Tag Archive | "bridgehampton school district"

Southampton School Closed as Precaution After Enterovirus Case Confirmed

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By Tessa Raebeck

Southampton Elementary School closed its doors Wednesday to be disinfected after a student was found to have an enterovirus infection, Superintendent Scott Farina said in an alert issued Tuesday.

The district said the strain found in the student, who is out of school and seeking treatment, is not the EV-D68 strain of the virus that has had a nationwide outbreak, resulting in cases of severe respiratory illness in both children and adults throughout the country.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, non-polio enteroviruses are “very common viruses,” which cause about 10 million to 15 million infections in the United States each year, with tens of thousands of hospitalizations for illnesses caused by enteroviruses. EV-D68 is one of more than 100 non-polio enteroviruses. Although small numbers of D68 have been reported regularly to the CDC since 1987, the number of people with confirmed EV-D68 infection has been “much greater” in 2014, the CDC said on its website.

It is unclear which strand of enterovirus the Southampton student is infected with, although the district confirmed it is not EV-D68. A mix of enteroviruses generally circulates throughout the United States each year, with different strands causing more illnesses in different years.

“Most people who get infected with non-polio enteroviruses do not get sick. Or, they may have mild illness, like the common cold. But some people can get very sick and have infection of their heart or brain or even become paralyzed,” the CDC website states.

Infections can spread through close contact with an infected person or by touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them before touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

Mr. Farina said the Southampton Elementary School, as well as the entire bus fleet, would undergo a “thorough cleaning” by an outside company on Wednesday and reopen today, Thursday, October 16.

“The company will disinfect the entire building and apply an antibacterial product to further prevent the spread of germs,” he said.

Although local schools always step up their health-minded measures going into flu season, which is also the most common time for enterovirus infections, on Wednesday the Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton school districts said they are taking extra precautions in response to the infection in Southampton.

“We disinfected classrooms last night and will do so regularly as a precautionary measure, and have reminded students and staff to wash hands, avoid close contact, cover coughs and sneezes and to stay home when sick,” said Bridgehampton Superintendent/Principal Dr. Lois Favre.

Sag Harbor Superintendent Katy Graves said the district applies a virucide to surfaces every night year-round during after-school cleaning, “but we’ve expanded that more to virtually every surface to make sure that it kills all viruses. So we’re vigilant, but we’ve become even more vigilant,” she said.

The virucide, which the state has approved for use around children, is now being used on more surfaces and throughout the day, rather than just at night. The district is also continuing its regular instruction on healthy habits.

“It’s a good wake-up call for us to always be heightened and aware,” said Ms. Graves. “We have a pretty fragile population—our little ones—so we take care of them and make sure it’s safe.”

Bridgehampton Students will Reunite the Peanuts Gang in “Snoopy! The Musical”

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By Tessa Raebeck

Focusing on the life of Snoopy—and the natural comedy found therein—the Bridgehampton School is presenting “Snoopy! The Musical” in three shows today, Thursday, April 24, Friday, April 25 and and Saturday, April 26.

The second musical ever produced at the school, “Snoopy! The Musical” is the sequel to “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” and also stars the characters of Charles Schulz’s iconic comic strip “Peanuts.” The book musical follows Snoopy and the gang through trials from trying to not be called on in class to trying to get a manuscript published, as Charlie Brown grows more and more insecure of Snoopy’s growing independence.

“It is hysterical,” said Lindsey Sanchez, the choral director at Bridgehampton School. “It’s all brand new for the students and they are loving it, the show is going to be great.”

“Snoopy! The Musical” will premiere today, April 24, at 1 p.m. in a show for Bridgehampton’s elementary students, and also run April 25 and 26 at 7 p.m. in the gymnasium at Bridgehampton School, 2685 Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton. Tickets are $5. For more information or to purchase tickets, call Lindsey Sanchez at 537-0271, ext. 127.

Struggling to Stay Below Tax Cap, Bridgehampton School District Asks for Community Input on Budget

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By Tessa Raebeck

The Bridgehampton School District held its third annual community conversation March 5, asking residents to voice their recommendations for savings and discuss the logistics of piercing the state-imposed tax cap on school budgets.

