Tag Archive | "Bridgehampton School"

Hamptons Film Festival Reaches a Younger Generation

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By Amanda Wyatt; Photography by Laurie Barone-Schaefer

While the 20th Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) brought a touch of Hollywood glitz and glamour to the East End last weekend, students at local schools were also able to get a taste of the silver screen — right in their own auditoriums.

On Friday, Pierson Middle School and Bridgehampton School students were not only treated to private screenings, but also to visits from the filmmakers behind two award-winning documentaries.

The screenings were part of the HIFF’s brand new Filmmakers in the Classroom program, which for the first time brought films and their directors and producers into East End schools.

The program was funded by a $20,000 grant from the Long Island Community Foundation to encourage community outreach and visiting artistic programing in schools.

Such an initiative is particularly important in an age of cuts to arts education, said HIFF community outreach coordinator Marianna Levine, whose own daughter attends Pierson Middle School.

“The foundation wanted to help bring the arts back to schools, because they think it’s a really important component to education,” she said. “I really wanted to be a part of it — as a parent, as a member of the local community.”

Just a few days before the film festival awarded “Best Short” to the film “Growing Farmers,” director Michael Halsband and producer Hilary Leff paid a visit to Bridgehampton students.

Sponsored by the Peconic Land Trust, the film focuses on how the organization has sought to revitalize agriculture on the East End. Particular attention was paid to the younger generation farmers, those in their 20s and 30s, making their way in the local agriculture industry.

Since Bridgehampton School has been a leader in the Edible Schoolyard movement, Levine believed the film was a perfect match. She also thought students would respond well to Halsband, a well-known photographer and director.

“[Halsband] discovered his love of photography when he was 10 or 11 — middle school age — so I thought it was a good fit,” she added.

And for Halsband, “Growing Farmers” was always designed to be an educational tool. He and Leff began filming with the intention of teaching the wider community about the efforts of the Peconic Land Trust and local farmers.

East End farms are “so visual and beautiful,” Halsband said. “So that was a draw for me, to explore that world deeper and to be the person discovering it for people who are going to eventually see the film.”

“I was learning as I was taking it in, like anybody else in the audience, just going along for the ride,” he added. “So in that respect it was an educational experience for me.”

At Pierson Middle School, students screened “CatCam,” which won an award at the South by Southwest film Festival. Charles Miller, the film’s director of cinematography and producer, introduced the documentary and handed out buttons with the image of its feline star, Mr. Lee.

The film tells the story of a German engineer who invented a miniature camera to track the whereabouts of Mr. Lee, a former stray. The images and videos taken on Mr. Lee’s excursions around his neighborhood transformed him — as well as Juergen, his owner — into Internet superstars.

“It’s really a dynamic film,” said Miller. “It’s about art and curiosity. It deals with technology. It’s just playful and fun on the surface, but it has a lot more depth to it.”

“This is the first time we’ve shown it to kids, and we’ve never heard audiences laugh like that. I think kids really respond to it,” he added.

According to Reilly Rose Schombs, a Pierson sixth grader, “CatCam” was “really awesome” and had an unexpected twist.

“I think that it teaches you that if you have a question in life, you should always try to find a way to answer it, ‘cause you never know what can happen,” she said. “You can always find surprises.”

Miller said that he and the “CatCam” crew were certainly open to invitations from other schools.

“I think it’s a perfect venue for the film,” he said.

According to Levine, the film festival is also interested in continuing Filmmakers in the Classroom next year.

“Our hope and dream is that we’ll have this year round, where we can bring local filmmakers into schools,” she said.

“I’m hoping in the future we can hook into the film community out here and also in New York City, and have them mentoring young people who are interested in film and photography, which is so accessible. It’s open to everyone,” Levine said.

Sag Harbor Community Coalition Debates Accuracy of Teen Substance Abuse Survey

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By Amanda Wyatt

Two months after new statistics on drug and alcohol use among Pierson Middle/High School students sent shockwaves across Sag Harbor, the Community Coalition met last Thursday night to discuss the results of the survey which triggered such a strong reaction.

Roughly 20 citizens gathered in the Pierson Middle/High School library for the third Community Coalition on the evening of September 27. While other items were on the agenda, the coalition devoted the span of the meeting to addressing the Youth Development Survey (YDS).

