Tag Archive | "Bridgehampton School"

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.”

Ready to Help Class in Fiji

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The final phase of a two-year passion project for Bridgehampton School senior Ben McLaughlin takes flight this week. That’s when a crew will descend on the Bridgehampton School parking lot to remove Bula-1, the storage container McLaughlin transformed into a classroom for the Bukama Village School on one of the outer islands of Fiji.

The storage container, filled to capacity with crates of school supplies, will be shipped to the island of Yasawa. Memorial Day weekend, McLaughlin and a team of Bridgehampton School students and teachers will meet the container in Fiji, where they will equip the classroom with solar panels to power 12-computers to be outfitted in the portable classroom.

For the children of the Bukama Village School, it will be the first opportunity of their young lives to use a computer. More importantly, the school supplies collected by the Bridgehampton School community through donations by local businesses and neighboring school districts will give the Bukama Village School basic resources it has been lacking for years.

McLaughlin will be joined in Fiji by Bridgehampton Principal Jack Pryor and teacher Carrie McDermott, as well as students Genevieve Kotz, Jessica Perez and Zave Brodie.

“It feels incredible to get to this point,” said McLaughlin on Monday. “We have all of these schools out here with all of the resources in the world and a lot of kids who just don’t get what they have. There, in Fiji, you have this group of kids who don’t have anything. To be able to offer them computers, a classroom, it feels really good and makes me really want to think about looking into a more non-profit approach to the work I want to do.”

“Bula is an example of what can happen when we provide opportunities for critical thinking and independence to our students,” said Bridgehampton Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre. “Teaching students that they can accomplish their goals, aspirations, and realize their dreams is what education is all about. Working together to permit students to work on a project such as this, within the curriculum, and to put in the time and effort to see it to fruition is a life lesson for all involved.”

Project Bula began two years ago when McLaughlin went to Pryor with the idea of a summer project that could highlight his engineering skills and technical expertise for college applications.

“No one is going to hire you to sit in a room and take the SAT,” said Pryor. “There are a number of ways to measure intellect and the United States has never really embraced that there are so many facets to how people learn and where they excel. This was a project we began to show colleges what Ben is capable of. He is a problem solver, and this is an experience he will never forget.”

At the outset, McLaughlin remembered learning about a school in Fiji from his father, John.

“He had been to the island a few years ago and said there was this specific school where the kids were so energetic and happy to learn, but the resources were not there,” remembered McLaughlin.

McLaughlin conceived the idea that he could not only provide the Bukama Village School with a state-of-the-art classroom able to sustain itself through solar power, but also to increase awareness about the real-life effects global warming is having on island nations like Fiji.

Yasawa, like many low lying islands, is on the frontline of climate change which has manifested itself with fresh water wells polluted by salt water as sea levels rise. Changes in aquaculture have made it more difficult to fish.

Outside of providing the Bukama Village School with critical educational resources, McLaughlin hopes Project Bula will ultimately result in students at Bridgehampton and Yasawa communicating via satellite video, and learning about the global warming crisis together.

What began as a summer project, quickly morphed into one that would take the better part of two years, as McLaughlin encountered serious engineering problems in his original concept. He had to work with industry leaders in green technology to find a way to power the portable classroom with solar panels.

The 18-year-old also had to negotiate with the Fijian government to find a way to get the classroom to Yasawa, which did not have a dock capable of bringing in the large vessels traditionally used to transport shipping containers. McLaughlin eventually found a firm that ships barges to the outer islands of Fiji, and contracted with that company to get the classroom to the Bukama Village School.

“It feels pretty amazing that we are finally here,” said McLaughlin, who has been accepted to a number of colleges, but is also considering taking a year off to continue work in the non-profit sector. He said he hopes, as he moves on, that other students at Bridgehampton and in other schools take on similar initiatives.

“I want to pass the torch on,” he said. “There are a lot of communities without proper health care, and doctors who are willing to travel all over the world to help with their only payment a stipend to get them to where they are going and cover the costs of medical expenses. What if we built them a doctor’s office in a storage container? It’s amazing what you can do with these things.”

