Tag Archive | "Dr. Dianne Youngblood"

Dr. Dianne Youngblood

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The Bridgehampton School District Superintendent, set to retire in August after 39 years in education, talks about why she thinks the Bridgehampton School is special, how she has seen the district grow in recent years, and the importance of shared services as community school districts continue to thrive on the East End.

What first drew you to education?

It is really an easy question to answer. Ever since I was a little girl I loved playing with dolls and while all my friends were playing the mommy role, I was always the teacher. So it started early and my parents picked up on that. There is something to be said for parents believing in what your future holds, and my parents did. They said, ‘You are going to be a teacher,’ we just know it. So in a way it was programmed in me early on.

What brought you to Bridgehampton?

I was first introduced to the district in 1985 and was hired as the guidance counselor/director, so I was working those two hats. It was just such an amazing place. There is something different about Bridgehampton from all the other schools in the area. Being born and raised in New York City, my experience in school was they were overcrowded and lacked a lot of resources. Coming here, you saw how you could get to know the kids, and you had almost anything you needed to help them learn. It was just an incredible opportunity.

What was the transition from guidance director to superintendent like?

It was a transition, and a journey. After six years as guidance director, I realized there was a lot I needed to learn before getting into the seat of superintendent, which is what I wanted. I left here, and went to Riverhead School as guidance chair for the lower grades. Then I went to Comsewogue School District were I served as assistant principal. There was something about being a little fish in a big pond, but it was truly a wonderful learning experience. I started my doctoral studies at Comsewogue, trying to understand how systems work, how kids learn. I was curious how some students have such success and how others don’t.

I had always known I wanted to be at Bridgehampton. I just felt I should be here, so I periodically kept my eyes open and after seven years at Comsewogue I saw Bridgehampton was looking for a principal, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that is me.’ At least I hoped, anyway. I was one year away from earning my doctorate and I was fortunate enough to get the job. It really felt like returning home.

The size of the Bridgehampton School has been a source of criticism for some. Why do you think this is, and is it imperative for the school to grow in order to achieve the kinds of successes you believe are important?

I have struggled with that because I was here in the 1980s when that issue first came up for me personally, and I remember feeling so strongly this school needed to remain small. When the issue came up again a few years ago, I just had to step back and reflect again. That is who I am – always wondering to see things in a new light after I have been exposed to more experiences. I heard what some critics said – that we didn’t have as many electives as larger schools, or we didn’t have the same opportunity for social interactions and yet, even stepping back and hearing the critics, knowing what I had experienced in larger school districts, I believed then and I still believe now in the uniqueness of a small community school. I think it should be preserved as long as it is feasibly possible and there probably will come a day where it is not economically feasible; but there is a value to having children come to a community school, the same school their mother went to, their father went to, their uncles and aunts.

With that there is an enormous pressure and challenge for whoever works here as a teacher, administrator or on the board of education. They have to challenge themselves to continue to improve the school. I don’t think any organization has the luxury of remaining at status quo and certainly for us, I think there is an analogy in “The Little Engine That Could.” That is Bridgehampton. We are the little school district and I believe we can bring out the best in our kids and the best in the community … I have been so proud of the teachers I work with and the support staff, because there have been so many who have rallied around that mantra – ‘I think we can,’ ‘yes, we can.’

We are at a point where test scores are up, we have expanded course offerings and our English language learning programming is soaring … We have a Career Academy that has expanded from just one student – and this is the uniqueness of Bridgehampton – who said I want to be a landscape architect. So we said, what can we do and we searched and found out the Ross School had a landscape architectural program, and it worked out. When the Ross School said they didn’t have enrollment to continue the program we said, wait a minute and that is how [landscape design teacher] Judiann [Carmack-Fayyaz] came to us. We went from one student with a personal request to more than 25 students in a program. We have a greenhouse, a shed and community involvement, with community leaders donating time, labor and materials to the cause. To me those are the special factors of being in a small school.

Talk of closing the Bridgehampton School’s high school has been controversial the last few years. What was your stance on that issue, from a professional perspective?

