three Almond restaurants owned by Mr. Weiner and partner, Eric Lemonides – as the brand-new Tribeca location had its official opening last Wednesday night.

“We had a press dinner, then four nights of friends and families,” Chef Weiner said of private events that led up to Almond Tribeca’s opening night. “Before that we had a mock service where half of our staff sat down and ate while the other half took orders and then we flipped it around. That’s part of the process, so by opening night it’s almost old hat because we’ve been doing it for more than a week.”

This is a common service tightening ritual among experienced restaurateurs and one that should not be ignored, according to Chef Weiner.

“It’s so important,” he said of practicing mock service trials before opening a new restaurant. “The last thing we want to do is charge people money when we don’t really have it together.”

Lovers of Bridgehampton and Manhattan’s Almond locations will be happy to learn the menu in Tribeca includes the restaurant’s tri-steak standard, as well as its signature Caesar salad and Brussels sprouts two ways, but may be thrilled by its new roast chicken for two and a unique duck dish Chef Weiner said is simply bursting with Long Island flavor.
He said the duck breast dish combines the Amber Waves Farm sweet potato and Long Island Mushroom Company shitake ravioli that can found at Almond Bridgehampton with a Crescent Farms duck breast that is served with house-made Sirracha at its Tribeca location and a l’orange in Manhattan.

“We’re also doing a super fantastic lobster sausage appetizer, which is delicious and getting some great feedback,” Chef Weiner said of the menu at Almond Tribeca. “I’m still keeping as local as possible, but bringing stuff from my friends on Long Island. If you know us from other places, the menu will have familiarity to you, but there are some things on there that are specific to the new space.”

That includes the décor at Almond on Tribeca’s Franklin Street, which East Enders may also be pleased to learn includes the red-back dropped zebra herd found in the signature Scalamandre wallpaper found at Almond’s Bridgehampton location.

“It has a lot of warmth to it, but is airy and Tribeca-ish in its own right; we like our places to stand on their own,” said Chef Weiner.

He added Almond Tribeca is a “pretty, cool place” that can be found “smack dab” between TriBeCa Grill and Nobu, which belongs to Myriad Restaurant Group’s Drew Nieporent.

“Eric [Lemonides] worked for him as the general manager of Della Femina 20 years ago,” Chef Weiner said of Mr. Nieporent. “We’ve been building the place since October, so he’s been popping in to give us some informal advice and wish us well. He’s a good guy…a real trailblazer. They opened TriBeCa grill 25 years ago when there really wasn’t much down there, so the guy’s a visionary, obviously.”
Chef Weiner said today the area’s unique dichotomy – where “families and commerce” set streets a-bustle by day leaving behind “ a lot of dark alleyways” by night – is one in which he and his team are excited to join.

“Tribeca is very specific” he said of the new Almond location. “We’re really psyched to be down there.”

Almond Tribeca is located at 186 Franklin Street in New York City. Almond NYC is located at 12 East 22nd Street in New York City. Almond Bridgehampton is located at One Ocean Road in Bridgehampton. For more information, visit almon

Pierson Students Earn Choral Society of the Hamptons Scholarships

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Pierson High School Senior Rebecca Dwoskin.

Pierson High School Senior Rebecca Dwoskin.

Four South Fork high school seniors have won this year’s scholarships for voice training from the Choral Society of the Hamptons, including three students from Pierson High School.

The Society established the scholarship program more than two decades ago and has awarded scholarships to several dozen students, a number of whom have gone on to professional careers in music and active participation in amateur musical organizations.

The 2014 winners were announced this week.

Rebeccsa Dwoskin, a senior at Pierson High School, has performed in a number of school musicals locally, including “A Chorus Line.” Ms. Dwoskin has studied voice with Amanda Jones of East Hampton, while also taking dance and performing as a flutist. Her musical theater roles have also included the title role in Annie. Her chorus teacher, Suzanne Nicoletti, wrote the committee that “she has the work ethic, dedication and passion” for a successful career.