School Nixes Food Service

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The Bridgehampton School has abandoned its longtime food service provider in favor of developing its own, in-house food service program in tandem with the construction of a new cafeteria in a former kindergarten classroom.

On Wednesday, March 20 the Bridgehampton School Board voted not to renew a food service contract with Whitson’s Culinary Group. Instead the school is opting to develop its own food service program to provide students with breakfast and lunch. The move coincides with the board’s decision to fund the renovation of the former kindergarten classroom into a new cafeteria and multi-purpose room.

“I am so happy to see something happen that we have all been talking about for a couple of years now,” said school board member Doug DeGroot at Wednesday’s meeting. “That it has moved in this direction is a wonderful thing.”

The Bridgehampton School community has prided itself on the development of its edible schoolyard, complete with a greenhouse that has been used to grow some of the produce sold in the school cafeteria. However, this week Business Administrator Bob Hauser and Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre said the decision to switch to an in-house food service program was not just to provide healthier meals at Bridgehampton School, but also to save taxpayers money.

While the district still needs to go out to bid to develop its new food service program, Hauser said based on an internal analysis of a self-operating cafeteria he estimates the district will save anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 annually over what it costs to have Whitson’s Culinary Group provide the same service. For 2012-2013, Hauser said he projected operating the cafeteria through Whitson’s would have cost $175,000 before revenues were taken into account. He estimates a self-operating cafeteria will cost between $125,000 and $150,000 before revenues.

The district’s main savings derived from having its own food service operation, said Hauser, is the elimination of a management fee the district is required to pay Whitson’s. For the 2011-2012 school year, the management fee was approximately $50,000 in addition to the employee salaries, food and material costs the district also had to pay.

According to Hauser, the renovation of the cafeteria will cost about $187,000, which will be included in the proposed 2012-2013 budget. The district does need approval from the New York State Education Department as well as the Suffolk County Department of Health Services before it can move forward with construction, said Hauser.

The district has been wrestling with a 2012-2013 spending plan for the better part of two months. The last draft of the budget discussed at a workshop came in around $10.8 million, following a decision by the Bridgehampton Teachers Association and members of the administration to forgo salary and step increases for the 2012-2013 school year. A $10.8 million budget puts the district just below a state-mandated two-percent tax cap, and was also achieved by cutting most departments by 15-percent. The district will also not replace a retired staff position.

That budget will be presented to the school board on Wednesday, April 18 at 7 p.m. District residents will vote on the budget May 15.

Residents will also vote on three school board positions that evening. DeGroot, Lillian Tyree-Johnson and Ronnie White are up for re-election. Other community members interested in running for school board can pick up a nominating petition at the district clerk’s office. Those petitions are due on April 16.

Bridgehampton CAC Focuses on School Budget

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Battling with the creation of a 2012-2013 budget in the face of a state-mandated property tax cap, the Bridgehampton School Board and administration held a second community meeting this week. The goal? To brainstorm ideas on how to cut costs next year while maintaining a quality education in Bridgehampton.

On Monday night, the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), once an organization whose membership questioned the direction of the Bridgehampton School, held its monthly meeting in the school’s 
auditorium. It was clear that the once strained relationship between the school district and the CAC has relaxed, as CAC members listened sympathetically to the financial reality the school is currently facing.

This is the first year New York school districts and municipalities will have to contend with the two-percent tax cap when crafting their budgets. For Bridgehampton School, the cap translates to a 2012-2013 budget that cannot exceed 4.12 percent in spending increases. The school is allowed to exclude certain things, like the bond principal 
it needs to pay for its window project, explained Dr. Favre, which is why the increase is not flat at two-percent.

At the same time districts are required to rein in spending, said Dr. Favre, they are also being asked to increase teacher training and staff development, all of which costs the district money.

