Tag Archive | "Bridgehampton School"

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 Board Votes to Pierce State Tax Cap

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By Kathryn G. Menu

In a unanimous vote on April 23, the Bridgehampton School Board of Education voted to pierce the New York State tax levy cap for its 2014-15 budget. The district will now depend on voters support the decision by approving the budget by more than a 60-percent majority at the May 20 budget vote and board election.

“With an increase in health benefits that exceeded the tax levy limit, we knew this would be a difficult budget season,” said Bridgehampton Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre following the vote.

District officials cited not just the increase in health care costs, but also the rising cost of retirement benefits, transportation and unfunded state mandates as being some of the expenses behind the need to pierce the tax cap.

The district adopted a $12.3 million budget for next year which would increase spending by $1.1 million, or 9.9-percent. The amount of money the district needs to raise through property taxes, would be $10.6 million, $855,819, or 8.8 percent over the current levy of $9.8 million.

According to Dr. Favre, in order to stay under the cap. The district would have had to cut just over $500,000 from its budget.

“We need to pierce the levy limit by approximately $534,000, which represents a 4.3-percent increase over our allowable levy limit of 4.4-percent to keep current programs and staffing in place,” said Dr. Favre in an email on Tuesday. “This permits us to accomplish the continued delivery of a viable program for our pre-k through 12th grade students. This increase amounts to about a $56 increase for the year on the tax bill for a $500,000 home. With new properties also being added to the tax base, we hope that the impact may be even less.”

The tax rate is expected to rise under the adopted budget by 7.7 percent to $1.67 per $1,000 of assessed valuation

According to Dr. Favre, the need to pierce the cap is critical this year.

“We have made cuts to staffing and programming over the past two years that were deep; so the piercing this year permits us to keep the programming we must have to meet state requirements,” she said. “We did not replace the principal, a part-time technology teacher, a business teacher, a guidance director, a head custodian, and a main office secretary over the past two years, along with many other budget line cuts.”

In order for the budget to be approved by voters, it needs to be supported by a supermajority, or 60 percent, of voters who turn out on May 20. If the spending plan does not gain that kind of support, the district can ask voters to come back to the polls a second time—with an identical budget. If that second vote fails, the district must adopt a 0-percent tax levy increase which would force it to craft a spending plan that cuts $1 million from the current adopted budget.

Dr. Favre said in an email this week that the district has made every effort to be open about its needs throughout the budget process.

“We have made every effort to be transparent, and open about our need to exceed the levy limit, early on,” she said. “The decision was made with recommendations from our community forum, which we have held annually for the past three budget season, involving the community in our decision making.”

The district will host a public hearing on the adopted budget on Wednesday, May 7, at 7 p.m.

“Our stakeholders have always supported the school, and we believe that a budget built with community input has a much better chance of being supported,” said Dr. Favre.

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 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.

School Board Candidacy Petitions Due Monday in Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor

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Residents interested in running for school board in the  Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor School Districts must submit their petitions for candidacy by Monday, April 21.

In Bridgehampton, there are two, three-year terms open this year. One seat is currently held by Elizabeth Kotz, a former board president whose son, Henry, is a senior at Bridgehampton High School. Ms. Kotz was first elected to the board in 2005, but resigned for personal reasons in 2011 before being brought back onto the board last summer in the wake of the resignation of then board president, Nicky Hemby. Ms. Kotz was appointed to a one-year term to fill the remainder of Ms. Hemby’s term. A second three-year term is also up for election this May. That seat is currently held by Gabriella Braia.

In Sag Harbor, three, three-year terms are open this year. Those seats are currently held by board president Theresa Samot, and board members Sandi Kruel and Mary Anne Miller.

Candidate petitions must be turned into the district clerk in both school districts by 5 p.m. on Monday. Both district budget votes and board elections will be held on Tuesday, May 20. In Sag Harbor, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Pierson Middle-High School gymnasium. In Bridgehampton, polls will be open from 2 to 8 p.m. in the school gymnasium.