Oree Livni, also a Pierson senior, is a member of the Choral Society and studies piano with Daniel Koontz. Mr. Livni has performed in middle and high school choirs as well as in the Hamptons Music Educators Association (HMEA) festival and in the New York State School Music Association (NYSMA) chorus.

“One of the most musical teenagers I have met,” said Ms. Nicoletti.

Megan Beedenbender, another Pierson senior will also receive scholarship. Since sixth grade, she has sung in choirs at HMEA and NYSMA performances, as well as in the New York State Council of Administrators of Music Education chorus. “Music is my biggest passion,” she says, and she was described by Ms. Nicoletti as “my most enthusiastic singer.” In college, she hopes to expand her knowledge of classical works in German and Italian.

Southampton High School’s Jacqueline Minogue also earned an award.

Ms. Minogue and Ms. Dwoskin won Doris and William Leese Scholarships worth $500. Mr. Livni won the Norman Dello Joio Scholarship and Ms. Beedenbender the Charlotte Rogers Smith Scholarship, each worth $250.

Vaccine Debate Rages On in Sag Harbor

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Dr. Gail Schonfeld gives an injection to a little girl in January 2011. Photo by Michael Heller.

Dr. Gail Schonfeld gives an injection to a young girl. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

The recent measles outbreak, which started in California, has evoked fear among parents, painful memories among doctors, and intense debate, finger pointing and even name-calling from all sides nationwide. The outbreak has fueled discussion on playgrounds, in waiting rooms, and on Facebook groups here on the East End, where an estimated 3 percent of school children are not fully vaccinated.

Largely centered on the M.M.R. vaccine, which targets measles, mumps and rubella, the debate has made unlikely bedfellows of those on the far left and those on the far right. A growing number of parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children for a growing number of reasons, ranging from their belief in holistic medicine, the power of Mother Nature and the natural strength of the human body’s immune system, to a general mistrust of government, injections and in some cases, science itself.

An airborne disease that is highly contagious, measles was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000, but experts believe recent outbreaks originated with international travel to areas that have low or non-existent immunization rates, like parts of Africa.

“There’s measles in the world, there’s international travel and when you get below a certain percentage of people who are adequately immunized, the disease will start to spread and it will come back, and that is exactly what has happened,” said Dr. Gail Schonfeld, an East Hampton pediatrician who has been in practice for 33 years.

Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are often clustered in geographic hubs, making the disease’s spread more likely. The recent outbreak of measles in California, where a growing number of children are not vaccinated, has been linked to Disneyland, but originated outside the U.S.

Health experts believe outbreaks are limited when the population is above a certain immunization rate, due to a phenomenon called “herd immunity.” If a high enough percentage of the population is vaccinated, believed to be 95 percent for measles, the disease cannot spread to enough people during its incubation period to sustain itself, which is why recent outbreaks have been contained.

So, although recent outbreaks stem from international travel rather than non-vaccinated American children, if the numbers of unvaccinated children continue to rise, the disease will spread more easily the next time it comes to the U.S.

A measles outbreak in Ohio last June, connected to Amish missionaries returning from the Philippines, more than doubled in size in 10 days and eventually spread to 339 mostly unvaccinated Amish people, according to state health officials. Ohio granted more than three times as many religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccines to kindergarten students in 2013 than it did in 2000.

Unlike in Ohio and some other states, philosophical exemptions from vaccines are not permitted in New York, but the rate of religious exemptions has risen over the last decade, from 0.23 percent in 2000 to 0.45 percent in 2011, according to a 2013 study in the medical journal Pediatrics.

The current rate of immunization in the Bridgehampton School District is 98 percent, with all but three students fully vaccinated. Those children, the district said, are partially vaccinated, but have religious exemption from some vaccines.

In the Sag Harbor School District, 97 percent of students are vaccinated, with 3 percent exempt for religious and medical reasons, according to the district.

On Monday, February 9, the New York State Department of Health sent a letter to all school superintendents in the state reminding schools to follow the requirements for vaccinations.

“Given the recent media attention and the fact that DOH has confirmed three cases of measles in New York State, including New York City, we write to remind you to continue to take all appropriate measures to protect New York’s students through your responsibility to oversee children’s admissions to school,” said the letter.