The YDS, which was administered to 339 Sag Harbor students in grades seven through 12 in December 2010, was part of a larger effort by the New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to look at substance use and other “problem behaviors” among students.

At last week’s meeting, Kym Laube, director of the Westhampton Beach-based organization HUGS, Inc. (Human Understanding and Growth Seminars), presented a summary of the YDS data. Before handing out hard copies of the data, she stressed the survey does not provide a complete picture of Sag Harbor students.

“I caution that this is one data point in beginning to take a look at your community,” said Laube, noting that it does not paint a complete picture of Sag Harbor students.

The merits of the survey have been hotly debated, with some residents questioning the accuracy of the survey and suggesting that numbers of drug and alcohol use were inflated.

According to Laube and Pamela Mizzi of the Suffolk County Prevention Resource Center, the survey used a number of data controls, including a question about a fake drug. If any student indicated they had used the imaginary drug, the survey was omitted.

Researchers also tossed surveys that appeared “extreme,” had conflicting answers and/or included doodles.

Principal Jeff Nichols estimated 400 students probably took the survey and that roughly 60 surveys were omitted for various reasons.

Still, the accuracy of the survey continued to be questioned by some. Dr. John Oppenheimer said that in the 30 years he had been practicing medicine he had become “more and more cynical” about data collection.

“I don’t think it’s unique to Sag Harbor,” he said.  “The point is that there’s a problem.”

“I agree with John that whether it’s five percent or 22 percent, it’s a problem and it needs to be addressed,” added Allison Scanlon, a North Haven parent and founder of Hamptons Youth Sports.

For Police Chief Tom Fabiano, the survey was “a stepping stone.” He mentioned that Sag Harbor could use the data as a tool for identifying the problems in the community and looking at what other communities are doing that is effective.

At the same time, Laube noted, “Time and time again, no matter how [researchers] have done this, they’ve found that it’s accurate information.”

Laube said the data was consistent, although Pierson students ranked higher or lower than their county, town and nationwide counterparts on certain questions.

For example, no Pierson eighth grader had reported using marijuana in the past 30 days, compared to eight percent nationally. Only two percent of Pierson eighth graders had used tobacco in the past 30 days, lower than six percent nationally.

However, Pierson students generally reported greater use of alcohol than their counterparts in Southampton Town, Suffolk County and in the nation.

For example, 77 percent of Pierson seniors reported using alcohol in the past 30 days, compared to 57 percent in the county and 41 percent nationally. And while 22 percent of 11th and 12th graders reported binge drinking nationally, 41 percent of Pierson juniors and seniors reported they binge drank.

Community Coalition participant Helen Atkinson-Barnes suggested the coalition take a “pro-social messaging” approach to dealing with the data. For instance, rather than reporting 39 percent of eighth graders have had at least one alcoholic drink in their lifetime, the coalition could focus on the 61 percent who have never consumed alcohol.

The discussion on drugs and alcohol will continue at the next Community Coalition meeting, which is scheduled for October 18 at 5:45 PM.