The Sag Harbor School District will host a voter registration day on Tuesday, May 6, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the district clerk’s office. On May 13, Bridgehampton School will host its own voter registration day, from 4 to 8 p.m.

Spring Break Threatened by Snow Days in Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton

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Young Grace Gomolka tries her hand out at helping dad shovel their sidewalk following the blizzard on Wednesday, January 22. Photo by Michael Heller.

Young Grace Gomolka tries her hand out at helping dad shovel their sidewalk following the blizzard on Wednesday, January 22. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

As incredible as winter weekdays spent sledding, ice-skating and relaxing by the fire are, snow days tend to be bittersweet memories come springtime, when long past days off begin to cut into awaited vacation time.

Because they are required by law to have 180 full days of instruction each year, school districts must make difficult decisions on how to compensate when inclement weather makes it impossible—or at least ill advised—for students to come to school.

The Sag Harbor School District planned for two snow days this year, but school has already been closed for three days and, according to the infamous groundhog, the winter weather is showing no signs of letting up any time soon.

If the two snow days had not been used, the district would have been closed the Friday before Memorial Day and the Tuesday afterward. Since those days have already been used up, the holiday weekend will only include the Monday of Memorial Day weekend, May 26.

“Now,” said Dr. Carl Bonuso, Sag Harbor’s interim superintendent, “we have to go in with that third day and take what would have been a vacation day and make it a school day.”

The spring break this year was scheduled for Monday, April 14, through Friday, April 18, with students returning to school on Monday, April 21. As of press time, April 14 will now be a school day, but the rest of the vacation remains intact for now.

Dr. Bonuso said if the district has to be closed again, the next vacation day to be eliminated would likely be Tuesday, April 15.

“And if we needed another day, Wednesday and so forth,” he added.

Local school districts have had to make such adjustments the past two years. It’s been snow this year, but last year it was Hurricane Sandy that forced the closure of school more than two days.

Sag Harbor has already adopted its calendar for the 2014-15 school year and again has factored in just two snow days.

“But,” said Dr. Bonuso, “it’s something we need to keep in mind when we construct calendars, whether we build in more days up front or say what days we should use should we run into emergency days.”

“This winter was definitely a tough one,” he added. “So it’s something we have to think about.”

The Bridgehampton School District factors in three “inclement weather days” each year.  If there are no snow days during the year, those days become days off for staff and students, typically at the end of the school year. If there are snow days, the inclement weather days function as regular school days.

Bridgehampton’s inclement weather days for this year were set for March 14, May 2 and May 23, the Friday before Memorial Day. Because Bridgehampton has also used three snow days during the 2013-2014 school year thus far, each of those days will now be full days in class for students.

According to Bridgehampton Superintendent/Principal Dr. Lois Favre, if another snow day has to be called, a staff development day (when the staff comes in for training but students get to stay home) scheduled for April 11 could instead be used as a full day for both staff and students, “rather than take away the April break, as many families have already made plans,” she explained.

“Moving forward,” she added, “I am looking at the 2014-2015 calendar to see where we might build in an extra day for an inclement weather day.”

Robots are Taking Over at the Bridgehampton School

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Monasia Street shows off her robot's skills to her classmates during a robotics demonstration at the Bridgehampton School February 4 (Michael Heller photo).

Monasia Street shows off her robot’s skills to her classmates during a robotics demonstration at the Bridgehampton School February 4 (Michael Heller photo).

 

By Tessa Raebeck 

Ask seventh grader Monasia Street what her favorite subject in school is and you may be surprised by the answer: sonar detection. Along with the rest of her class at the Bridgehampton School, Monasia has just finished designing, building and programming robots that can trace roads using light sensors, turn on at the sound of a clap and, Monasia’s favorite, spin around upon detecting an oncoming structure.

Under the guidance of technology teacher Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz, Bridgehampton students are learning to write code and program computers, skills considered vital in the ever-expanding technology fields.