Under state law, children must receive vaccinations before attending public or private school, unless a doctor confirms that vaccines will harm the child or a parent provides a written explanation of a “genuine and sincere” religious objection, which school officials can accept or reject.

Parties on all sides of the debate are guilty of fear mongering; Some M.M.R. opponents link the vaccine to autism, despite the fact that there is no scientific evidence to support their claim, while some vaccine proponents incorrectly assert that the instances of measles are testament to a rapidly approaching epidemic that immediately puts all American babies at risk. The extent of loud, often misinformed opinions on both sides can make researching vaccines difficult for the average parent.

Elizabeth Schmitt, an East Hampton mother who decided against vaccinating her eldest daughter Ruby, first became aware of the arguments against vaccines through an Internet message board, branched off of Parents.com. As she continued to “read around” online, the new mother quickly became “really scared.”

As Ruby neared kindergarten age, her younger brother, Cole, at the time about 15 months old and also not vaccinated, started to show strange symptoms: he stopped talking, started twitching and had a high fever.

“It was just all these really scary symptoms out of the blue,” said Ms. Schmitt, “and the funny thing was that all these symptoms were what people kept saying would happen to kids after the M.M.R., but he never had it, so that had me rethinking things really fast.”

“I was looking at a lot of different websites that, I guess in hindsight, aren’t as credible as I thought they were at the time, so then I started looking at the sources. If the site had an article about a certain study, instead of just reading the article, I started reading the study—and realized that the study didn’t say anything that the guy said in the article, and that was really aggravating,” she added.

Ms. Schmitt changed her opinion after further research, and now her children, Ruby, Cole, and 23-month-old Andy, are all fully vaccinated.

“Even the parents who choose not to vaccinate now, we’re all just on the same team, really, everybody’s just really scared about the whole thing,” she said, adding that the “real information” and scientific studies are far more difficult to find, read and understand than the anti-vaccine “sites that we have, like Natural News and the crazy stuff that’s not even true, but so user-friendly and so easy to read, that we didn’t find reason not to believe it.”

While Dr. Schonfeld said she understands “completely and absolutely where the misinformation is coming from and why people are saying and doing what they’re doing,” the pediatrician recently announced that families who choose not to vaccinate are no longer welcome in her practice, as she has “no question [that decision is] wrong on every level.”

“I think what people have to understand is the balance between personal choice and safety and social responsibility. This is the United States and we’re all about personal choice, but when your personal choice endangers the safety of your child and others around you, that’s the line you cannot cross,” she said.

Although she finds many parents’ fear of vaccines unfounded, Dr. Schonfeld’s experience practicing medicine before some of them were invented gives her a larger, more tangible fear: the return of measles and other preventable diseases.

“I’ve personally known and diagnosed children with several of the diseases that we now prevent with the vaccines, and I’ve seen some horrible, horrible things in my time—and I’ve seen the changes, so I understand it from a very different point of view,” she said. “I have very clear memories of the pain and suffering and death of these children and what their families went through…but I also have seen how it’s changed my life to not have these sudden life-threatening infections occurring in children. It’s very challenging to diagnose and treat them and have them survive.”

Although recent measles outbreaks in the U.S. are “horrible,” Dr. Schonfeld believes the incidence of measles is not high enough to justify a routine immunization at six months of age, rather than the standard 12 months.

“I am a firm believer of science and not emotion when it comes to the practice of medicine…When there is as much measles in the United States as there is in, say, parts of Africa where there is no vaccination, yes, we would go back to doing [immunizations before 12 months]—I just don’t think I could stand it if we got to that point,” she said. “I’m really thinking maximum one or two children dying, people are going to get it and stop doing this.”