Summer School on a Farm

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By Amanda Wyatt
From music and drama to sports and college prep, there’s a camp for everything these days. So while some kids will learn play soccer or the clarinet this summer, budding young agriculturists on the East End can look forward to a program of their own liking.
Starting July 30, the Bridgehampton School begin its second annual Young Farmers’ Initiative, a three weeklong “summer camp.” As part of the school’s commitment to sustainable agriculture, the initiative will provide youngsters with hands-on experience working with the school’s greenhouse and garden.
“I see this as a farm to table type of camp,” said Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz, the program coordinator and a Bridgehampton teacher. “What we’ll be doing a lot is learning about where food comes from and how it’s grown, but also making that other connection between what’s in the garden and what goes on your plate.”
Carmack-Fayyaz, who has been a leader in Bridgehampton’s Edible Schoolyard Program, said the initiative was started because the school needed a way to maintain the garden during the summer, when crops are most active.
While high school students usually tend the garden, the 2011 Young Farmers’ Initiative was a way of introducing younger students to the project. Last year, high school students mentored elementary and middle school-aged children, and Carmack-Fayyaz hopes to do the same this year.
The program, which will run for 12 sessions through August 16, will also integrate lessons in nutrition.
“Part of the camp will be preparing salads, eating fruit, and celebrating the bounty of the garden,” Carmack-Fayyaz said. “What I’m thinking of doing is buying a salad that’s been in the supermarket and comparing it and contrasting it with the lettuces and other vegetables that are grown in the garden.”
Eating freshly picked vegetables, she noted, is a much different experience from eating a salad that’s been “sitting around for a couple of days or ripening en route from somewhere else.”
Peter Priolo, who works as a school garden coordinator for Edible School Garden, Slow Food East End and the Josh Levine Memorial Foundation, is also involved in the program as one of the school farm coordinators funded through the Levine Foundation.
“My role will be to teach the students about sustainable and organic small scale food production,” he said. “I will be working directly with them, engaging in teamwork and hands-on objectives related to planning successional planting schedules in order to provide a steady food supply for the school.”
Priolo said the approach is interdisciplinary, combining lessons about soil health, plant biology, harvesting and other agricultural topics with lessons in math, sustainability, history, culture, cooking and more.
Frank Roccanova, a local photographer and filmmaker who previously worked as the artistic director of Saks Fifth Avenue, has also signed on as a resource for participating students.
“[Roccanova] is a master gardener who’s volunteered to help us and has come up with a new plan for the greenhouse,” said Carmack-Fayyaz. “It actually looks a little bit like going through a department store.”
“Doing a layout of a garden is kind of like doing a layout for an ad or designing a page. It’s all related for me,” Roccanova said.
As part of the greenhouse’s reorganization, new signs and labels will have to be made, and this is where volunteer Austin Drill comes into the picture. Drill, who owns a sustainable building company based in Nicaragua, will teach the children how to make natural paint for the signs.
“The simplest way to create your own natural milk-based paint is to mix 0 percent fat cottage [cheese] with building lime and a coloring,” he explained.  “We have set our sights on using beets to make a bright pink color, and we may find other natural options as the garden grows. Milk-based paints were in use well before latex, and they are certainly the more environmentally-friendly option.”
Drill says that his involvement in the project came out of a chance encounter.
“I was shooting hoops on the school’s basketball court when I noticed a group gardening,” he recalled. “I am a novice gardener, but I have a keen interest in it, so I inquired if I could volunteer as well. Happily, they welcomed me into their initiative. I help out in any and every way I can — weeding, planting, watering.  I work with the students, and we teach each other as we go.”
Carmack-Fayyaz also mentioned that she hopes celebrate the wildlife that’s in and around the garden.
“We’re going to do activities to attract birds,” she said. “So we’re going to build some bird houses and create a couple of natural habitats within the garden.”
She added that she would like to celebrate the end of the program by inviting parents to the school.
“I wanted to have a little farmer’s market and a barbecue for the parents,” she said.  “The children can prepare a little lunch and show their parents what they’ve learned, and to really celebrate the food in the garden.”
“This program is important because we need to depend on future generations to [put a stop to] the non-sustainable direction that big food production business is headed,” said Priolo. “With this experience they can make better decisions about the use of natural resources, and about what food to buy and eat.”
“A goal of mine is to have the kids walk away from this with a sense of ownership toward their environment,” he said. “If the kids feel like they have that connection to take with them, I think that’s key.”

Kotz Resigns from Bridgehampton School Board

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By Amanda Wyatt

At the Bridgehampton School Board’s latest meeting, there was a notable absence around the conference table.

Longtime school board member Elizabeth Whelan Kotz resigned from the board on June 29, making the July 10 reorganization meeting the first in seven years in which she did not participate.

Kotz’s term took effect on the first of July, only a few days before she sent her letter of resignation to the board. While her resignation was short-notice, Kotz said she had been mulling over the decision for a while.

“I guess it was probably in the back of my mind for a few months now, but it didn’t really hit me until the last few weeks of this school year,” Kotz said in an interview.

Kotz, who was first elected to the board in July 2005, had served as its president for one year and its vice president for two years. At the time of her resignation, she was a member of a number of different committees.

She added that she and her husband, Stephen J. Kotz – editor of The East Hampton Press­ – chose to send all of their children to Bridgehampton School. Their daughters Olivia and Genevieve graduated in 2009 and 2012, respectively, while their son, Henry, will be a junior this fall.

“I have been on the board for seven years, and during that time, two of our three children graduated from Bridgehampton High School,” she said. “Our youngest has two years left and I felt that it would be best for all of us if I could be at home more.”

“I also think that this is a good time because the board is cohesive and works well with the superintendent,” added Kotz.

