Tag Archive | "Bridgehampton Board of Education"

Bridgehampton Board of Education Looks Forward

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By Tessa Raebeck

The Bridgehampton Board of Education reappointed Ron White as president and Lillian Tyree-Johnson as vice president at its annual reorganizational meeting Wednesday, July 2.

“I appreciate the district and the board reelected me,” Mr. White said Wednesday, July 9. “It certainly has been a pleasure to learn and understand the operations of the district; it makes me understand why things are the way that they are.”

Mr. White said the challenge of the upcoming year will be to continue the drive to educate the community about the significance and benefits of Bridgehampton having its own small school. The Bridgehampton School District almost failed to pass a budget this spring, as its first draft—which would have pierced the state-mandated tax cap with a tax levy increase of 8.8-percent—was voted down. After a grassroots get out the vote effort by board members, administrators and school supporters, an identical proposal passed by a slim margin June 17.

“We need to continue the momentum of educating our overall community of this special establishment we have here in our own district,” said Mr. White. “We need to educate, we have to go to all corners of our community and just really educate them on the finances and also how beneficial it is to have a school in your district.

“We need to find a way to invite them in, we’ll have open houses, we’ll have meet the school days where they come on in and see us and even folks that don’t have kids here or [have] kids who are elsewhere, they need to know what their school really entails. I think that’s our challenge as a school district and as a board to try to get these folks in and to see how special and unique our place really is,” he added.

Ms. Tyree-Johnson is optimistic about the coming year now that the budget has passed.

“I’m actually looking forward to this year,” she said Wednesday, July 9. “We’re hoping to continue the good things that are going on there.”

“Because the budget passed, we’re able to continue with the programming that I there and that’s why I’m pretty excited about this year coming up and continuing doing what we do at Bridgehampton,” she added.

Ms. Tyree-Johnson said she is also looking forward to Dr. Lois Favre’s second year as both superintendent and principal.

“I think that she’s done a great job in that dual role,” Ms. Tyree-Johnson said of Dr. Favre. “So, I think that now that she has one year under her belt, things are going to look even better this year.”

Bridgehampton School Board Feeling Better Now That Budget Has Passed

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By Tessa Raebeck

The mood was considerably lighter at the monthly meeting of the Bridgehampton School Board on Wednesday, June 18. After months of worry over piercing the state-imposed tax cap, there was relief the day after the community approved the district’s $12.3 million 2014-15 budget on the second try.

“It’s been a great year overall,” said Dr. Lois Favre, who is completing her first year acting as both principal and superintendent for the district. “Despite our budget fight, it’s been a great year. I think it’s a good feel in the building, morale is good.”

The budget, which pierces the state-mandated tax cap by 8.8-percent, failed to gain the required 60-percent supermajority in the first communitywide vote on May 20. After a grassroots get-out-the-vote effort by the board, administrators and other supporters, it passed with 62 percent June 17.

Lillian Tyree-Johnson, a member of the school board, extended her compliments to Dr. Favre, business administrator Robert Hauser, and district clerk Tammy Cavanaugh at last Wednesday’s meeting.

“During this revote process,” she said, “it’s been really grueling and you guys have handled it with incredible grace. It was really a tough time and I commend you all for absolutely answering questions with ease.”

“The transparency is impeccable as well,” added Ronald White, president of the school board. “Any question that you guys were ever given, you guys were able to answer it. It was clear and people totally understood, I understood it.”

Also at the meeting, Mr. Hauser updated the board on facilities improvements around the Bridgehampton campus. The bulk of capital projects take place over the summer, so as not to interfere with instructional time.

New equipment for the playground has been ordered and the renovation should be completed by August 15, several weeks before the start of school.

A Bridgehampton resident donated a playhouse to the school that board members are quite impressed by.

“I was actually thinking about moving my office in there,” Mr. Hauser joked.

Bridgehampton School Board Will Bring Same Budget Back for Second Vote

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Monasia Street shows off her robot's skills to her classmates during a robotics demonstration at the Bridgehampton School in February. Photo by Michael Heller.

The Bridgehampton School District hopes voters will allow it to pierce the state-mandated tax cap levy so programs like robotics, pictured above, will be saved. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

After the budget fell short of approval by just 36 votes last week, the Bridgehampton Board of Education on Wednesday, May 28,  agreed to present the same $12.3 million budget to voters for a  second vote, on June 17.