Superintendent/principal Dr. Lois Favre and school business administrator Robert Hauser have presented several variations of the proposed 2014-15 budget to the board of education. The tax cap limits the property taxes school districts can raise to 2-percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. This year is the rate of inflation is at 1.46-percent, according to Dr. Hauser. The district has the option of staying below the tax cap, or piercing it, however, in order to approve a budget above the tax cap it must secure a 60-percent vote in favor of the 2014-15 budget by district residents that cast ballots in the May 20 budget vote and trustee election. If the budget fails to earn that kind of support, the board can bring it back to residents for second budget vote. If it fails to earn approval then, the district must adopt a budget with a zero-percent increase.

“If voted down, we are in worse shape,” Dr. Favre said.

The district faces a catch 22; it needs to cut enough, but not too much, said Dr. Favre. If administrators go too low with cuts this year, they will struggle next year with a levy that can only go 2-percent above that.

The initial budget draft for 2014-2015 proposed $12,650,768 in spending, a 12.59-percent spending increase over 2013-2014 and well above the 2-percent tax levy increase. “We will continue to work to bring it closer into focus, as we do each year,” Dr. Favre said.

The administrators cut $316,100 from the initial draft by removing items like an updated outdoor sign, pre-K program for three-year-olds, a physical education teacher, and by reducing Common Core training (much of which is state-mandated). iPad acquisition and other items were also trimmed from the budget. After those cuts, the budget still has a 10-percent spending increase and is about $677,502 over the cap, with a 6.82-percent proposed tax levy increase.

Dr. Favre and Mr. Hauser outlined other ideas to consider, such as reducing stipends by half, cutting the remaining iPad acquisitions, removing the after school program, cutting a teaching assistant, reducing pay for substitute teachers, and cutting a day of the homework club, to name a few. Those additional cuts would save the district $277,500.

After substantial cuts to the initial budget, a “wish list” spending plan, the latest draft leaves the district at an 8-percent increase in spending, which is still about $400,000 over the cap at a 4.03-percent tax levy increase.

The district gave examples of the respective budgets and their annual cost to taxpayers. For a homeowner with an assessed value of $500,000, the 8-percent spending increase would cost $32.17 more than if the cap is not pierced. For the owner of a $1 million home, the difference between not piercing the cap and an 8-percent spending increase is $64.32.

“It’s a marginal cost to a family,” said Bonnie Gudelauski, a new parent in the district, “and families need to understand that we lose a lot more by not doing it.”

The next Bridgehampton Board of Education meeting will be held on March 26 at 7 p.m.

After Significant Cuts, Bridgehampton School District Budget Draft Still 4 Percent Over Tax Cap

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By Tessa Raebeck

In a second budget presentation to the Bridgehampton School Board of Education, Superintendent and Principal Dr. Lois Favre highlighted cuts she said would likely have to be made because of the state-imposed tax cap on school budgets.

In January, Dr. Favre presented a first draft of the budget with a “wish list” of items the district was hoping for, such as laminating machines and Common Core training for teachers. But with the initial budget projecting a spending increase of more than 12 percent, those additions were not included in the second draft presented at the February 26 meeting. The initial budget for 2014-2015 was $12.62 million, a $1.41 million increase over the current year.

“In the last few years we’ve made a lot of pretty significant cuts,” Dr. Favre told the board. Over the last two years, the district has realized savings by not replacing one administrator, a full-time secondary teacher, a full-time head custodian and a senior accounting clerk. It has also cut nearly 15 percent from materials and supplies budgets across the board ; and had a salary freeze covering all employees in 2012-13.

Dr. Favre walked the board through significant cuts in programming and staffing that would still result in an increase, but of 4.03 percent rather than 12.59 percent. “So all the things that we put into the budget hoping to have for next year we’ve now taken out,” said Dr. Favre. With those cuts, the budget was reduced by $316,100.