For Bridgehampton, after rolling over the $10.6 million 2011-2012 school budget and adding in contractual and mandated increases –including higher health care costs — the school would need to raise an 
additional $664,000 for 2012-2013. However, the tax cap will only allow the district to raise an additional $379,000. That means the school needs to cut $285,000 from the budget, or 60 percent of the voters who turn out to vote must support it by piercing the cap.

However, said Dr. Favre on Monday night, this is a worst-case scenario.

Contract negotiations with the teachers’ union are ongoing and fruitful, said Dr. Favre, and have the potential to save the district $100,000. Looking at a new plan for transportation is also in the works, she said, and companies as well as school districts have submitted requests for proposals to provide Bridgehampton’s transportation next year, potentially saving as much as $50,000 for the district.

However, with the cap in effect for four years and districts estimated to have to cut as much as 12 percent of their budgets while also contending with skyrocketing healthcare and pension costs, Dr. Favre said ultimately the cap was unsustainable for school districts.

“What can people do,” asked Fred Cammann, chair of the Bridgehampton CAC.

Dr. Favre wondered what the community of Bridgehampton was really willing to invest in the school. With having to cut between $200,000 and $300,000, noted Dr. Favre, the school will most likely be looking at a loss of programming or educators unless the supermajority of 60 percent of voters are willing to pierce the cap and support a budget increase beyond what the state allows. With the exception of two years, in the last several decades the district has passed its budget consistently, often by a percentage close to or over 60 percent.

However, not being able to alter the budget after it is originally presented, the risk of having the budget fail twice, noted Dr. Favre, comes with the district having to adopt a zero-percent increase in the property tax levy. This would mean cutting $600,000, a devastating amount that would cut programming and jobs at the school.

CAC member Jeff Mansfield said mounting an education campaign around the budget was critical. He also suggested the district try to abide by the tax cap for the first year simply because of the rhetoric that has surrounded the cap and residents’ expectations that everyone should stick to the mandate.

According to business administrator Bob Hauser, if the district pierced the cap and provided funding based on rolling over last year’s budget it would be asking voters for about an 8-percent increase. For a home that is valued at $2.1 million – the average in the district - that would mean an increase from $3,000 in school taxes to 3,300. It 
would cost a little over $100 more than if the district adhered to the tax cap.

Dr. Favre said the administration has spoken about making the school a center for the whole Bridgehampton community, with sports facilities, stage space, and possibly programming from BOCES that could offer 
students across the South Fork training in engineering, sciences and technology not offered in local schools.

“If the community were willing to make Bridgehampton the centerpiece of the community in terms of adding a new gym and art rooms I think through Eastern Suffolk BOCES we could get programming in our outer buildings to support that financially,” said Dr. Favre. “But we would need community support to ensure that it wasn’t voted down.”

Cammann said he believed that money would be better raised through a private organization, like the Bridgehampton Foundation, but that the community at large was an untapped financial resource for the school.

“You have to be able to say, if you are going to be out here and have your big farms and your horse farms, you have to understand that we need to educate the children here,” said Cammann.

Bridgehampton School Asks Community to Brainstorm Budget

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Two weeks ago, members of the Bridgehampton School community gathered in the famed Beehive and put their heads together to try and chart a course for Bridgehampton’s next school year budget which, for the first time, is facing a stringent spending restrictions imposed by the New York State.

Walking around the room, as each group sat at tables and debated what the school’s priorities should be and what can be cut, one thing was clear — there were no easy answers. Sacrifices will have to be made at Bridgehampton School even if the district presents a budget for 2012-2013 that pierces the state mandated two-percent property tax cap instituted just last year.

“This is a conversation about where to go,” said Bridgehampton School Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre at the start of the February 8 forum.

Dr. Favre said that while the district is at the beginning of its budget process and no decisions have been made, the administration has put together budget scenarios so the community can understand what it’s facing.

For Bridgehampton School, a two percent property tax levy cap translates to a 2012-2013 budget that cannot exceed 4.12 percent in spending increases. Dr. Favre stressed that 4.12 percent is the district adhering to the two-percent cap and the administration will have to educate the public on that fact before the budget vote in May.