“Certainly, while the support of the budget was positive, it wasn’t quite positive enough to get us to be able to pierce the levy limits,” Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre said Wednesday. “In planning the budget, the board considered all possible scenarios. With community support, it decided the only way to move forward successfully was to pierce the cap.”

The 2014-15 budget, a 9.93-percent or $1.1 million increase over last year’s due largely to contractual obligations, required a supermajority of 60 percent because it pierced the state-mandated tax levy cap. With just 247 residents casting ballots, it came in short at just above 54 percent with 134 yes votes and 113 no votes.

Members of the school board were optimistic Wednesday that they could get more parents and other supportive community members out to vote June 17.

“I think it’s a learning experience,” said Ronnie White, president of the school board. “Maybe we should go back to the drawing board and try to get some of the folks, the naysayers, and really educate them on the actual numbers.”

For a homeowner of a $500,000 house, the annual tax bill would be increased by approximately $56 a year if the budget is passed on the second go around.

“We probably need to work harder to get our word out to the public,” Dr. Favre said.

Bridgehampton School Board Candidates Debate District Issues

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Bridgehampton Board of Education candidates Michael Gomberg, Kathleen McCleland and Jeffrey Mansfield at the Meet the Candidates night Wednesday, May 7.

Bridgehampton Board of Education candidates Michael Gomberg, Kathleen McCleland and Jeffrey Mansfield at the Meet the Candidates night Wednesday, May 7. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

With three candidates vying for two seats on the Bridgehampton School Board, the district PTO hosted a Meet the Candidates forum on May 7 to give those running a chance to share their ideas on the future of the district.

During the debate, which was moderated by Michael Mackey of WPPB 88.3 FM. Candidates Michael Gomberg, Jeffrey Mansfield and Kathleen McCleland, all three of whom have young children in the district school, are running for three-year terms, which start July 1 and end June 30, 2017. None of the candidates are incumbents.

With a degree in finance and accounting, Mr. Gomberg, 41, lives two blocks from the school and works in Southampton.

Mr. Mansfield, 49, worked on Wall Street for 17 years and is now a stay-at-home dad, active in many groups in the Bridgehampton community and Southampton Town. Last year he ran an unsuccessful bid for Southampton Town Board. His mother was a teacher for over 30 years and Mr. Mansfield said he considers himself “a champion of education.”

A Bridgehampton native, Ms. McCleland, 43, has previously worked as a personal chef and as vice president of corporate event planning at Goldman Sachs. She now works as the pastry chef at the Beacon and the Bell and Anchor, of which her husband Sam is chef and co-owner.

The school board is presenting voters with a $12.3 million budget for 2014-15 that would pierce the state-mandated cap on property tax increases, making it one of four districts on Long Island to do so. Mr. Mackey opened the forum by asking the candidates whether they supported piercing the cap.

Mr. Gomberg said he is “all for it,” adding that not doing so would “send the school spiraling.”

“The sacrifices that we would have to make as a school and school district if we were to not pierce the cap would be too great,” Ms. McCleland agreed.

“I am in favor of piercing the cap, but I would also like to say I will work like heck over the next two years to come in under the cap,” said Mr. Mansfield, adding he is conservative fiscally but “education is one area that we cannot afford to skimp on.”

When asked how they would get members of the community who are not involved in the school to be involved, Mr. Gomberg said, “call them up, go door to door.”

“It’s a small enough community and we have fabulous resources and it’s a shame that they’re not being utilized,” he said, adding he would like to see opportunities for internships and mentoring set up with local businesses.

Ms. McCleland said, “The more we can publicize to the community through social media, the local newspapers, all the wonderful things we have … we can capitalize on those types of events to invite the community in.”

“The school unfairly suffers from a perception that it’s lackluster,” said Mr. Mansfield. “We need to get out and be an advocate for the school and it’s a two-way thing.”

Mr. Mackey asked the candidates how they would increase the population in the district, which is by far the smallest on the East End, and whether they believe getting more students is important.

Ms. McCleland said growing the school is important and pointed to the success of the pre-kindergarten programs and the larger sized classes in the lower grades.

“The more we get out there and can show the community all of the great things we have to offer, that in and of itself will allow them to consider us an option when they are deciding where their children should go to school,” she said.

“I definitely think we have to do something about getting the class sizes bigger. We have to get out there and we have to sell ourselves,” Mr. Gomberg agreed, saying offering more foreign languages and other programs would entice “outsourced kids back to our school.”

