Tag Archive | "Bridgehampton Schools"

Bridgehampton School Board Candidates Debate District Issues

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Bridgehampton Board of Education candidates Michael Gomberg, Kathleen McCleland and Jeffrey Mansfield at the Meet the Candidates night Wednesday, May 7.

Bridgehampton Board of Education candidates Michael Gomberg, Kathleen McCleland and Jeffrey Mansfield at the Meet the Candidates night Wednesday, May 7. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

With three candidates vying for two seats on the Bridgehampton School Board, the district PTO hosted a Meet the Candidates forum on May 7 to give those running a chance to share their ideas on the future of the district.

During the debate, which was moderated by Michael Mackey of WPPB 88.3 FM. Candidates Michael Gomberg, Jeffrey Mansfield and Kathleen McCleland, all three of whom have young children in the district school, are running for three-year terms, which start July 1 and end June 30, 2017. None of the candidates are incumbents.

With a degree in finance and accounting, Mr. Gomberg, 41, lives two blocks from the school and works in Southampton.

Mr. Mansfield, 49, worked on Wall Street for 17 years and is now a stay-at-home dad, active in many groups in the Bridgehampton community and Southampton Town. Last year he ran an unsuccessful bid for Southampton Town Board. His mother was a teacher for over 30 years and Mr. Mansfield said he considers himself “a champion of education.”

A Bridgehampton native, Ms. McCleland, 43, has previously worked as a personal chef and as vice president of corporate event planning at Goldman Sachs. She now works as the pastry chef at the Beacon and the Bell and Anchor, of which her husband Sam is chef and co-owner.

The school board is presenting voters with a $12.3 million budget for 2014-15 that would pierce the state-mandated cap on property tax increases, making it one of four districts on Long Island to do so. Mr. Mackey opened the forum by asking the candidates whether they supported piercing the cap.

Mr. Gomberg said he is “all for it,” adding that not doing so would “send the school spiraling.”

“The sacrifices that we would have to make as a school and school district if we were to not pierce the cap would be too great,” Ms. McCleland agreed.

“I am in favor of piercing the cap, but I would also like to say I will work like heck over the next two years to come in under the cap,” said Mr. Mansfield, adding he is conservative fiscally but “education is one area that we cannot afford to skimp on.”

When asked how they would get members of the community who are not involved in the school to be involved, Mr. Gomberg said, “call them up, go door to door.”

“It’s a small enough community and we have fabulous resources and it’s a shame that they’re not being utilized,” he said, adding he would like to see opportunities for internships and mentoring set up with local businesses.

Ms. McCleland said, “The more we can publicize to the community through social media, the local newspapers, all the wonderful things we have … we can capitalize on those types of events to invite the community in.”

“The school unfairly suffers from a perception that it’s lackluster,” said Mr. Mansfield. “We need to get out and be an advocate for the school and it’s a two-way thing.”

Mr. Mackey asked the candidates how they would increase the population in the district, which is by far the smallest on the East End, and whether they believe getting more students is important.

Ms. McCleland said growing the school is important and pointed to the success of the pre-kindergarten programs and the larger sized classes in the lower grades.

“The more we get out there and can show the community all of the great things we have to offer, that in and of itself will allow them to consider us an option when they are deciding where their children should go to school,” she said.

“I definitely think we have to do something about getting the class sizes bigger. We have to get out there and we have to sell ourselves,” Mr. Gomberg agreed, saying offering more foreign languages and other programs would entice “outsourced kids back to our school.”

Although he was in favor of increasing size, Mr. Gomberg said the expansion should be to a limit because “part of what’s great about the school is the small, nurturing environment that these kids are able to excel in.”

“You have to be careful what you wish for,” agreed Mr. Mansfield, adding that many private schools are desirous because of their small class sizes and Bridgehampton is able to avoid many of the problems of larger districts. “I think it would be nice to increase the class size, but I don’t think it’s of the utmost importance.”

Citing studies that have indicated consolidating school districts “would be economically beneficial,” Mr. Mackey asked the candidates whether they feel Bridgehampton should continue as an independent school district or merge with another local district.

“I would be open to seeing a study certainly, because I want to make sure that we’re providing the best education we can in the biggest sense of the word,” replied Ms. McCleland. “I can’t say yes or no without having all the facts.”

“I’m definitely against consolidating at this point,” Mr. Gomberg said. “Right now, what’s great about the Bridgehampton community is that it’s small and nurturing.”