In an interview, Bridgehampton School Superintendent Dr. Lois R. Favre expressed her gratitude for Kotz’s service on the board.

“Elizabeth Kotz has been a valuable, contributing member of the Bridgehampton School District during my short time in the district, and for many years before I arrived,” she said.

“She is passionate about teaching and learning, dedicated to continuous improvement —demonstrated by her ongoing commitment to strategic planning and our Middle States Accreditation process — and child and community focused,” continued Dr. Favre. “She was thoughtful in all of her decision-making and a valued member of our team.”

“We will miss her, but know that she will remain active on our district committees, continuing our work to move the district forward, and for this continued promise of her time, we are grateful,” added Dr. Favre.

Meanwhile, the reorganization meeting saw the reelection of Nicki Hemby as president and the election of Ronnie White as vice president of the school board. Gabriela Braia, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat in May, was sworn in to fill Kotz’s seat.

A native of Romania, Braia has lived in Bridgehampton for 17 years. Her daughter, who will start second grade in the fall, and her sixth grade-bound son both attend Bridgehampton School.

By becoming more involved with the school, Braia hopes to give back to both her kids and the community. She is particularly focused on expanding the school’s athletic programs, as well as other activities.

“[Being on the board] means a lot to me,” she said in an interview. “If I could reach at least one of my goals to see kids in the community offered a little bit more than what they have now, I would be happy.”

“Mrs. Braia joined our Strategic Planning Counsel this spring as a parent member,” said Dr. Favre. “She is bright, articulate and has a pulse on both our students and the community. I believe she will serve the district well as a trustee on the Board of Education.”

Although she will no longer be involved as a trustee, Kotz is hopeful for the future of the board and the school itself.

“I know space is a concern and I do hope that there will be the opportunity as a school to work together with our community to address the need of expanding our facilities,” she said.

“I also hope that the Bridgehampton community, specifically those who do not support the school, will take the time and get involved and get to know the school,” added Kotz.

When asked what she would like to see the board accomplish in the future, Kotz said, “To keep doing what they are doing — advocating for the students of our school. The district has made excellent strides and I have no doubt it will continue to do so.”

Parents Call for Private School Busing

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By Amanda Wyatt

Whether or not public school districts should provide busing to students attending private schools has now become a central issue of debate within the Bridgehampton School District.

Three Bridgehampton mothers are set to launch a new campaign in an effort to require the district to provide transportation for students attending McGann-Mercy High School in Riverhead. The initiative comes after their request for busing was denied at the Bridgehampton School Board’s June 27 business meeting.

Currently, the district is bound by state law to provide busing for students who want to attend private schools anywhere within a 15-mile radius. Since McGann-Mercy, the closest Catholic secondary school, is six miles over the limit, the Bridgehampton District cannot legally transport students to the school, said board members at last Wednesday’s meeting. However, the three mothers are willing to go to any lengths in order to extend the limit to include McGann-Mercy.

“We’re prepared to do whatever we need to do,” declared Rachel Kelly, one of the three mothers hoping to expand busing options in Bridgehampton. “Our request has been denied, so whatever the next step would be, we’re willing to do it.”

This next step includes enlisting the help of elected officials, said the parents. Kelly, Tara Hagerman and Mary Ellen Gazda have reached out to New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. in the hopes of arranging a meeting.

“He does seem to want to talk with us,” Kelly said. “We will be setting up a meeting. He is aware of the situation that we’re in.”

The parents also have the option of gathering signatures of Bridgehampton voters to hold a referendum on this matter, according to school superintendent Dr. Lois Favre. In order to do that, they would need to collect signatures on a petition representing a percentage of the voting public in the school district calling for the district to provide transportation to McGann-Mercy. That petition would need to be accepted by the board of education in order for a referendum to be held.

While school board president Nicki Hemby was sympathetic to the parents’ concerns, she explained the issue was beyond the control of the school board.

“We discussed the busing issue at prior meetings, and according to school law we are unable to provide busing past a 15-mile radius,” she said in an interview. “Doing so would be breaking policy. We have not wavered from our original statement.”

The board mentioned the only exception to the 15-mile rule is for students enrolled in special education who can be bused to programs up to 50 miles away. Under this law, Bridgehampton School is allowed to transport students to BOCES in Riverhead.