Although he was in favor of increasing size, Mr. Gomberg said the expansion should be to a limit because “part of what’s great about the school is the small, nurturing environment that these kids are able to excel in.”

“You have to be careful what you wish for,” agreed Mr. Mansfield, adding that many private schools are desirous because of their small class sizes and Bridgehampton is able to avoid many of the problems of larger districts. “I think it would be nice to increase the class size, but I don’t think it’s of the utmost importance.”

Citing studies that have indicated consolidating school districts “would be economically beneficial,” Mr. Mackey asked the candidates whether they feel Bridgehampton should continue as an independent school district or merge with another local district.

“I would be open to seeing a study certainly, because I want to make sure that we’re providing the best education we can in the biggest sense of the word,” replied Ms. McCleland. “I can’t say yes or no without having all the facts.”

“I’m definitely against consolidating at this point,” Mr. Gomberg said. “Right now, what’s great about the Bridgehampton community is that it’s small and nurturing.”

“Consolidation is tricky,” said Mr. Mansfield, citing a referendum in 2009 that would have given parents a choice on whether to send their children to Bridgehampton School’s high school or send them to another public school. Critics said the referendum, which was rejected by voters, was a move aimed at eventually shutting down the school.

“The people have spoken as far as I’m concerned and instead of trying to continually tear this school down, it’s time for the people in this community to build this school up,” Mr. Mansfield.”

The school board elections and budget vote are Tuesday, May 20, from 2 to 8 p.m. in the school gymnasium.

Bridgehampton School District to Pierce Tax Cap

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Monasia Street shows off her robot's skills to her classmates during a robotics demonstration at the Bridgehampton School in February. Photo by Michael Heller.

The Bridgehampton Board of Education has decided to pierce the tax levy cap to save programs like robotics, which enables students like Monasia Street, above, to learn about technology. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

In a third and final presentation of the 2014-15 budget before it is adopted April 23, the Bridgehampton Board of Education unanimously decided to pierce the mandated state tax cap in order to salvage its programs, curriculum and staff.

After Superintendent and Principal Dr. Lois Favre presented several options to the school board on March 26, each with different spending increases and the corresponding cuts that would be required, the board decided to move forward with a 9.93 percent spending increase, which is 4.46 percent over the district’s allowable tax levy limit.

If Bridgehampton voters pass the budget, it would increase the tax bill on a $500,000 house by $56.64 for the year, an amount that costs “less than one latte a week,” Dr. Favre reminded those in the room.

The final budget removes the “wish list” items, mainly for technology advances, staff development and curriculum work, from the original budget draft, but allows for overtime. No staff positions or programs would be lost, but some programs will still have to be reduced, said Dr. Favre, such as the homework club, which will now run three days a week, rather than four.

The proposed spending for the 2014-15 school year is $12.33 million, an increase of $1.11 million over last year’s budget, largely due to contractual salary and benefit increases. The proposed tax levy increase of $909,781 would be $429,023 over the levy limit.

At a community forum on the budget March 5, those in attendance were unanimous in their opinion that the school district needed to pierce the cap if it were to continue providing Bridgehampton’s kids with a decent education.

The forum, Dr. Favre said, showed those residents’ “belief that actual dollar amounts are negligible compared to what could be lost if cuts are made too deeply.”

Dr. Favre also noted that the district is actually spending less than in previous years. The budget Bridgehampton originally proposed in 2010-2011 is higher than what is being proposed four years later.

“So, we’ve been doing what they asked, we’ve been making the necessary cuts,” Dr. Favre said last week.

“Each budget is only a cut for that school year,” she added. “The deeper the cuts, the harder it is to get the programs and people put back in.”

The school board agreed the 9.93 percent increase was the best option, providing a good balance between preserving programs without substantially increasing residents’ tax bills.

Douglas DeGroot, a member of the school board, said if the district could no longer support itself and had to close, the school taxes for Bridgehampton’s residents would go up, so piercing the tax cap now is the cheaper option in the long run.

“You can’t have a school district without a school,” said Mr. DeGroot. “So, we will become a part of somebody else’s and if we become a part of Sag Harbor—which is the closest and makes the most sense—the school portion of our tax bill, which is the majority of our tax bill, will treble here.”

A public budget hearing will be held May 7 at 7 p.m. at the Bridgehampton School.

Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor School Districts Approve Tax Exemptions for Veterans

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Some 30 veterans came out to the Pierson library to show their support for the Veterans Tax Exemption at a special meeting of the Sag Harbor Board of Education February 27.

Some 30 veterans came out to the Pierson library to show their support for the Veterans Tax Exemption at a special meeting of the Sag Harbor Board of Education February 27.

By Tessa Raebeck

School districts in Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor this week approved tax exemptions that grant school tax relief to veterans in their districts who served during a time of war. Veterans who want to receive the exemption must apply with their town assessor by March 1 for the savings to affect this tax year.

Municipalities have been allowed to grant property tax relief to veterans since the 1980s, but state property tax law was expanded to include school districts in December. Qualified veterans in the Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor school districts will now receive a property tax exemption that could be as high as 15 percent of their primary residence’s total assessed value. If they served in a combat zone, they can receive an additional 10 percent exemption, and if they are disabled due to their service, they qualify for additional exemptions.

The law caps the exemption at $8,000 for the basic level for those veterans who served during wartime, $12,000 for veterans who also served in a combat zone and $40,000 for veterans who sustained a service-connected disability. Those caps are not dollar amounts taken directly out of taxes; rather, they are deducted from the assessed value used in calculating property tax.

On February 26, the Bridgehampton Board of Education adopted the basic maximum exemptions, as well as the Gold Star Parent provision, which extends the relief to parents who endured the loss of a son or daughter who died while in military service.

At a special meeting attended by some 30 local veterans, the Sag Harbor School Board unanimously adopted the basic maximum exemptions and the Gold Star Parent exemption February 27. The expected cost to Sag Harbor taxpayers on the East Hampton side of the village is estimated to be about $22 for a $1 million home. For Sag Harbor’s Southampton taxpayers, that number is about $17. There are 152 veterans at the basic level, 106 combat zone veterans and 9 who are disabled in Sag Harbor.

JoAnn Lyles, the mother of the late Marine Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter, attended the meeting to express her support for the exemption, as well as the Gold Star Parent provision. Roger King, Commander of Sag Harbor’s VFW Post, also voiced his support for the provision. American Legion Commander Marty Knabb thanked the board for its vote and the veterans for their service.

Sag Harbor board member Daniel Hartnett said while he was happy to vote yes, he was offended by what he saw as a “gimmick” on the part of the state. “Instead of adequately funding vets programs, they come to school districts and ask them to act in this fashion,” he told the veterans. “From the bottom of my heart I thank you, but I am deeply offended by the state’s action in this regard.”

Mr. Hartnett’s remarks elicited a round of applause from the veterans in attendance.

First Draft of Bridgehampton School Budget Asks for 12-percent Increase

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By Tessa Raebeck

Bridgehampton School District officials were quick to stress last week that a newly unveiled budget calling for a 12.59-percent spending increase for the 2014-15  school year was only a first draft that would see significant cuts in the coming months.

“It always looks like we need to panic,” said Superintendent/Principal Dr. Lois Favre at the Bridgehampton Board of Education (BOE) meeting last Wednesday. “I have no doubt that we’ll get this where we need to be.”

The $12.62 million budget contains many “wish list” items and would carry a $1.4 million increase over last year’s budget.

Enrollment at Bridgehampton School is projected to increase by three students next year. The projected numbers for 2014-15 are 24 students in the pre-kindergarten program and 145 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Total enrollment is expected to reach 169 students, the largest enrollment at school in recent years, according to Dr. Favre.

“If everything remains the same,” Dr. Favre told the board, “and we add in what we believe we’d like to see happen here, it would be a [nearly] 12.6-percent increase, which we know is unreasonable. It’s not in the realm of things right now.”

“In this age of the tax cap, it’s a big number,” added Dr. Favre, referring to the 2-percent tax levy limit that prohibits school districts from raising the tax rate by more than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, unless the district can secure a 60-percent majority vote in favor of its budget. “So, I’m just saying that I know that that’s not where you want to stay, but you just need to see all the numbers and we’ll go together as a team to see where we can get.”

The large increase is attributed to several unavoidable costs, such as “ever increasing” employee/retiree benefits, as well as desired items like laminating machines and technology updates to keep in line with the district’s five-year plan, Dr. Favre said.

It also budgets for a new outdoor sign and opportunities for state-mandated staff development (staff must be trained for the state-imposed educational curriculums).

“I think this board,” said Dr. Favre, “has done an exceptional job every year of cutting back and giving a good budget to the community.”

