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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 District Voters Say No to Piercing Tax Cap; Mansfield, McCleland Elected to School Board

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Bridgehampton Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre congratulates Kathleen McCleland on winning a seat on the Board of Education as board member Larry LaPointe looks on, after polls close in the school gymnasium Tuesday, May 20. Photo by Michael Heller.

Bridgehampton Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre congratulates Kathleen McCleland on winning a seat on the Board of Education as board member Larry LaPointe looks on, after polls close in the school gymnasium Tuesday, May 20. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Bridgehampton residents turned down the Bridgehampton School District’s attempt to pierce the New York State mandated tax levy cap with its 2014-15 budget on Tuesday.

Although the budget passed by a margin of 134 to 113, it failed to gain the 60-percent supermajority required to pierce the cap, coming in short at just above 54 percent. A total of 247 residents cast ballots.

Since the spending plan did not gain the necessary support, the Board of Education will go back to the drawing board, asking voters to return to the polls a second time with either a reduced budget or an identical one. If the second vote fails, the district must adopt a 0-percent tax levy increase, which would force it to adopt last year’s budget and craft a new plan that cuts $1 million from the one proposed.

“It’s disappointing because just to run a vote kicks us in the budget,” Dr. Lois Favre, who is both superintendent and principal for the district, said following the vote.

The $12.3 million budget would have increased spending by $1.4 million, or 9.9 percent. It would have required a $10.6 million tax levy, an 8.8-percent increase that district officials said would amount to an increase of about $56 for the year on the tax bill of a house valued at $500,000.

“We’ll meet as a board and we have to bring the budget back up to the public and hope for a better result next time,” Dr. Favre said.

“It’s disappointing,” agreed Lillian Tyree-Johnson, vice president of the school board.

A proposition on the ballot to provide $160,000 in funding for the Bridgehampton Childcare and Recreation Center was approved by a 157-to-89 vote margin.

 

School Board Elections

Also on Tuesday, Bridgehampton voters elected newcomers Kathleen McCleland and Jeffrey Mansfield to two seats on the school board. Mr. Mansfield received 187 votes, Ms. McCleland received172 and Michael Gomberg came in third with 72 votes.

The positions were left vacant when incumbents Gabriela Braia and Elizabeth Kotz both decided not to run again.

Mr. Mansfield, 49, has been visiting Bridgehampton since he was a child and moved to the district full-time in 2008 after a 17-year career on Wall Street. He now works as a stay-at-home dad to his three children, ages 4, 6 and 7, who all attend Bridgehampton School. He is also active in the community, serving as a member of the Southampton Town Audit Advisory Committee, vice chairman of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee and active in the Bridgehampton School Foundation and the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Little League.

With a mother who worked as a public school teacher for over 30 years, Mr. Mansfield considers himself a “champion of education.”

“I think education is the tool that breaks the cycle of poverty and ignorance,” Mr. Mansfield said during a Meet the Candidates forum in May. “It behooves all of us to have a wonderful school district.”

A Bridgehampton native, Ms. McCleland moved back home in 2004 to start a family. Before that, she spent some time in Manhattan working as a personal chef and in corporate event planning at Goldman Sachs.

Ms. McCleland’s two children now attend the school. She works as the pastry chef for the Beacon and the Bell of Anchor restaurants, of which her husband Sam is chef and co-owner.

“I’m very excited at the prospect of taking on the challenges of the school board,” Ms. McCleland said Tuesday night after the results were announced.

The newcomers’ three-year terms on the school board will start July 1 and run through June 30, 2017.

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.

Three Candidates Will Vie for Two Seats on the Bridgehampton School Board

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Bridgehampton School administrators and members of the 2013-2014 school board.

Bridgehampton School personnel and members of the 2013-2014 school board. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

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.

Michael Gomberg.

Michael Gomberg

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.

BH Jeffrey Mansfield

Jeff Mansfield

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.”

KathleenMcCleland

Kathleen McCleland

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.

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.

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.”

Local School Board Challengers Emerge

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Sag Harbor
By Claire Walla

In the wake of possible tax cap legislation and a proposed $33 million school budget, giving Sag Harbor voters even more decisions to wrestle with this election season are four people who will be running for three open slots on the Sag Harbor Board of Education.

Current board member Mary Anne Miller and vice president Theresa Samot will run for reelection, joining former two-time school board member Sandi Kruel, as well as current Parent Teacher Association (PTA) President Annette Bierfriend on the ballot.

All cited the current economic climate as a pressing issue for the board this upcoming year, though how the district should respond in tough economic times depends on the candidate.

Miller said, “We have to continue to look in our district to see what we’re doing well.” Though she added that “IB is another part of the discussion in terms of our curriculum.” In the ongoing process of continually revisiting the school’s curriculum, she said she appreciates IB for fostering project-based learning and collaboration among staff.

Additionally, as a member of the district’s Wellness Committee, Miller said ensuring the ecological and physiological aspects of wellness and sustainability are important issues she will continue to tackle, if reelected.

Though, she added, it all comes down to finances.

“Without financial health, we can’t make it happen,” she said.

In line with Miller’s push to revamp the district’s curriculum, Bierfriend said the IB program is the main platform of her campaign for school board.