Bridgehampton School District Unveils First Draft of Proposed $12.6 Million Budget

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Bridgehampton School Business Administrator Robert Hauser presents the first draft of the 2015-16 budget to the Bridgehampton Board of Education, including (l. to r.) District Clerk Tammy Cavanaugh and Ronnie White, president of the school board, on Thursday, January 29. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Bridgehampton School Business Administrator Robert Hauser presents the first draft of the 2015-16 budget to the Bridgehampton Board of Education, including (l. to r.) District Clerk Tammy Cavanaugh and Ronnie White, president of the school board, on Thursday, January 29. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Bridgehampton School District appears to be in “much better financial shape this year than last year, according to business administrator Robert Hauser, as the school board on Thursday, January 29, took its first look at a preliminary $12.6 million budget for the 2015-16 school year.

The first draft represents an increase of nearly $330,000, or 2.67 percent, over last year’s budget.

“Fortunately, this year, things look a lot better than they did last year,” Mr. Hauser told the board.

Last spring, the school board had difficulty getting the current year’s $12.3 million budget passed. That spending plan pierced the state-mandated tax cap with an 8.8-percent increase over the previous year. It failed to receive the required 60-percent supermajority in the first vote in May, then barely passed when 62 percent of voters supported it in a second and final ballot in June.

The state-mandated limit, which determines how much a district can increase its property tax levy from one year to the next, is known as the 2-percent tax cap, but the percentage actually varies based on the Consumer Price Index. This year, at 1.62 percent, the cap will again be lower than its name.

“So, we’re only allowed to collect, in a sense, 1.62 percent more from the residents here,” explained Mr. Hauser. “However, the spending is going up 2.67 percent. So…the spending’s going up more than the actual amount we’re allowed to collect.”

The first draft of Bridgehampton’s current budget, presented last winter, breached the cap by over $1 million; the 2014-15 draft is over the cap by about $106,000, Mr. Hauser said.

Many of the included expenses are mandated by the state, such as Common Core-related professional development for teachers, fingerprinting for all new staff, and nearly $7,000 for “records management,” as school district payroll reports must be maintained for 50 years.

New items in the 2015-16 budget include adding iPads, Google Chromebooks and other technology updates as part of the district’s 5-year plan, a base increase in social security tax for employees, which the school district must match, and increased building maintenance.

During last year’s cutting of the current budget, the school board chose to reduce the number of days the Homework Club was offered after school to cut costs. Mr. Hauser said the school intends to restore those hours for the next school year.

An increase of $24,734, slated for adding a high school girls volleyball team and purchasing new volleyball equipment, is included in the proposed athletics budget, which is about $150,000 in total.

Health benefits for retirees and full-time employees are expected to increase by almost $100,000 to over $1.5 million, Mr. Hauser said. Most of that expense is for vision, dental and health benefits for full-time employees, as Medicare primarily covers retirees. Under the new Affordable Care Act, the district must provide health benefits to any employees who work more than 30 hours a week.

Some components of the budget, such as salaries determined by unsettled teachers and administrative contracts, insurance costs, and revenue from state aid, are not yet finalized. In a move that is unprecedented in the last 40 years, Governor Andrew Cuomo will not be releasing the amount of aid he is proposing for New York’s schools to the school districts ahead of time.

On January 21, in his State of the State address, Governor Cuomo said he would grant an additional $1.1 billion, or 4.8 percent, to New York’s schools only if the Legislature passes several of his proposed educational reforms. If the Legislature, divided between a Democratic Assembly and a Republican Senate, does not comply, the governor threatened to limit that increase to 1.7 percent.

“In the meantime, we’re all in limbo here, because we don’t know how much aid he’s proposing to give us as a base,” Mr. Hauser said Thursday.

One of Governor Cuomo’s conditions is another overhaul of the recently revamped teacher evaluation systems, so that student test scores account for more of a teacher’s rating. Others include making it harder for teachers to get tenure and easier for them to be fired, establishing more charter schools, which would be required to take less advantaged students, and sending specialists in to transform failing schools.

The final numbers for the state’s $23.1 billion education budget will be revealed in the legislative budget on April 1. School districts, however, are required to tell the state comptroller’s office whether or not they will try to pierce the tax cap a month beforehand, by March 1.

Mr. Hauser said Bridgehampton, which generally gets about 5 percent of its revenue from state aid, relies less on the governor’s budget than other districts, and the budget wouldn’t be drastically affected should the legislature fail to comply with the governor’s demands.