“The curriculum that goes with this is fabulous, ” Carmack-Fayyaz told the parents, students and administrators gathered at the school board meeting last Wednesday. “It really integrates science, math and technology.”

Carmack-Fayyaz showed a video to the board by the Hour of Code, an organization dedicated to ensuring every American student has the opportunity to try computer science.

In the video, a young Steve Jobs says everyone in the country should learn how to program a computer and President Barack Obama encourages students, “Don’t just play on your phone, program it.”

Dr. Lois Favre, Bridgehampton’s superintendent, has committed to a five-year plan to improve the school’s technology curriculum and included a number of updates in a preliminary draft of the district’s 2014-2015 budget presented at Wednesday’s meeting.

The technology program is housed down a winding staircase in the basement of the school. The room has many purposes; students split their time between a laboratory shop area used for building and a computer room for design and programming. The seventh grade just finished its robotics course and now the eighth grade gets a turn in the lab.

Claudio Figueroa, a high school junior, assists Carmack-Fayyaz in the classroom. On Tuesday, the eighth graders received kits for a new electronic “Simon” project. Figueroa explained to the younger students that they would build a game sort of like Simon Says and helped them interpret the directions.

Class assistant Claudio Figueroa looks on as Johnny DeGroot demonstrates how his robot can draw a perfect circle.

Class assistant Claudio Figueroa looks on as Johnny DeGroot demonstrates how his robot can draw a perfect circle (Michael heller photo).

As the eighth graders unwrapped their next challenge, the seventh graders were busy playing around with their programs and assembling an obstacle course used to show off the robots’ skills.

After pushing some buttons on her robot, Paige Hoyt watched as it expertly wiggled along a U-shaped black road on the course. Also in the seventh grade, Paige explained how the robot uses its light sensor to differentiate between the black road and white surface and its “B and C motors” to move forward.

“Robotics is one of my favorite classes,” said Aziza Brunson. Her friend Jalisa Hopson agrees, “I like building the robots and programming [them] for swing turn and point turn.”

“I like how you get to teach robots to do their own thing,” said Autumn Coffey, a seventh grader who uses her robot to figure out the circumference of a circle.

Monasia Street, Paige Hoyt and Autumn Coffey with their robots.

Monasia Street, Paige Hoyt and Autumn Coffey with their robots (Michael Heller photo).

The kids understand the language used to code the robots; they align squares labeled only with pictures or letters in the computer program and know exactly what that will create on the obstacle course.

The technology classroom is loud with discussion and filled with energy as students move around sharing ideas, testing programs and showing off their designs.

Monasia patiently explained how setting the robot to 1,045 degrees would allow it to “do a little spin but not too long.”

After her robot moved forward, hit a house, detected the impact with its touch sensor and spun around, she said of the effort to design and build the machine, “It was kind of easy.”

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.

Bridgehampton School Ranks in Top 15 Obese Schools on Long Island

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Bridgehampton School personnel work in the district's new community garden last April, 2013. (Photography by Michael Heller).

Bridgehampton School personnel work in the district’s new community garden last April. (Michael Heller photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

Although rates of childhood obesity in New York are showing signs of dropping, schools across the state are still reporting alarming rates of overweight students.

According to New York State Department of Health (DOH) data, Greenport is the most obese school district on Long Island, with Bridgehampton, Riverhead and Springs not far behind.

Between 2010 and 2012, 17.6 percent of New York public school students (excluding New York City) were considered obese, according to the DOH.

The Student Weight Status Category Reporting System, through which the data was compiled, was established in 2007 to support state and local efforts to understand and confront the problem of childhood obesity.

It requires students in kindergarten and grades 2, 4, 7 and 10 to have a student health certificate completed based on a physical examination, thus the data used in the DOH report only reflects students in those grades. Schools collect the health certificate information and the district then reports a summary to the DOH. The DOH does not receive data on individual children, only summaries of the district total and of students categorized by gender and grade groups, i.e. elementary versus secondary.