Rolling over the $10.6 million 2011-2012 school budget, taking in all contractual and mandated increases, including rising health care costs, Dr. Favre said the school would need to raise an additional $664,000 for the 2012-2013 budget. However, the tax levy cap will only allow an additional $379,000. That means the school needs to cut $285,000 if it is to avoid asking 60 percent of the voters who turn out to vote for the budget to support piercing the cap.

If the budget is voted down it can be presented again — without changes — but if it fails to pass a second time, the district would have to adopt a zero-percent increase in the property tax levy. This means about $700,000 would have to be cut from its budget.

As the five tables of residents, parents, school board members, staff and faculty sat down and began to brainstorm about what was educationally important, a variety of responses were revealed.

Academics, special education, pre-kindergarten, technology, tutoring, mentoring, teaching job skills, internships and ensuring students are college ready appeared to be priorities across the board. Looking into an independent transportation system and food service program was a priority at one of the tables, while another felt having a café, vibrant sports and intramural programming and drivers education was an important part of life at Bridgehampton School. Teaching core standards, SAT Prep and offering “good, organic food” were other ideas explored at the roundtables.

Dr. Favre and Business Administrator Robert Hauser gave each group a table of potential cost savings that could be found, although they represented cuts like losing a teacher in pre-kindergarten, as well as in the elementary school and middle school. Cutting other things such as sports, driver’s education, summer school, transportation options, conferences for staff development and the school’s cafeteria project were also offered as options, however undesirable.

In terms of what could be cut, each table came back with different ideas, although many were united in the desire to cut back on programs like drivers education and scale back transportation to ask students coming to Bridgehampton within a mile of the school not receive bus service.

Otherwise, suggestions were made to cut 10-to-15-percent across the board, scale back on plans to improve the cafeteria, cut funding for administration and the board of education, cut the pre-kindergarten program for three-year-olds, scale back on summer school programming and extra-curricular activities for students, and monies spent on text books and library supplies.

A parent also suggested approaching the teacher’s union and asking them to freeze a three-percent step increase for 2012-2013 to prevent the district from having to lose programming.

No group was truly united in its choices, everyone offering different ideas and perspectives of what is important at a school. The room was also divided on whether or not it should ask the community to allow the school to pierce the two-percent property tax levy cap. Most agreed if they do pierce the cap it should be as minimal as possible and the school will have to educate voters about why it is so critical this year.

“While we would have liked more community input, I believe the forum went a long way in terms of permitting the staff and community members the opportunity to discuss important issues from their perspective,” said Dr. Favre about the meeting. “The board had an opportunity to hear from the stakeholders directly, and the participants were provided with the opportunity to see the difficult decisions that the board must make in light of the new limitations on the tax levy.”

The school will also host the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) next Monday at 7 p.m.

“I believe that the Bridgehampton CAC is a community minded organization and key to their support of our school budget is understanding what is at stake for our students, and our community at large,” said Dr. Favre on Wednesday. “Last year, the CAC supported our budget and I believe that is because we took the time to speak to them and to make sure they understood that we were being transparent in our budget process and looking for community input.”

The Bridgehampton School Board will also discuss the budget at its next meeting, Wednesday, February 29 at 7 p.m. Dr. Favre said the board will discuss piercing the cap, and building repairs that the board may choose to fund through a separate proposition on the ballot, including the cafeteria project.

“Plans to renovate the cafeteria, to provided more seating, allow us to clear the stage for drama, freeing up classroom space in the music room, and to provide a much needed meeting/multipurpose room might have to be put on hold if we do not present it as a separate proposition,” said Dr. Favre.

Bridgehampton School Community Budget Meeting Slated for February 8

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What would you cut from a school that aims to increase its budget based only on non-discretionary spending like that tied to the cost of health care or retirement?

That is exactly what the Bridgehampton School hopes to learn on Wednesday, February 8 when it hosts a forum on its 2012-2013 budget.