Several board members also noted the steep cost of shuttling kids to McGann-Mercy and that this request comes at a time when the Bridgehampton School board is already financially pressed.

“We do not have that money in the budget,” said Dr. Favre in an interview. “I do not know the exact cost, as we did not entertain it in the budget, but closer [bus] runs have cost upwards of $50,000.”

In fact, the Bridgehampton School Board announced at their last meeting that they are working on contracts to share busing with the Sag Harbor School District for students attending Our Lady of the Hamptons (OLH), the nearest K-8 Catholic school which is in Southampton. Sharing with Sag Harbor, rather than contracting with a bus service provider, could potentially save Bridgehampton School $32,000 annually.

However, an agreement had not been reached as of this week, Dr. Favre noted.

“If we go in that direction, I don’t believe there will be any impact on the students,” she said.

Dr. Favre added the board is working to ensure that Bridgehampton students “will not be on the buses for a prolonged time, should we choose to contract with Sag Harbor.”

Currently Kelly, Hagerman and Gazda all send their children to OLH, which provides education from pre-school through eighth grade. Gazda’s daughter, Margaret, is about to turn 12, and her son, Jimmy, is nine-years-old. Hagerman has an 11-year-old daughter, Laura, who will enter 6th grade in the fall. Kelly’s daughter, Rose, will start 8th grade in September. Since Rose is a year away from entering Mercy, Kelly stressed the importance of settling any issues with transportation as soon as possible.

“We don’t want to make it a last minute thing. We want to make sure that that bus is set up for them,” Kelly said.

Hagerman said she and her husband both attended Catholic schools, and they want to provide their children with a similar education.

“The reason I choose Our Lady of the Hamptons is because I love that whole school community,” she said. “I will choose Mercy for my daughter for high school because I went there, as well, and I absolutely love the school.”

She noted that when she and other local students attended McGann-Mercy, “we piggybacked on the Montauk school bus. Our parents had to pay half and our church paid the other half. It was kind of a trip on the bus every day to Riverhead, but I got to meet so many people.”

For Gazda, sending her children to parochial schools is part of a family tradition.

“I attended Catholic school and my husband attended Catholic school — not only elementary school, but Catholic high school,” she said. “It’s just what we do.”

Although Kelly did not personally attend Catholic school, she decided before she had children that she wanted to go that route.

“Having that religious background, in my opinion, is very important in raising your children,” said Kelly. “It’s extremely important to my husband and me.”

Mary Ellen Gazda, Rachel Kelly and Tara Hagerman in front of the Bridgehampton School on Sunday. The parents are pushing for the Bridgehampton School to provide busing to McGann-Mercy in Riverhead. Photography by Michael Heller.

Thomas House

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The Bridgehampton School English teacher and trustee of The Hampton Library talks about tools to keep literature relevant for his students and why building a strong relationship between the school and the library will only benefit the students of Bridgehampton.

By Kathryn G. Menu

What interested you in joining The Hampton Library’s Board of Trustees?

I am a new teacher, in my second year full-time, but I always used the library even while I was getting my certified. I just love it. Even when I was student teaching the seventh grade, and this is going back a few years, I organized a few field trips to the library for the seventh and ninth grades and those kids that didn’t have library cards were signed up and they became more familiar with what is available there. The whole idea was to help them understand the library is not just a place to read books. There is so much going on there.

How have you, as a teacher, used The Hampton Library as a direct resource for your classes?

I was using the library so much that when I heard they were expanding the board I thought it was time to give back because I use the library to death, but not just for myself, also for my teaching. Even in terms of getting the kids books, the library has been great. For instance, I decided this particular group of ninth graders would do really well with “Maus” by Art Spiegleman and it would have been hard just to order them — it would have taken too long. But the library, in two days, got me as many copies as I needed and we were able to use them for as long as we needed. It was their favorite book of the year.

You worked with Hampton Library director Kelly Harris in developing an end of year program at the library for your students revolving around the book “War Horse.” How did this come about?

It’s on June 19th, which is actually the last full day of school so it will be a nice ending to the school year. Kelly approached me and mentioned that Hudson City Savings Bank had money for a library program so we brainstormed about what we could do with the students and came up with the idea of giving each student a copy of “War Horse.” We will have a pizza lunch and watch the film, which the library already has. We will spend some time talking about the book first. We will read the first chapter or two to prep. It’s a great way to get students into the library and engage them in reading.