Although the appraisals used to collect the student obesity data are mandatory, parents can opt out of having their child’s data included in the school summary report sent to DOH. Approximately two percent of all parents opt out, according to DOH spokesman Dr. Jeffrey Hammond.

The percentages are therefore not definitive comparisons of districts’ obesity rates, noted Bridgehampton School superintendent Dr. Lois Favre.

Bridgehampton School, for example, is reported to have 15 obese children and a rate of 27.3 percent obesity. Both numbers are based on the 56 students in the grades for which data was submitted, not the entire district population.

Although the data is not all encompassing, it is nonetheless alarming.

According to the DOH, obesity is more prevalent among children raised in low-income households. Rates of obesity in New York are significantly higher in school districts in which a higher proportion of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch.

In Bridgehampton, 57 percent of students are on free or reduced price lunch, according to Dr. Favre.

“We work hard at Bridgehampton,” said Dr. Favre, “to assure that all students receive the state mandated amount of time for physical education [and] have daily recess that encourages movement.”

“We were one of the first schools on the South Fork to begin a school garden,” she added, “and pride ourselves on getting healthy foods to our students.”

In Riverhead, 315 students, or 24.7 percent of the sample population, were reported to be obese.

According to Superintendent Nancy Carney, 48 percent of Riverhead students are on free or reduced price lunch.

“With a poverty level of this rate,” said Carney, “families tend to rely on foods that are high in calories and low in cost to satisfy their nutritional needs.”

Riverhead schools offer low calorie meals of high nutritional value and encourage students to participate in the breakfast program, to save parents money and hopefully afford children the opportunity to make healthier food choices.

With 64 obese children in the sample data, Springs has an obesity rate of 22.9 percent.

Principal Eric Casale said although the school does not have its own cafeteria, the district works with parents to monitor students’ nutritional habits and a lunch cart filled with healthy foods is available. Its Springs Seedlings school garden has also been a success.

“Our mission as a district,” Casale said, “is to enrich the intellectual, emotional, social and physical wellbeing of our student body.”

Greenport School District had a reported childhood obesity rate of 33.4 percent.

The DOH rate of childhood obesity is 16.8 percent in East Hampton, 14.7 percent in Southampton and 9.9 percent in Sag Harbor, the lowest district on the East End

Bridgehampton Voters Approve $827,000 in Spending for School Capital Projects

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The Bridgehampton School.

The Bridgehampton School.

By Tessa Raebeck

Bridgehampton voters overwhelmingly agreed to fund $827,000 in capital projects at the Bridgehampton School, including the installation of new fire escapes and other major repairs considered essential by the district.

Out of the 70 district residents who voted Tuesday, 64 approved the spending. Four absentee ballots were tallied.

Built more than 85 years ago, the Bridgehampton School has never had any major updates to its infrastructure, according to Superintendent/Principal Dr. Lois Favre. Additional outer buildings that were supposed to be temporary have been in use for “many more years than planned,” she said.

Voters approved the establishment of a five-year capital plan to fund major improvements and repairs at the school last March and the Board of Education (BOE) put $827,000 in that reserve fund in June. Tuesday’s vote approved the actual spending of that money.

Dr. Favre said after reviewing the building’s five-year plan, “it was indicated that due to the budget crunching in recent years, we are getting behind on repairs.”

The district can now move forward on longstanding priority items like installing new fire escapes and replacing the gymnasium floor and skylights.

Bridgehampton students will also enjoy new playground equipment and could be playing on it by the next school year; the district hopes to complete all projects over the summer of 2014 so as not to interfere with school instruction.

Smaller capital projects are also covered by the funding, including installing a new generator, resurfacing the outdoor basketball court, fixing leaks in the electrical room and replacing emergency lighting in several buildings.

“In an effort to keep to our five year plan and assure safety for our students,” said Dr. Favre, “the board believes that catching up with, and assuring attention to the five year plan is in the best interest of all. The allocation of the funds by the public will assist us in doing just that.”