What really stands out, Dr. Favre said, is the amount of money that has been asked for in preliminary budgets, but which has ultimately been cut over the last six years, which amounts to $4.5 million. Last year’s budget actually called for less spending than the budget that was requested in 2010. In 2012-2013, the final budget was $636,678 less than the administration’s original proposal. In 2013-2014, the district proposed a budget of $11.37 million and ended with an actual budget of $11.21 million, a difference of $158,064.

The budget does not consider the impact of raises beyond the step increase factored in each year. Dr. Favre noted contract negotiations are just beginning with the teachers’ union.

Dr. Favre told the board it would need to discuss whether or not it should pursue piercing the tax cap.

Looking to Spend $827,000 in Capital Reserve Funds, Bridgehampton School District Will Hold Special Vote January 14

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Bridgehampton School administrators and members of the school board at the November 20 meeting.

Bridgehampton School administrators and members of the school board at the November 20 meeting.

By Tessa Raebeck

In need of new fire escapes and other major repairs, the Bridgehampton School District will host a special meeting January 14 for the community to vote on spending $827,000 in capital reserve funds.

Last March, Bridgehampton voters approved the establishment of a five-year capital plan to fund major improvements and repairs throughout the school. The board of education (BOE) funded the capital plan with $827,000 in June. Now district voters must voice their support of actually spending that reserve money.

At the school board meeting November 20, Robert Hauser, Bridgehampton’s school business administrator, said district architects have detailed about $790,000 in spending on items “they feel are a priority that need to be done.”

The largest priority items are replacing the gymnasium floor and skylights and installing new fire escapes; smaller capital projects would also be covered by the $827,000. If the spending is approved by majority vote, the district hopes to complete the projects over the summer so as not to interfere with school instruction.

Also at the November 20 meeting, Hauser updated the board on the progress of upgrading school security. New interior doors for the front entrance were installed Wednesday. When a visitor comes through the original exterior doors, they enter into a vestibule, where the new interior doors are now locked.

The school plans to install a camera and intercom system, so front desk personnel can buzz visitors into the building upon identification. Bridgehampton School staff members have been issued ID cards and students in grades six through 12 will receive cards in the next two weeks.

School districts nationwide are increasing security standards following the fatal school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut last December. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law in January requiring schools to submit school safety plans.

“With all the new changes in the regulations,” said Dr. Lois Favre, Bridgehampton’s superintendent/principal, “everybody in the school needs to get certain kinds of training.”

Also at the meeting, Hauser cautioned the board about the tax cap for this year’s budget, which he estimates will be 1.54 percent. In June 2011, Governor Cuomo mandated school districts and local municipalities limit the annual increase in property taxes to two percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. With increasing security standards and decreasing funds, school districts like Bridgehampton are wary of drafting their budgets.

“We’re only allowed to collect 1.54 percent of the last year’s levy,” said Hauser. “So it’s not on what we’re going to spend, it’s what we actually collected — and that’s about $160,000. $160,000 is not a lot to work with.”

Employee benefits for district staff and retirees are projected to go up by about seven percent, Hauser said.

“We’ve come once again to the realization that some significant cuts will have to be made to be able to stay within the two percent tax cap levy limits,” said Dr. Favre. “Like everywhere else in New York State, we’ll be scrambling once again to try to come up with a budget that’s viable for the district and meets the taxpayers’ approval.”

Dr. Favre attended talks by educational experts Bill Mathis and Diane Ravitch on the prevalence of standardized testing and the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) in New York, which has sparked controversy across the state. Many educators are finding more issue with the implementation of CCLS in New York State and the “rush to test,” as Ravitch calls it, rather than the curriculum itself.

Dr. Favre said looking to increase technology and fostering pedagogy that is “not so much worried about the test scores as we’re worried about our kids,” aligned with the experts’ recommendations.

While addressing Long Island superintendents and board members in Hauppauge last week, Ravitch called for superintendents to boycott Common Core testing altogether.

“In my contract,” the superintendent said, “it says I need to follow the rules and regulations of the Commissioner of the State of New York.”

“We do advocate for our students,” she continued, adding that superintendents from Western Suffolk and Suffolk County have sent statements regarding CCLS to Commissioner John King.

“We here at Bridgehampton School are looking at Common Core very seriously,” said Dr. Favre. “We see some of the value in it. We know we need to move our kids, but you can’t just shove this down kids’ throat.”