STORM UPDATE: Sag Harbor & Bridgehampton Schools Closed Wednesday

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Snowdrifts piled up near the Suffolk County National Bank on Main Street following the Blizzard of 2015 on Tuesday. Heller photo.

Snowdrifts piled up near the Suffolk County National Bank on Main Street following the Blizzard of 2015 on Tuesday. Heller photo.

Both the Bridgehampton School District and Sag Harbor School District announced Tuesday afternoon that school will be closed on Wednesday, January 28.

“Due the continuing snow storm and the safety concerns of transporting our students, all Sag Harbor Schools will be closed and all school activities and sports are cancelled fortomorrow, Wednesday, January 28, 2015,” said the Sag Harbor School District in an email sent to parents, faculty and staff Tuesday afternoon.

The Bridgehampton School also announced Tuesday afternoon it would remain closed Wednesday with the district noting it will reschedule Regents exams for Thursday, January 29. Tuesday’s Bridgehampton Killer Bees basketball game has also been rescheduled for Thursday, January 29 at 6 p.m.

 

Elaine Peterson

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Elaine Peterson is a gardener, an astrologer and the president of the Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons. She spoke about some upcoming events and discussed her experiences gardening on the East End.

It clearly isn’t prime gardening season, but is there anything green thumbs can do this time of year to get their gardens ready for spring?

I’d let things be at this time of year. Plan. It’s a good time for planning. Occasionally I do some pruning this time of year, I always prune on a new moon. I’m an astrologer so I garden by the moon and the planets. So always prune around the new moon, because that’s when the energy in the plants is most down in the roots, rather than up in the tips. The other thing that’s terribly important that no one really talks about, is that old farmers in Europe would never water or fertilize during the waxing of the moon, only in the waning of the moon between full moon and new moon. And that way the water sinks, and the fertilizer and whatever that is going into the ground does go into the ground instead of washing away. So the timing of those applications is very important. We’re constantly reinventing the wheel, but if you go back and look at how people used to farm before we had all these modern techniques, they were very much more in touch with the earth and the climate.

Water quality is one of the main concerns on any island. We hear a lot about nitrogen run-off from fertilizers causing all sorts of problems in local waterways. How can gardeners keep their plants healthy without causing harm to water?

Vincent Simeone, director of the Planting Fields Arboretum here on Long Island, spoke to us on Sunday about his new book “Grow More With Less: Sustainable Garden Methods”. But one of the most concerning things about sustainable garden methods is that we reduce or eliminate the amount of herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, everything unnatural, that we put on the ground because it will come back into the water at some point. I don’t use pesticides or herbicides at all in my gardening, I’ve never had to. I don’t believe in it, I don’t think it’s good, but I also don’t see the need for it. Compost is pretty much all I use. I use some organic supplement sometimes but I’m very careful—I live on the lake! I have some weeds on my lawn, but I’m perfectly happy with them, I don’t want to live on a golf course.

We all know that the East End is home to an enormous deer population. What are some ways for gardeners to deal with the hungry herbivores?

We’ve been serious gardeners for some time, and we’ve dealt with the deer issue forever. In the 19th century and the 20th century we killed off all the animals, and then we decided that wasn’t such a good idea, so we brought them back and now they’re here. So we all got wise and said, this isn’t right, and of course the whole economical and social scene changed. Gradually, wild animals have come back, and they are here and they’re coming back more and more. And it’s just something we have to adjust to. As a gardener, I’ve learned to live with all of the animals, and if you want to grow things animals are going to be interested in, you’re just going to have to take precautions to protect them. Which means a lot more fencing, walled gardens; in some ways, we have to go back to the way it was in the Middle Ages, where if you wanted to grow something for food or for pleasure you had to protect it. So that’s what I have come around to realizing I have to do for everything—there are many plants that won’t be touched by deer but they adapt, the things that they didn’t used to eat, they now eat.

The Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons is holding a roundtable discussion on planting a fragrant garden from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, January 17, at the Bridgehampton Community House, 2357 Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton. For more information about the organization, call (631) 537-2223.