Additional cuts that could be made in order to get closer to the tax cap include cutting a teaching position, a teaching assistant position, and materials and supplies. “None of these are my recommendations,” she said. “These are just to give you a sense of what kind of digging we’re going to have to do to stay under the cap.”

“I love everyone who’s here, I love everything that we’ve built here. Every one we’re looking at right now is starting to dig into the things that make us special,” said Dr. Favre.

Two-Hour Delay for Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton Schools Tuesday Due to Extreme Cold

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A woman endures the cold on a dock in Sag Harbor Village Monday evening. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

A woman endures the cold on a dock in Sag Harbor Village Monday evening. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

In anticipation of bitter cold, freezing rain and icy roads, the Sag Harbor School District has announced all schools will be operating on a two-hour delay on Tuesday, January 7. The morning Pre-K session is cancelled.

The Bridgehampton School District will also be having a two-hour delayed opening Tuesday, according to Dr. Lois Favre, superintendent for the district.

A bitter cold wind chill advisory is in effect from midnight Monday to 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The temperature Tuesday is expected to be well below freezing, with a high of 16 degrees and wind chill values as low as -8 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Suffolk County residents who are without shelter during the extreme cold can contact the Temporary Housing Assistance Unit at (631) 854-9517 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. At all other times, please call the Emergency Services Unit at (631) 854-9100.

If you are in need of home heating fuel or an emergency burner repair, call the Suffolk County Department of Social Services Home Energy Assistance Program at (631) 853-8820 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or the Suffolk County Department of Social Services Emergency Services Unit at (631) 854-9100 at all other times.

Suffolk County Demands Action from State Education Commissioner at Common Core Forum

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State Education Commissioner Dr. John King, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Regent Roger Tilles listen to speakers at the forum November 26.

State Education Commissioner Dr. John King, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Regent Roger Tilles listen to speakers at the forum November 26. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

Tests with a sole purpose to judge teachers; educators of 40 years who must submit lesson plans to the state; children crying to their parents every night that they are “stupid”— this is the picture of New York’s public education system painted by the students, teachers, administrators, parents and even public officials who attended a forum with New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King on November 26.

Dr. King sat on stage overlooking the auditorium at Eastport South Manor Junior-Senior High School — filled to capacity at 1,000 — with Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Roger Tilles, a regent who represents Long Island.

During the forum, Long Islanders questioned and even heckled the state officials who appeared at times to be distressed, annoyed or un-phased.

A sign held by many read, “We Are All More Than a Score” on one side and “Parents, Teachers, Students, Principals — United” on the reverse.

One man had a poster with photos of his children and the words, “These are my special interests.”

Gary Karlson, a parent, third grade teacher and union vice president in the Riverhead school district, held a sign saying, “If you want to wage war on public education, keep my children out of it.”

When asked why he was there, Karlson said, “I don’t like feeling like a substitute teacher every day.”

Rocky Point High School students question state education officials.

Rocky Point High School students question state education officials.

Questions were submitted prior to the forum and about 30 speakers were permitted to address the commissioner directly from podiums below the state officials. All but two of the speakers were overtly critical about the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards, the testing of students, the APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) teacher evaluation system, the use of a for-profit data warehousing company to store information on students and alleged corruption in the state’s decision to use educational publishing giant Pearson in implementing Common Core.

Sag Harbor’s interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and Bridgehampton superintendent/principal Dr. Lois Favre have expressed their support of a letter drafted by Suffolk County superintendents asking the state to stop over-testing and slow down Common Core implementation.

“The relevance and developmental significance of the new curriculum for our more accomplished students is questionable,” said Jan Achilich, director of special education in the Remsenburg-Speonk School District, “and that concern is amplified tenfold for our students with cognitive and developmental challenges and our English language learners.”

Several speakers asked the commissioner why he refused to admit the flaws of the implementation, which educators across the state have said was haphazard and harmful to children because they were assessed on things they had not yet learned proficiently. Although many admitted benefits in the educational philosophy of the Common Core, critics have maintained these were eradicated by the mismanaged rollout.