The school board is hosting the meeting in an effort to understand what the community hopes for the district as its wrestles with a state imposed two percent tax cap. On top of that, rising healthcare costs, new unfunded state mandates for teacher training and non-discretionary expenses are all increasing just as the district is being told it must cut back.

During a Bridgehampton School Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, January 25, the district’s superintendent Dr. Lois Favre and its business administrator Bob Hauser presented the board with a financial forecast for 2012-2013.

“There is no denying we are over-dependent on property taxes,” acknowledged Dr. Favre, adding communities throughout New York are struggling to deal with the reality while still funding necessary services.

Dr. Favre noted that the two percent property tax levy cap is misleading in that many voters will assume the cap limits districts to a total two percent in spending increases. In fact it is a cap on the property tax levy, or the amount of money the district is allowed to raise through taxes.

Existing capital projects and retirement systems, both which raise the Bridgehampton School budget annually, do not count, noted Dr. Favre. She added that while the state is trying to get school districts to force concessions with their teacher unions, those negotiations will likely not be determined as the school district presents its 2012-2013 budget. While the state is also recommending districts cut their fund balances — the amount of money left in reserve after expenses are accounted for each budget year — she believes that having a fund balance is critical, especially during tight fiscal years.

“We have seen little from the state in the way of mandate relief,” said Dr. Favre, noting that required teacher training and assessment requirements have increased while the state is also asking school to keep budgets tight.

The state is requiring schools to expend administrative time in a range of areas, such as new teacher evaluation methods, new teacher training in core standards and lesson development, new training on student learning objectives and the development and refinement of data teams, meant to evaluate the whole of the school’s effectiveness.

“Staff development costs are not being considered,” said Dr. Favre of the tax cap.

For Bridgehampton School, a two percent property tax levy cap translates to a 2012-2013 budget that cannot exceed 4.12 percent in increases. Dr. Favre stressed she feels many residents do not understand a two percent tax levy cap does not mean a two percent cap on increased expenses. She added that it will be critical for the school board to educate the community explaining that if they do seek a 4.12 percent increase, they are still within the two-percent tax cap.

Retirement costs and capital projects are not included in the tax cap, said Dr. Favre, but many residents may not understand that fact.

“If we don’t get the word out to the public they will get very frustrated and come running here to vote us down when that is our two-percent tax cap,” she said.

“The district must be mindful,” said Dr. Favre, “that they no longer have the ability to revert to a contingency budget if their budget is voted down. Contingency budgets often gave school districts funding to cover its basic expenses without having to drastically cut down programming or staff.”

If the budget fails to gain the approval of voters twice, said Dr. Favre, the district must revert to a zero-percent increase, meaning the amount of programming lost would increase significantly.

Dr. Favre said she wants the school district community to engage in a discussion about different budget scenarios before a draft budget is formalized, hence next Wednesday night’s meeting.

The reality, said Dr. Favre, is with zero increases school districts on Long Island are looking at an increase in budget cuts from 4.9 percent to over 12 percent over the next five years. At the same time, health care costs are increasing at what Dr. Favre called an “alarming rate.”

“This is not something that is sustainable,” said Dr. Favre, who added that depleting the district’s fund balance to offset the budget or not adding to it will only increase the district’s financial woes over time.

If the district simply rolls over its budget from 2011-2012, with no increases outside of contractual expenses and state mandates, the Bridgehampton School budget for 2012-2013 would be $11,333,042, a $756,328 increase or 7.15 percent over last year, well beyond the tax cap.

The budget advisory committee has looked at $195,237 in savings found in staffing changes and contractual changes with staff that have yet to be realized. They have also explored changes in staff and transportation that could increase that savings, although no figures had yet to be tabulated, said Dr. Favre.

Required in the 2012-2013 budget  is a $135,000 debt payment on the 10-year voter approved window project, technology updates needed to keep the district within its five year plan with BOCES, expenses related to a five year safety and building plan at the school. Also in the budget is mandated staff development by the state, necessary upgrades to the music department and the tuition for up to three students to attend the Child Development Center of the Hamptons, which is required by law.