What kind of literature are your students interested in right now?

The ninth grade really likes “Maus,” which is good because it is non-fiction and there is a big push for that in schools complying with common core learning standards, which requires us to teach a lot more non-fiction where it was more literary, more narrative oriented in the past. “Maus” is wonderful for that. Not only is it a great narrative and told in graphic novel fashion, which is engaging to a lot of students, but it is non-fiction. They [the main characters] are animals, but it is the autobiography of his [the author’s] father’s experience as a Holocaust survivor. It was exciting to find non-fiction that engaged them.

Looking forward, how do you expand this growing relationship between the library and the school?

I have to say that Kelly Harris, who is a fairly new director, has made a lot of connections with the school, working with [Bridgehampton School] Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre. I am a board member, Jackie Poole, our pre-kindergarten teacher is also a board member and so is Elizabeth Kotz who is on the board of education, so I think all of us are committed to growing the connections between the school and the library. I would like to see us do more programming at the library.

Almost like making The Hampton Library another classroom?

That would be great. I also want students to know they have a place where they can read in peace.

Bridgehampton Budget Passes; Incumbents Re-elected to School Board

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Photo by Susan Wawryk

There were few surprises during Election Night at the Bridgehampton School with the community coming out in favor of a proposed $10.7 million budget for 2012-2013 by a two-to-one margin and incumbent school board members finding the same level of support.

The Bridgehampton School Board’s proposed $10,696,364 – a 1.13 percent increase in spending over last year, was approved 109-to-54. The budget did not exceed New York State’s mandated two-percent property tax levy cap due to a 15-percent cut in spending across departments and with faculty, staff and administration agreeing to freeze their salaries over the course of the next year to avoid larger cuts in programming.

“It feels wonderful,” said Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre after the results were read Tuesday evening. “There is always some worry about the budget passing, but I think we did right by the community and we were fortunate enough to find they supported us once again.”

The community also supported the continued funding of the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreation Center with $125,000 in funding over the next school year. That measure passed 109-to-53.

Incumbent school board members also found favor in Bridgehampton – a school district that in the last three years has evolved from a community debating the future of the Bridgehampton School to one that largely has the support of its residents.

Lillian Tyree-Johnson, the wife of Bridgehampton School basketball coach Carl Johnson and a resident for the last 20 years, earned the most votes, collecting 128-ballots in favor of her second elected term.

“It feels good because I believe we still have more to do as a board,” said Tyree-Johnson. “I think we are on a good path.”

Tyree-Johnson, who last ran in a heated contest divided by those who wished to keep the district’s high school intact and those who thought high school students should have the option to pay tuition to attend neighboring high schools, said seeing the communities support for Bridgehampton School through its approval of the budget was welcome news.

“The numbers were low in terms of turn out, probably because of the rain,” she said. “But it is nice to see that wide margin between the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ votes. We really have a great community.”

Doug DeGroot – a parent and owner of Buckskill Tennis Club in East Hampton – earned 122-votes in Tuesday night’s election.

“It feels like we have been rewarded for doing a good job,” he said. “I think we have worked well together for the last three years, which included the search for our Superintendent. I am happy to keep that going.

Ronald White, a parent and real estate agent, earned a second term on the school board with 120-votes. Challenger Gabriella Braia, a parent who saw eye-to-eye with her fellow candidates on most issues and ran for school board as a way to become a more intrinsic part of the school community, earned 61 votes. Bruce Dombkowski, a member of the Bridgehampton Fire District Board of Commissioners earned one write-in vote.

The next meeting of the Bridgehampton School Board will be held on Wednesday, May 30 at 7 p.m.

Bridgehampton School Aims to Expand Edible Garden Curriculum

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On Tuesday morning, as rain swept across the East End, a high school botany class convened in the Bridgehampton School’s greenhouse. While Jacob Hochstedler pruned spinach and arugula leaves for the school cafeteria salad bar, Christian Figueroa and Brian Minchala carefully planted baby lettuces in rich, dark soil. Elsewhere, Joshua Hochstedler, Aditya Nugraha and Sammy Vallejo continued their work engineering a hydroponics growing system, while Jason Hopson watered plants.

For students at the Bridgehampton School, this is just another day in the greenhouse, which has served as an experiential model for how a school can incorporate an edible garden into a formal curriculum. Here, students not only learn about the life cycle of plants, but literally get their hands dirty in it.