Dr. King replied the state has asked the US Department of Education for permission to curb some of the testing by allowing accelerated eighth grade math students to opt out of the state test in favor of the regents exam and to allow for two percent of students to take tests at their instructional level, as opposed to the one percent currently permitted.

“Get the feds out of it!” a heckler yelled. Another said that by no longer accepting federal Race to the Top funding, “we could do what New York does well for New York.”

Bill McGrath, a Shoreham Wading River trustee and president of the district’s school board, quoted Dr. King’s position on how the state is unable to slow down implementation and the importance of the new curriculum.

“If all this is true,” McGrath asked, “how can it be that you — as well as every regent but one — send his or her children to private schools? If these reforms are so vital to every student’s future, why shouldn’t the regents and the commissioner want their own children to experience them?”

Westhampton Beach school superintendent Mike Radday said it is misguided to believe a student who has always learned under the old standards should be given an exam aligned to the new standards immediately.

“It is even more misguided,” said Radday, “to then take the results of those exams and tie them to a teacher’s evaluation.”

Less than a third of students statewide met the new standards in the tests administered last spring.

Connor Sick, a senior at Rocky Point High School, asked the commissioner, “If you have anything to say about why failure is being used as a weapon to motivate these students?”

The NYS United Teachers Union has asked for a three-year moratorium on the use of students’ test scores in

Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) President Jim Kinnear returns to a supportive crowd after addressing state education officials.

Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) President Jim Kinnear returns to a supportive crowd after addressing state education officials.

teacher and principal evaluations.

Jim Kinnear, president of the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor, asked the commissioner if he would commit to having three teachers, two principals and one superintendent on the body that makes decisions on educational curriculum.

“Of those that are on the board that are making these decisions, including the commissioner, none have teaching experience,” Sag Harbor school board vice president Chris Tice, who also spoke at the forum, said at Monday’s school board meeting. “My impression was that very little was heard and very little constructive feedback was provided back, unfortunately.”

During the forum with Dr. King, Tice and others questioned the use of a third party data warehousing company, In Bloom, to house students’ scores and private information. Of the nine states that originally hired for-profit data companies, New York is the only one that does not offer parents the ability to opt out.

“New York has usurped my parental authority,” said Mount Sinai’s Candice Donin. “These are my children, not property of the state.”

A group of New York principals sent the state a letter of concern regarding APPR regulations, which has been signed by over 8,000 New Yorkers.

Chris Tice, vice president of the Sag Harbor Board of Education, addresses the commissioner.

Chris Tice, vice president of the Sag Harbor Board of Education, addresses the commissioner.

In addition to outlining extensive educational research showing student test scores are not a strong predictor of quality teaching, the letter says vital tax dollars are being redirected from schools to testing companies, trainers (the state recommends administrators undergo up to 17 days of training, with sessions typically costing $120 per day per person) and other vendors.

Michael Friscia, president of the Rocky Point Teachers Association, said corruptness is at the core of the new curriculum’s existence.

“Besiege our last hope — our lawmakers — to force the change necessary to save public education,” said Brian Snow of the Port Jefferson Teachers Association, calling the regents’ reforms “the privatization of education for their own profit.”

Cyndi McNamara, a mother of two children at East Quogue Elementary School, pointed to substantial teacher layoffs and program cuts across Long Island.

“We didn’t need it, we didn’t ask for it, but we’re going to pay for it,” McNamara said of the reforms. “We don’t need more testing … we simply need you to return the programs, teachers and supplies that have been taken from our schools and let our teachers teach.”

At the forum, some residents also criticized the state’s relationship with Pearson Publishing.

As the world’s largest for-profit education business and the largest educational publisher in the country, Pearson sells tests, curriculums, textbooks, training and other programs. New York State signed a five-year $32 million contract with Pearson to produce standardized tests in 2011.

That same year, Pearson reported North American education was its largest business, with sales of nearly $4.3 billion and an operating profit of about $800 million.

Following several allegations that Pearson financed lavish international trips for education commissioners whose states do business with the company, in December 2011 New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued subpoenas to the Manhattan offices of Pearson Education and the Pearson Foundation, the corporation’s nonprofit arm.