“I think for the past few years this board has done an excellent job of presenting a budget to the community they could support,” said Dr. Favre, adding the budget has been pared down each year.

Staying at the same level as last year, with the budget advisory committee’s suggestions, the district would need an increase of $561,000, but under the tax cap can only ask for $379,000 without any additions to the fund balance, said Dr. Favre, leaving the district in a worrisome position for next year and still facing a deficit.

The alternative is to ask voters for more, but the school must earn a 60 percent vote or more in favor of its budget if it hopes to pierce the tax cap.

“What are we willing to give up,” asked Dr. Favre, noting that the need to cut hundreds of thousands from a budget of Bridgehampton’s size does not amount to cutting down on supplies.

“There are not enough paper clips in the budget to reach these figures and trust me when I say we have already cut our supplies for this budget,” she said.

Instead, what is at risk, is programming like the summer school options at Bridgehampton, which have been very popular, as well as stipends to allow student clubs to run at the school. The pre-kindergarten program could also be at risk, as well as student leadership prizes, clerical support, teacher aides, custodial staff time, field trips, technology, staff and even teachers.

“We are in good company across the state,” said Dr. Favre. “This is not just a Bridgehampton problem, it is all over the state, and some are in a worse position than we are. This is a year we probably need to hear from our stakeholders.”

The community budget meeting will take place on Wednesday, February 8 at 7 p.m. at the Bridgehampton School.

New Banners for Bees

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Students at the Bridgehampton School take pride in donning their beloved black and gold colors, but for six years Nina Hemby, a recent graduate of the school, also wore Pierson’s red and black as she competed athletically through shared sports programs in Sag Harbor. Many Bridgehampton students have also worn East Hampton’s maroon and grey, competing alongside the Bonackers in sports like track and football.

Now, thanks to Hemby and Bridgehampton School Athletic Director Mary Anne Jules, students who have not just participated, but achieved on shared sports teams — winning division, county or state titles — will be honored in the Bridgehampton Killer Bees gym, also known as the Beehive, just as Bridgehampton teams have for decades.

At Hemby’s request, the district has purchased banners celebrating the achievement of shared sports teams dating back to 1995. The banners are gold with black lettering, which will distinguish them from the Bridgehampton Killer Bees banners, which are black with gold lettering.

The banners were unveiled during a Bridgehampton School Board meeting on Wednesday, October 28. At the meeting, Nina’s mother Nicki,  school board president, read a letter from her daughter, who now plays field hockey at Long Island University’s CW Post, a Division II school, where she is a freshman.

Hemby’s field hockey career began on the Pierson squad, which, last fall won its division, as well as the Suffolk County Class C title and the Long Island Class C Championship. The girls lost in the state tournament in overtime.

“The shared sports program had been such a huge part of my high school life and I am grateful that the three schools are able to think outside the box and offer the students these amazing opportunities,”said Hemby.

“The shared sports program at first can be a difficult one,” she added. “For many of us it means stepping outside the comfort zone of your own district, a lot of long bus rides, late nights, late homework, pre-judgment from peers and coaching staff and the hardest piece to overcome is wearing another schools colors. But what you gain are wonderful relationships, self-confidence, the ability to break preconceived notions and make unforgettable memories.”

Bridgehampton has long been known for its storied basketball program. The Bridgehampton Killer Bees boys basketball team has won eight small school state titles. Hemby hopes that as the school begins to display banners honoring other successful athletic teams featuring Bridgehampton players, students and the community alike will realize that Bridgehampton sports is about more than just basketball.

“High school sports enables the entire school to come together, whether playing or observing, to cheer for their school,” said Hemby.

“When I left for states, the support from my fellow students, the school staff as well as the community as a whole was overwhelming. I am proud you chose to memorialize that moment with a banner.”

After the meeting, Hemby’s mother said she was also proud of the school’s decision as it highlights the positive relationship that exists between the Sag Harbor School District and Bridgehampton School. In addition to field hockey, Nina also played on the girls basketball team at Pierson and on the softball team.