Seeing the success of this model and understanding that it could be expanded, Bridgehampton Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre has proposed the development of a comprehensive curriculum to be based in the gardens and greenhouses that have popped up at schools across the East End over the last four years.

Working with Bridgehampton teacher Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz — a member of Slow Food East End and advocate for edible gardens — and other school districts, the Bridgehampton School will host a workshop this June to develop a kindergarten through eighth grade curriculum around edible gardens.

“It was apparent to me that teachers were not utilizing the greenhouse as much as it should be used, for hands-on learning with students,” said Dr. Favre. “With the new common core standards and a push for more project-based learning, I see our greenhouse as a perfect place to cross curricular lines and develop opportunities for honing 21st century skills like predicting, collaborating, creating and investigating.”

After reaching out to local superintendents and pitching the idea, Dr. Favre said she is now hearing from teachers interested in getting involved in the project. This summer, from June 26 through June 28, those educators will gather at Bridgehampton School to formalize a curriculum that could be implemented as early as September.

Dr. Favre said the hope is at the end of the session there is a fall unit of study for kindergarten through eighth grades. Each district that participates will be asked to send teachers to help with the effort, with each teacher assigned to a grade level, and at the end of the session any school that is involved should have a complete fall curriculum for each grade to work with.

“These lessons will not focus solely on nutrition,” said Dr. Favre. “They will be a variety of science-based lessons that cross curriculum areas, including stories, mathematics and the social studies and history of the area.”

“It is important for our students to understand where they came from, and where we are going, in terms of a society and the importance of understanding a circle of life,” she added. “Eating healthy, buying locally, supporting the community, understanding the science and math behind the growing of food, and marketing, going green, recycling and much more can all be worked into these lessons.”

The impact of having a classroom engaged in an edible garden is already evident at Bridgehampton. Almost all of the students in Bridgehampton’s high school botany class expressed interest in a field related to agriculture outside of the classroom whether it was engineering, mechanics, economics or science.

“It’s also character building,” said teacher Patrick Aiello. “This whole greenhouse was put up by volunteers. Our students help build it, so it has the potential to touch on all aspects, not just growing plants.”

While they will not be a part of the formal curriculum writing, Slow Food East End Edible Garden Coordinators — funded through the Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation – have also expressed interest in lending a hand towards the effort, said Carmack-Fayyaz.

“This has a lot to do with life lessons as well,” said Carmack-Fayyaz. “You reap what you sow. You have to nurture things. Things take time. If you put the effort in you will get a reward and that translates into your whole educational experience. If you don’t put in the effort, you won’t get anything back. This is a life laboratory. It’s not just academics.”

Bridgehampton School Board Adopts $10.69 Million Budget

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Last Wednesday, the Bridgehampton School Board of Education formally adopted a $10,696,364 budget for the 2012-2013 school year. The budget represents a 1.1-percent or $119,650 increase over last year’s budget and falls below the New York State imposed two-percent tax cap.

The tax levy, or the amount of money the school district will seek to raise through property taxes, is $9,734,246 — a $545,515 and 5.94-percent increase over last year.

According to Bridgehampton Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre and business administrator Bob Hauser, because New York State allows the school to subtract monies for capital projects like the ongoing middle school renovations, the construction of a new café and a window replacement project when calculating how much a district can spend under the tax cap, the budget falls just below the cap despite the 5.94 percent increase in the tax levy. As such, the district needs just a simple majority of residents who turn out on May 15 to vote for or against the budget and elect three residents to the school board.

Incumbents Lillian Tyree-Johnson, Doug DeGroot and Ronald White are all seeking re-election to the board of education. Newcomer Gabriella Braia has also joined the race.

According to Dr. Favre, a majority of the increases in spending this year are attributed to a rise in health and dental insurance costs. Since the budget advisory and administrative staff at Bridgehampton began hacking away at the tentative budget over two months ago, Dr. Favre said the district was able to achieve a low tax increase thanks to faculty and staff voluntarily agreeing to freeze their salaries next year at a savings of $100,000. Also keeping the spending in check is a 15-percent reduction in spending across most budget lines, $113,000 in savings in reduced transportation costs after a new contract was negotiated and a $166,000 reduction in BOCES costs.

The Bridgehampton School Board of Education will hold a hearing on its proposed budget on Tuesday, May 8 at 7 p.m.

