By Marianna Levine
Last Wednesday night’s Bridgehampton Board of Education workshop started with a moment of silence for Bridgehampton English teacher Tom Kelly who had passed away the previous night (see story on page 3). And while the meeting was colored by the teacher’s passing, and discussion was kept quiet and respectful throughout the meeting, the board worked through a number of agenda items, including granting raises to the superintendent of schools, Dr. Dianne Youngblood, and the school’s principal, Jack Pryor.
The board had apparently discussed the increases during an executive session on July 14, according to board president Elizabeth Kotz. But the vote to approve the increases — four percent for each — occurred during the passing of a consent agenda during the July 22 work session. According to the resolution, Dr. Youngblood will see her salary increase from $178,637 to $185,782, and Pryor will see an increase from $134,998 to $140,398.
The rate of increase was determined by “whose opinion prevailed” during the executive session discussion, said Kotz this week.
The brunt of Wednesday’s meeting was about the replacement of the school’s windows. Architect Paul Rodgers and his partner Bill Chaleff presented an overview of the windows’ history and why they urgently needed to be replaced.
Rodger’s explained that the original windows were manufactured with a preservative that proved to be defective, and that at some point there was a lawsuit against the manufacturer. Apparently people were compensated for the defective windows but “Bridgehampton didn’t file a claim within the necessary time frame” according to Rodgers.
However Rodgers stated this isn’t the main problem the school is facing regarding window replacement. He related, “a complicating factor is that the windows have steel above them which made it possible and convenient to install the brick arches above the windows; but now the steel is rusting and causing both discoloration and disfigurement.”
This complication make the replacement much more expensive, Rodgers cautioned. In the end he thought the board needed to look at a budget of about $600,000 for the cost of materials and labor.
Interim business manager George Chesterton thought the board needed to have more specific information about actual costs in order to budget enough money to cover all unexpected expenses.
Chesterton said, “You need to make sure you have authorization with enough funds to go forward with the project. You need to think of all the things in terms of the condition of the building that might stymie us.”
With Chesterton’s caution in mind the board did not resolve to do anything as yet with Rodger’s report and the windows.
As the board was about to adjourn into executive session, District Clerk Joyce Crews Manigo cautioned board president Kotz that the board needed to state their reasons more specifically before adjourning into an executive session.
“About executive session,” she said, “you need to be more specific about what goes on.”
Kotz’s response was “there will be no resolutions,” and the board adjourned.
Manigo explained she wanted the reasons to be included in the meeting’s minutes. She reminded board members that the external auditor would be looking over board meeting and workshop minutes as part of the external audit currently being conducted and that Manigo wanted to make sure everything was in good shape for that review. An external audit is part of every school district’s annual procedures as they close their accounting books at the end of every school year.
As a matter of fact Kotz had asked at the July 6 board meeting for further clarification on executive session procedures from Manigo and noted prior to the previous executive session that the board would be making resolutions during that executive session. At that meeting, the school appointed the firm Gurcio & Gurcio as school’s counsel at an annual retainer of $25,000, and $225/hr. for litigation, and $225/hr. for negotiations, with a $20,000 cap for negotiations. The board also approved 10 hours for teacher Helen Smith to develop a junior-senior writing course and character education program.
Several board members have mentioned off the record that since Bridgehampton is such a small school district they need to go into executive session because the public would know too readily whom the board is talking about, even if no names are mentioned specifically, and that privacy needs to be maintained for those individuals.
“We are totally in compliance with the Open Meeting Laws,” said Kotz in an interview Wednesday. “We always state that we are going into executive session for legal and personnel issues or contract negotiations. We state if we are coming out (of executive session) with resolutions.”