“I just think it is very important to know how far the shared sports program has come and that Nina was not just the Bridgehampton kid, she was Nina, teammate,” said Hemby. “It was overwhelming to travel with the other parents to state playoffs and not be treated as an outsider, but as one of the Pierson family.”

Bridgehampton School Takes a Positive Approach to Student Behavior

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Instead of resorting to the traditional punishment of sending a child to the principal’s office or a note home to parents when a student is acting up, a group of Bridgehampton School educators has decided to try and tackle behavioral issues before they actually happen by promoting positive behavior, empowering students and rewarding those who are setting the right example.

This week, the Bridgehampton School began to implement a program used in school districts across the country, Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS). The goal of the program is to incentivize good behavior, making students want to be courteous and respectful, not only in school, but at home and in the community.

Ken Giosi developed the PBIS plan for Bridgehampton with Jessica Rogers, Patrick Aiello, Jeffrey Neubauer and the rest of the school’s special education department this summer. Last Wednesday night, in a presentation to the school board, Giosi noted the program also enables teachers to observe each child’s behavior individually and pick up on patterns.

Giosi said the school will focus the program on students in kindergarten through sixth grade, but eventually PBIS would be implemented through the elementary, middle and high school grades.

The team developed a slogan for the program, “Bridgehampton ROCKS,” an acronym for the values the school considers most important — respect, organization, cooperation, kindness and safety.

“These are the core values we are looking to promote in our school,” said Giosi.

Teachers, administrators and even school crossing guards will be furnished with tickets, also known as “scholar dollars” in other PBIS programs, which can be redeemed by students for prizes or classroom rewards.

For October, the theme is safety. Students have been asked to follow good behavior guidelines while on the bus, walking from the bus to school and while in the gym for morning announcements.

For example, students who keep their hands to themselves and feet on the floor while on the school bus stand to earn a ticket, as do those who use the sidewalk while walking into the school or help a younger classmate along the way.

The program will be expanded every two weeks, said Rogers, to add a new element, such as behavior in the classroom, the bathrooms and in the cafeteria.

Each class is monitored in terms of how it is performing, as are individual students, and everyone is kept apprised of who is in first, second and third place creating a competitive spirit around PBIS that Giosi hopes will make the program more exciting for students.

The school will also host monthly meetings, “The Hive Huddle,” where educators will lay out their expectations to students, but also inform them about how well they are doing in the program.

According to Rogers, on Tuesday morning, tickets were already being passed out, and the students were visibly excited. She said the school has worked out a rewards program with Panera Bread, but is looking for other Bridgehampton businesses interested in teaming up with the school.

PBIS was not the only program Giosi and his team devised this summer. Like every school, Bridgehampton is responsible to meet requirements for the federally mandated Response to Intervention (RTI), which demands schools develop academic invention programs to help teachers intervene with students struggling to learn.

The PBIS program will be part of a three-pronged effort in RTI at Bridgehampton. The other intervention programs revolve around special and general education, detecting learning problems in a student’s first few years of school and giving teachers proven intervention techniques to help students overcome their struggles before they are classified as a learning disability.

“We wanted to develop a cache of research-based interventions and lessons,” said Giosi of the department’s strategies for special education students. “Plans that can more effectively address the needs of our students.”

Neubauer focused on math interventions. He said using a program like Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces (ALEKS), a web based assessment and learning system, helps educators identify strengths and weakness in particular students and the appropriate pace for them to tackle subjects. It also offers a progress monitor.

“It is not only showing you what is wrong, but it is showing you how it is improving,” said Neubauer.

After performing this kind of assessment, teachers can then try and use intervention techniques, for example using physical objects when teaching addition or subtraction.

Neubauer has created an entire matrix of tested inventions that teachers in Bridgehampton can use to address specific problems in math.

Aiello has created a similar matrix for students struggling with English Language Arts, offering step-by-step instructions with tips and examples for every classroom.