New York’s $32 million contract with Pearson was awarded after former state education commissioner David Steiner attended a conference in London in June 2010 underwritten by the Pearson Foundation.

The inquiry is ongoing.

“I can’t say calm down because I agree with you,” Regent Tilles told the riled up crowd at the forum. “But I can say you might be more effective if you work within the system, work with your legislators, work with the government.”

Dr. King said the department has made some adjustments and will continue to make others, adding, “Disagreeing isn’t the same as not listening.”

“I hope,” State Senator Kenneth LaValle told the commissioner, “that within a very short period of time you can reinstate the hope and faith that people have in our government system – that their input counts and that they can make a difference.”

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.”

In Wake of Tragedy, A Focus on Bullying

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By Kathryn G. Menu

It wasn’t pre-planned, but mere days after the apparent suicide of an East Hampton High School junior, and the emergence of an Internet firestorm of rumors surrounding his tragic death largely devoted to whether or not it was connected to bullying and sexuality, the first meeting of the Pierson Middle/High School Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) was held.

Pierson Middle/High School history teacher and high school GSA advisor Sean Kelly said both inside and outside the alliance, there has been an ongoing dialog among students about the death of David Hernandez Barros. However, Kelly added with so many questions still unanswered, as a group the GSA has chosen not to have this moment become one of judgment, but rather push the organization forward in its advocacy for tolerance between all students who attend Pierson Middle/High School.

On September 29, Barros, 16, reportedly took his own life in his East Hampton home. Police have yet to confirm the suicide, although in a story that appeared in the October 11 edition of The East Hampton Star by reporter T.E. Morrow, Barros’ mother confirms her son’s suicide. She alleges he was the victim of bullying at East Hampton High School because of his sexual orientation.

In response, East Hampton School Superintendent Richard Burns released a statement late last week, lamenting Barros death and the prevalent nature of bullying throughout society. Burns also noted the school district hosts numerous programs and workshops around the subject and has Gay-Straight Alliance clubs. In East Hampton, those clubs exist both in the high school and in the middle school.

On Monday at 6 p.m. the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth Network will host a town meeting at East Hampton High School to discuss the circumstances surrounding Barros death and how the community can come together to help youth before suicide is even a consideration.

In a press release, the organization said it also wants to encourage the creation of an LGBT community center in Suffolk County.

In Southampton Town, October has been declared Bullying Prevention Month, and Councilwoman Christine Scalera and the town’s youth bureau have organized a series of lectures around the issue.

Last night, “Blueprint for Addressing Bulling” was held at Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton. The series will continue next week with “Cyber-bullying: The Inside Track for Kids and Parents” on Wednesday, October 24 at 7 p.m. at the Hampton Bays Community Center on Ponquogue Avenue. Lastly, “A Survivor’s Story” will be held on Tuesday, October 30 at 7 p.m. at the Flanders Community Center on Flanders Road.

On Wednesday, Kelly said he was convening the second meeting of the high school GSA that afternoon and planned to talk to the group about attending forums in other communities, in particular the discussion on Monday night in East Hampton.

As for the creation of the club, which was championed by some parents last year and only recently was approved on a conditional, six-month basis as an enrichment program, Kelly said he believes it is critical for the student body.

“I think it is important for the LGBT students to have a place they feel comfortable — a place that supports them and supports their needs,” said Kelly. “I think it is also important that the school has a place where everyone — LGBT or straight — can get together in a casual setting. This group is here for everyone.”

“Pierson is a pretty tolerant school, I believe, relatively speaking when it comes to LGBT issues,” said Kelly. “We have students who are comfortable, again relatively speaking, being openly gay in our school. There are also students who are gay but are not out and it is important the GSA exists for them as well — a space they can be comfortable in without having to announce their sexuality.”

Kelly said he wants the mission of the GSA to be student driven, but ultimately in addition to being a safe space for students to converge, he also wants it to be a group that can engage in advocacy and education — raising awareness about the impacts of bullying and the benefits of tolerance.

While having a school GSA is not mandated by the state, there are laws in place to protect students in school from bullying — no matter their sexual orientation or personal situation.