Four in Race for Three Seats in Bridgehampton

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Three years ago, Lillian Tyree-Johnson, Doug DeGroot and Ronald White battled through a contentious school board race which revolved largely around the question of whether or not the Bridgehampton School District should allow students to go to high school elsewhere. The concept sparked emotional debates and ultimately united a community intent on supporting its school — Tyree-Johnson, DeGroot and White easily elected for their pro-high school stance.

After the drama that surrounded her election in 2009, for Tyree-Johnson this year’s school board race is a breath of fresh air, and a testament to how far the school district has come in just three short years.

“It seems like just yesterday we were fighting for our lives,” she said in an interview this week. “I think in the last three years we have changed a lot of minds. We don’t have everyone on the same page yet, but I think we are headed down the right path.”

Tyree-Johnson, DeGroot and White will all vie for a second term next month. They are joined on the ballot by newcomer, and parent, Gabriella Braia, who will also seek one of the three seats up for grabs during the budget vote and board election on Tuesday, May 15.

Tyree-Johnson, a bookkeeper and wife of Bridgehampton Bees basketball coach Carl Johnson, said not seeking a second term was never an option.

“I think we have more to do and are in a really good place,” she said. “We have a good group of people on the board who are willing to work together, a great new superintendent [Dr. Lois Favre] and a lot more to accomplish.”

Tyree-Johnson said she would like to see the district continue to develop an individual education plan for each student, a specialty of Dr. Favre and one of her initiatives at Bridgehampton School, as well as consider the possibility of expanding the actual school building.

“We are definitely outgrowing our space,” she said. “I think we have always been good enough to say that we will just get by, but it is time to update the building.”

Tyree-Johnson said she would like to see a discussion about expansion to begin next year, with an eye on building a new gym.

“It is also a way to make the school more attractive,” she said, noting that has been an ongoing priority for her as a board member — to show the Bridgehampton community at large how special Bridgehampton School truly is despite preconceived notions.

Similar to Tyree-Johnson, DeGroot feels a connection to the school because his children are a part of the community.

“I feel attached to the school,” he said. “My children are here and I want to try and influence the direction of the school and create better educational opportunities for all the kids.”

DeGroot, the owner of the Buckskill Tennis Club, also views himself as a fiscal conservative who has kept an eye on the school’s budget and keeping spending at a minimum without taking away educational opportunities.

“We have done an outstanding job — I know that sounds self congratulatory, but I mean it for the whole school board — in being very careful in how we look at our budgets, squeezing them and holding the line on spending,” said DeGroot.

He also credited the school’s faculty and staff, which recently agreed to freeze its salaries for next year to keep the budget below a state mandated two-percent tax levy cap.

DeGroot said he would like to focus on expanding curriculum at Bridgehampton, including creating more language options for elementary school children and continuing to expand Advanced Placement course offerings.

Achieving that without drastically raising spending, said DeGroot, is done through hiring faculty with diverse certifications, allowing them to move throughout the school and teach a variety of subjects.

Touching on points made by Tyree-Johnson and DeGroot, White said he would like to remain a school board member so he can continue to focus on the budget, but also bring people in the Bridgehampton community into the school to see what they are supporting.

“I would like to make the community more aware of what we are doing and why,” said White “There is a buzz about Bridgehampton School right now, but I think in the community there are still some caught up in a cloud of speculation. It is not enough for us as a school to send mass mailings letting people know about what we are doing, we need to talk to people face to face, knock on doors, make phone calls. This is a small enough community where we should all know each other on a first name basis.”

White, a parent and real estate agent, said he believes the current board works well together and would like to see the original slate elected.

However, Braia believes she has something to offer the board. She decided to run because. as a parent with children in the Bridgehampton School, she felt it was her responsibility to get more involved.

Braia is also a real estate agent whose husband is a general contractor. Residents in the Bridgehampton School District, the Braia family lives just outside Sag Harbor Village.

“I would like to see more opportunities developed for our children,” said Braia. “I think we need more after school programs and more variety.”

Similar to Tyree-Johnson, Braia believes the school is in desperate need of a new gymnasium and said she was interested in fundraising around that expansion project. An enclosed swimming pool, she added, would make the school more attractive to prospective parents, added Braia.

“The school has a great academic program,” she said. “I see that things are getting better and I want to get involved.”