“What we are really trying to do as a special education department is build support for the general education staff,” said Giosi. “Rather than the sort of typical brainstorming, we are coming up with researched based ideas and procedures to follow.”

In general education, the school will also be monitoring its students through assessments and individualized instruction. Intervention strategies will be mapped out for teachers to help students overcome academic struggles.

“The goal is to keep kids in general education,” said board member Elizabeth Kotz.

“If this gets implemented properly, I am going to see fewer referrals,” said Giosi. “The greatest proportion of students in special education are classified as learning disabled.”

Bridgehampton School Evaluates Meal Program

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The Bridgehampton Union Free School District has had to subsidize its meal program with tens of thousands of dollars each school year since 2008 when the school began contracting with Whitsons School Nutrition Corporation.

Facing those costs, as well as a looming two-percent cap on the property tax levy, earlier this month members of the Bridgehampton School Board and administration began talking about the feasibility of negotiating a new contract with Whitsons next year.

At the district’s re-organizational meeting on July 6, board member Douglas DeGroot questioned how the school could make its breakfast and lunch program one that could at least subsidize itself.

According to Bridgehampton School Business Administrator Robert Hauser, in 2008-2009 the program earned $45,000, but cost $118,000, operating $73,000 in the red. While the school district did budget $50,000 to subsidize the program that year, it ultimately had to use monies from the fund balance to cover an additional $23,000.

In 2009-2010, the meal program generated $78,000 in revenues, but cost $155,000, leaving a $77,000 deficit. However that year, the district had budgeted $100,000 to subsidize the program, leaving the fund balance untouched.

In the last fiscal year, the meal program generated $86,000 in revenue, but cost $153,000, leaving a $67,000 deficit, which the district covered with $50,000 in funding through the budget and with the remaining $17,000 coming out of the school’s fund balance.

According to Hauser, the contracted price for each breakfast and lunch served in the 2010-2011 fiscal year was $5.5096, although that price is expected to rise 2.9 percent for the next school year.

Hauser did note the introduction of food grown from the school’s greenhouse and garden has helped offset the cost of the meal program.

Where the program gets expensive, Hauser and several members of the board noted, is in what is considered “a la carte sales” as opposed to a designated school breakfast or lunch.

All meals purchased by adults in the district are considered an “a la carte” sale, as is the purchase of individual items — sometimes grouped together to form a meal — by students.

For example, said Hauser via email last week, in the last school year, an adult would have to pay $4.50 for a lunch, although the district is charged $5.5096 per meal by Whitsons. However, because it is considered “a la carte,” it must be divided by a conversation rate of $2.70, meaning it is actually considered 1.67 meals by Whitson’s standard and the district must pay Whitson’s $9.20 in total for the lunch.

During the re-organizational meeting, DeGroot wondered if increasing the cost of the adult meals would make a difference, but because they are considered “a la carte” items, Hauser noted the district would ultimately pay more money than it already does to Whitsons if it raised the price of adult meals.

“Whereas for the student meals, dollar for dollar, we realize the revenue,” said Hauser.

School Board President Nicki Hemby said charging students more than an adult was “just weird.”

DeGroot said his issue was not with providing meals for students, but with this contract, which, “just doesn’t make sense.”

Hauser noted it was the last year of the contract with Whitsons, and that the district could go out to bid for their meal program for 2012-2013.

He did add, however, that competition from larger schools in the area and federal subsidies make it difficult for small schools like Bridgehampton to negotiate a good contract with a company like Whitsons. That did little to ease DeGroots agitation.

“If you don’t take the full lunch, it is ‘boom’ — this fee and that fee,” he said.

“The best thing we can do is ask our kids to eat the prescribed lunches and each year ask Whitsons if we can pull some of the a la carte items off the menu,” said board member Elizabeth Kotz.

Later in the meeting, the board agreed to extend the contract with Whitsons for its final year, with Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre assuring the board that as the contract with Whitsons is in its twilight, she would look into other options for Bridgehampton School moving forward.

“There are smaller districts that have chosen other options like hiring a chef,” she said.