In July, New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act took effect and requires all school to report incidents of bullying and discrimination.

Formal reports will be filed with the state at the end of 2013.

According to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among four to 14 year olds and the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds. According to a Yale University study, victims of bullying are two to nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims.

It is for this very reason that school districts across the country have begun implementing programming to deal with bullying.

At the Bridgehampton School, principal Jack Pryor said the district has focused on bullying prevention for years, especially as technology has developed. Through concepts like instant messaging and social networks, bullying can often follow kids home from school. Like Pierson Middle/High School, Bridgehampton School regularly has group discussions with speakers like members of the Suffolk County Police Department about the impacts of bullying, both socially and legally.

Bridgehampton School has also adopted PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports), a process that creates a social culture that encourages positive behavior in school and in the community at large.

“You have to practice these things every year, but also all year,” said Pryor. “It never ends for us.”

Pierson Middle/High School vice principal Barbara Bekermus agreed.

Bekermus said they begin early in the middle school breaking students into smaller groups for conversations related to anti-bullying and tolerance. The days of the annual assembly about bullying, are over, she said.

In fact, the school is sending 30 student leaders to the Middle School Tolerance and Anti-Bullying Conference, hosted by the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, on Wednesday, October 26 in Commack.

“We also ask teachers to fit these conversations into their curriculum,” said Bekermus. “It is explored in literature, history.”

“I think with the Dignity Act, a positive thing is people are talking about this much more,” she said. “Sometimes we have to hold people accountable. We have to let our students know that if you report something, we will do something about it.”

“A lot of times, people think we won’t, but I promise we will,” she added. “And if we don’t let it go even just one time, maybe we can start to turn things around.”

Hearing on Bridgehampton’s $10.6 Million Budget Next Week

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Residents of the Bridgehampton Union Free School District will have the opportunity to weigh in on a $10.6 million proposed budget next week — a budget that increases spending by 5.63 percent, but that will add no new programs in the district.

According to the proposed budget, the 5.63 percent increase in spending will cover a $564,824 increase in contractual expenses, and nothing more. Otherwise, according to school district superintendent Dr. Lois Favre, the spending plan is basically identical to last year’s voter-approved budget.

The $10,576,714 proposed budget will result in a tax rate of $1.52 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, meaning a homeowner in the district with a house valued at $400,000 would pay about $608 in school taxes.

“Simply put, it funds this year’s expenses, and some technology updates and repairs,” said Dr. Favre, adding the budget is basically a rollover budget from last year.

“With some savings in a few areas realized, we were able to put repairs and technology deemed important into the 2011-2012 plan,” she said.

The district has entered into a five-year plan through Eastern Suffolk BOCES that will allow the school to update classroom computers that no longer are covered under warranty plans and repair newer computers. Future upgrades to technology in the district, said Dr. Favre, will occur over the course of the next four budget years.

That funding was enabled through the district reducing transportation to Eastern Suffolk BOCES by two bus trips, saving the school district about $100,000.

A public hearing on the budget will be held on Tuesday, May 10 at 7 p.m. and a budget newsletter, sent to all district residents, is also available on the school’s website.

The district budget vote and school board election will take place on May 17.

In addition to the budget vote, on May 16, residents will be able to vote for two members of the Bridgehampton School’s Board of Education, although pending a successful write-in campaign, that race is uncontested.

School board president Nicki Hemby will seek her second term on the board, and former school board president Elizabeth Kotz is hoping for her third term with the board.

Creating a Healthier School District from the Top Down

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Heller_BH School Wellness Challenge_6099

By Kathryn G. Menu

Bridgehampton teacher Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz begins most days with a plate of eggs and cheese, “usually on top of something buttered.”
Until today, that is.

Carmack-Fayyaz is one of about a dozen members of the Bridgehampton Union Free School District participating in the Winter Wellness Challenge, sponsored and facilitated by the East Hampton based not-for-profit Wellness Foundation.