“Consolidation is tricky,” said Mr. Mansfield, citing a referendum in 2009 that would have given parents a choice on whether to send their children to Bridgehampton School’s high school or send them to another public school. Critics said the referendum, which was rejected by voters, was a move aimed at eventually shutting down the school.

“The people have spoken as far as I’m concerned and instead of trying to continually tear this school down, it’s time for the people in this community to build this school up,” Mr. Mansfield.”

The school board elections and budget vote are Tuesday, May 20, from 2 to 8 p.m. in the school gymnasium.

Congressman Impressed With School’s Efforts With Career Academy

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web Bridge Bishop 2

by Marianna Levine

This past Monday, as kids were arriving back to school after their winter break, Congressman Tim Bishop started his New Year with a visit to the Bridgehampton School.  Bishop, who is a member of Congress’ Education Committee, as well as a former Southampton College administrator, has taken an interest in Bridgehampton’s innovative Environmental Design Program. It is a program that is part of a larger 40-year-old Career Academy sponsored by Long Island Works Coalition (LIWC), a division of Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and New Jersey.

Congressman Bishop was joined by Goodwill Industries President and CEO, Bill Forrester, as well as several other representatives of Goodwill Industries, LIWC, and the school’s public relations firm, Mullen and McCaffrey, on a tour of the program given by Superintendent Dr. Diane Youngblood, Principal Jack Pryor, and Environmental Design teacher Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz.

“I’ve been looking at ways to solidify education and ways to prepare students for work,” said the congressman. “I had been focusing on community colleges not on high schools.” But Bishop was impressed with Bridgehampton’s efforts to give students an earlier start in practical education.

Bridgehampton’s Environmental Design Career Academy is a program where “students learn the art, science, and business of landscape architecture and environmental design through hands on experiential learning,” according to the school’s brochure. It was a program that Youngblood took over from the private Ross School, when that school decided to discontinue it.

The concept of a Career Academy came about originally to address the needs of students who did not connect well with theoretical learning, as well as to assist the community by providing an appropriately prepared worker.  It has since evolved, according to Cheryl Davidson, Executive Director of LIWC.

“We started with high risk students but have now expanded to include AP students in our program,” she said. “We’ve found that kids in the Career Academy have increased (high school) graduation rates and an increased probability of continuing on in higher education.”

Davidson continued to explain, “What distinguishes the Career Academy from traditional academics is what we refer to as the new three Rs: rigorous academics, relevancy in learning, and relationships with the greater community. In effect we’re creating a pipeline for students to enter the workforce.”

After asking a few specifics about the program such as whether courses were embedded in the school’s curriculum (the environmental design and culinary arts courses are popular electives), and if the courses were solely for Bridgehampton residents (they are currently, but Dr. Youngblood has been trying to get the Sag Harbor School District involved), Congressman Bishop added, “It sounds like these courses have a pretty broad applicability; it sounds like you have things well in hand.”

The environmental design course is co-taught by Carmack-Fayyaz, an environmental design teacher and Joanne Palisi, a business teacher. The culinary arts course is also co-taught by Carmack-Fayyaz and science teacher Natalia Nichols. The reason for this non-traditional collaboration is that the courses are interdisciplinary and evolve with student interest.

Carmack-Fayyaz notes that there are certain advantages to having this program in a smaller school such as Bridgehampton.

“It does make it sometimes more challenging, but our model is integral academic programming,” she said. “In a smaller school we can be more creative about what that means.”

The environmental design program, for example, was originally solely about landscape design; but as more students expressed an interest in architecture and designing interior spaces they evolved the program to teach that as well.

The program has had several successes, including recently receiving a so-called Cinderella grant of $9,000 from National Grid to build a green house in addition to the already student-designed and successfully completed edible schoolyard. Currently, the school has plans to create a solar powered irrigation system, but is looking for community support to implement the program. Congressman Bishop stated he might be able to help the school with this or other components of the program.

Also, Carmack-Fayyaz related that several of the program’s students have won specific competitions or grants. Environmental Design student, Tanetha Clark, won the Hampton’s Library garden design competition, and two of their other students won AFS grants with the Career Academy’s assistance to study abroad.

Karen Means, senior vice-president of Youth and Community Services for Goodwill Industries noted that programs such as the Career Academy are vital to the greater community since it introduces students to careers that will need them in the future. She cited a startling statistic; “We had 400 engineering jobs to fill on Long Island last year, and only 40 students in the area graduating in that field.”