“I’m a huge advocate of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program,” said Bierfriend, who is running for the school board for the first time this year. (She said she would have run last year, although she had not yet met the official one-year residency requirement in Sag Harbor Village until this year.) “I think IB is a curriculum that creates more of an open-mindedness. It gives teachers a creative way of teaching.”

In addition to being a proponent of the high school-level diploma program, Bierfriend also supports bringing IB in at all grade levels. Plus—as part of the Pre-K committee this year—she said implementing a Pre-K program within in the district should be a high priority.

“I just think that right now it’s important to give every child every opportunity available,” Bierfriend continued. “As parents, community members and tax payers, we’re responsible for their education. Because no matter what you go on to do in life, you always have your education to fall back on.”

Though she is the only candidate without prior board experience, Bierfriend said her past experience as a senior mortgage underwriter in Manhattan helps.

“I knew tax returns like the back of my hand,” she explained. “I hated math in high school, but somehow I’m good with numbers.”

For Samot, who is running for her third term, the primary issue for the district is long-term planning.

“We’re not exactly sure what the tax cap might bring,” she said, adding that in order to adequately prepare for the future, wider involvement from the community at large is key.

“We need to focus on transparency and collaboration,” she noted. “What I would like to see is improved attendance at the board meetings. And if we can’t get people at the meetings, we need more forums.”

Samot said the board is headed in the right direction.

“Now that the appropriate administrators are in place and [the district has established] the audit committee, we will continue to work for transparency,” she added.

Sandi Kruel, who has served two terms on the board of education from 2000 to 2006, but wasn’t reelected for a third term, noted that it hasn’t deterred her from attending meetings and staying involved.

“I never believed that I needed to be on the board to fight for children,” she stated.

Especially important in this economic climate, Kruel continued, is not looking too far down the road in terms of implementing new programs and increasing district costs, but rather keeping the district’s current programs in place.

“People are hurting [in this economy] and we have got to take that into consideration,” she added. “I don’t want to hire someone for six months and then say, ‘Sorry, we’ve got to let you go.’”

Kruel emphasized that preserving the district’s existing programs is her ultimate goal.

“We need to make sure we can keep what we have here,” she explained. “It’s not easy, it’s not a fun job. But, I don’t think anybody’s on that board because they don’t like kids.”

“I go to the meetings of the board, anyway,” Kruel added. “I’m already there.”

Bridgehampton

By Kathryn G. Menu

The Bridgehampton Union Free School District has gone through a number of changes over the last five years, particularly on its school board, which has just one member — Elizabeth Kotz — who has been present on the board for more than half a decade.

However, it appears for this year at least, there will be no change to the school board as Kotz and Bridgehampton School Board President Nicki Hemby will seek re-election to the board unopposed this May.

On Tuesday morning, Bridgehampton School Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre confirmed that Hemby and Kotz alone submitted petitions to run for school board by the district’s deadline on Monday afternoon.

Hemby, a first year president of the school board, will seek her second three-year term.

The 39-year-old was elected alongside Kotz in 2008 while she was president of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization. Hemby, who is one of the founders of the online parent resource Macaroni Kid, has four children in the Bridgehampton School. She originally ran, in part, to oust former board member Joe Conti after he supported former board member Joe Berhalter’s initiative to put out a referendum to district voters to phase out the school’s small high school over four years. Had it succeeded, that initiative would have sent students to neighboring school districts after eighth grade.

Hemby was on vacation this week and unavailable for comment.

Kotz, who has served as vice president and president of the school board, is seeking her third term on the board. A member and past co-president of the PTO, Kotz has also served on a number of the school’s committees including the audit committee, the district strategic planning/site based committee, the budget committee, the policy committee and the wellness committee.

Since 1999, she has also been a trustee of the Hampton Library.

Kotz has two children who currently attend Bridgehampton School and a daughter who graduated from the district in 2009.

“I decided to run for another term because I felt the district has undergone so many personnel changes this past year it would be good to have some consistency on the board,” said Kotz on Tuesday. “We are a good team and I think collectively we represent the interests of the entire community.”

Kotz said she is committed to seeing the school district through its Middle States Accreditation process, and is pleased to see that the district’s replacement of the windows at the historic school is moving forward.

The school has also expanded the breadth of its course offerings, including the introduction of new advanced placement and foreign language classes, as well as its experientially-based environmental design course, which has expanded through the creation of the Bridgehampton Foundation, a not-for-profit that successfully erected a greenhouse on school grounds last month.

However, the next few years at Bridgehampton will not likely be without challenges, said Kotz.

Budgeting, in particular, will be one of the biggest issues, she said, with the impending state-imposed two percent property tax cap school districts and municipalities will likely have to adhere to next year.

Kotz said to tackle that issue, she believes the board is already on the right course and will continue to work with Dr. Favre, business administrator Robert Hauser and the school’s budget advisory committee towards strengthening programming at the school, while also remaining fiscally responsible.

“Another challenge the school district will have to take on is dealing with much needed capital improvements,” said Kotz. “We need more space and we need to address this issue.”

In addressing the dialogue about capital improvements at the school, Kotz said she believes the board can reach out and educate the community on the importance of supporting its local school.

“Whether we have children in the school or not, we all benefit from improved property values,” she said.