The Wellness Foundation, founded in 2005 by East Hampton resident Doug Mercer, is dedicated to empowering East End residents to live healthier lives through changes in diet, exercise and lifestyle by providing resources, hosting events like film screenings and lectures, as well as through initiatives like the Winter Wellness Challenge.

At its core, the Winter Wellness Challenge asks participants to engage in a vegan-inspired, whole foods diet, as well as increase exercise for six weeks. During the course of the challenge, groups will meet weekly for lectures on health, wellness, cooking classes and for general support.

This winter’s program has over 80 participants from East Hampton through Southampton, including Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton. The scientifically-based program is free, funded by the Wellness Foundation, which hopes to use the results of the challenge to further their research into the physical benefits of a whole foods, nutrient rich diet.

According to Wellness Foundation Outreach Director Barbara Kinnier, a Sag Harbor resident who will facilitate the wellness challenges in Sag Harbor and in Bridgehampton, blood tests were taken by all participants at the start and end of the challenge. Changes in cholesterol and glucose will be measured, along with each participant’s waistline — another indicator of good health.

Whether or not participants choose to share their results with the rest of the group is up to them, said Kinnier, as the foundation aims to protect privacy while encouraging changes in behavior.

According to Kinnier, the main goal is to educate participants about the benefits of a nutrient dense diet, made up primarily of vegetables and fruits.

“The thing about the body that is amazing is that it wants to heal itself and on the cellular level, the body is in fact healed through these foods,” said Kinnier. “And we make it taste good.”

Organizing a group at Bridgehampton School to join this winter’s challenge was the brainchild of new superintendent Dr. Lois Favre, who was inspired after school nurse Elizabeth Alves showed her the DVD “Processed People,” which the Wellness Foundation screened at the school earlier this month in the evening for community members.

Dr. Favre said in light of the new greenhouse on the school grounds — one that will soon produce salad greens and vegetables for the school’s brand new salad bar station — she felt the Winter Wellness Challenge presented the staff and faculty with an opportunity to set a good example for Bridgehampton School students.

Dr. Favre will take part in the challenge herself, along with about 10 members of the school’s faculty and staff.

“I also thought it might be a great way to get to know my staff in a different capacity, alongside them, getting healthy,” said Dr. Favre.

“I am hoping it builds the capacity for bringing more of what’s good for us into our program of studies for our students, into our cafeteria and ultimately to our families,” added Dr. Favre.

Carmack-Fayyaz said she was thrilled with Dr. Favre’s initiative, adding the program is very much in line with changes at Bridgehampton School — in particular the introduction of landscape design and nutrition classes crafted around an outdoor garden and now a greenhouse, which will be completed in March.

“We started our nutrition and culinary arts class here, and we have been teaching our students the Slow Food philosophy,” said Carmack-Fayyaz. “It was striking because at first a lot of the students had this idea that being a vegan would be a very scary thing, that it was impossible to do, but we assembled some really great vegan salads in our class, and I think they were surprised by it.”

She said she hopes to chart some of the wellness challenge results for student’s to see, in particular how much each participant is logging on the pedometers they will wear throughout the course of the challenge.
“I think the biggest challenge will be re-conceptualizing what a meal is comprised of and giving most of the plate over to the vegetables,” said Carmack-Fayyaz. “I know personally, it is a little scary — the idea of eating essentially a vegan diet for six weeks — but my hope is after the challenge I can cut down my meat consumption to one or two small servings a week and eat a more plant-based diet. I don’t think I will end up staying a full fledged vegan though.”

For Dr. Favre, fitting exercise into her busy schedule will be the biggest challenge, although she noted she will have the support of some staff members who aren’t even participating in the nutrition aspect of the program, but are committed to walking each day.

“I am hoping for renewed energy as is promised, and also gratifying will be the congeniality that will be built with staff around issues of taking care of ourselves, while we look after and inspire our students,” said Dr. Favre.
That is not to say the thought of cheesy pizza and a good hamburger will not haunt the superintendent as she embarks on this dietary challenge, although Dr. Favre said she was hopeful she would find new favorite foods in her vegan diet.

“I know that right now tofu is not on my hit parade,” she said. “But ask me later and I will share my new favorites.”