I think it would be the same answer. I really stepped back for a bit to hear what was being said and to try and understand why people wanted it closed and all I had to go on was what was stated publicly, but I still came back to the point that this school works. I have tried to reach out to neighboring school districts so we can broaden what we offer here. Sag Harbor has been wonderful and this goes back to [former superintendent] Kathryn Holden allowing our students to take advanced placement courses at Sag Harbor. That has been magnificent and that relationship has continued under [Superintendent] Dr. John Gratto.

Are shared services the key to keeping community school districts viable?

I think it will be a very important piece. I am happy to tell you, and you are the first, that [incoming Superintendent] Dr. [Lois] Favre and I received an email this morning and it looking like something we have been trying to pull together with [former interim business administrator] Dr. [George] Chesterton has come to fruition. That is to share a senior account clerk typist with the Tuckahoe School District. In addition to the academic piece of shared services, those back office functions can also be shared and it will make a tremendous difference.

What are your plans once you leave this district this August?

I have to tell you, I can’t say I have any plans yet because for me that means something is in place, but I do have a vision and goals that I am hopeful I will be able to piece together. I consider myself a very spiritual person and when I get anxious about the plan, I think, be patient. God will reveal that to me … I am hoping to teach at the college level, and do consultant work particularly focused on education, but more on the policy end – looking at system changes, how systems work. I am also looking for a really good opportunity or venue to volunteer my time and talents. A few ideas have come forward, but again, I think it will all be revealed at the right time.

Slow Food for The Bridgehampton School

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The local chapter of Slow Food, a worldwide not-for-profit dedicated to local, fresh, sustainable foods, has organized a National Day of Action on Labor Day, Monday, September 7 – an Eat-In – to focus communities nationwide on the importance of healthy, local foods in schools. The local chapter, led by Emily Herrick of the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton, will host its own Eat-In at the Bridgehampton School from noon to 3 p.m.

Slow Food East End is asking participants in the “Eat-In” to bring a dish prepared from local ingredients to share with others at the event. Nutrition counselor and writer Alexa Van de Walle is slated to speak, with Caroline Doctorow and Tara Lea performing music.

“It’s basically just a community potluck,” said Herrick on Monday.


Boasting an edible garden and a Career Academy-based curriculum originally centered on landscape design – this year reaching out into botany and nutrition – students at the Bridgehampton School have been actively participating in the evolution of how food is viewed on the East End of Long Island for several years now.

According to Herrick, the relationship between Slow Food East End and Bridgehampton was natural, with Slow Food already hosting a potluck and screening of “Two Angry Moms” to raise funding for a greenhouse at the school. Slow Food East End has already funded the construction of a greenhouse at the Hayground School, also in Bridgehampton.

The national chapter of Slow Food organized the nationwide Day of Action in anticipation of the reauthorization of the Childhood Nutrition Act in Congress, which is set to expire at the end of September. In a letter sent to local legislators, the Slow Food organization notes that due to changes in food quality, production and consumption, the life expectancy of this generation of children is expected to be lower than that of their parents due to increases in obesity, childhood diabetes and cancer.


Slow Food is asking Congressional leaders and President Barack Obama to invest an additional $1 per child for each child’s lunch as a part of the Childhood Nutrition Act enabling schools to spend additional funding on vegetables, fruits and whole grains rather than the chicken tenders and hamburgers often found in school cafeterias. The organization is also looking for Congress to establish strict standards for food sold in schools, including in vending machines, fund grants for farm-to-school programs and school gardens, and establish subsidies that encourage schools to purchase locally.

As Herrick noted, without financial support from the federal government, the Bridgehampton School has already begun making inroads towards this type of nutritional model within its district, with the creation of an edible garden and curriculum geared towards agriculture, landscape design and this year, culinary skills and nutrition.

Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz teaches the landscape design course at Bridgehampton and has been working with students for the last two years with the end goal of having vegetables and fruits grown in the school garden served in the school’s cafeteria.

“What we are about at this point is bringing fresh produce into our school,” she said on Tuesday.

Carmack-Fayyaz said this year a culinary science and nutritional class will be taught as an aspect of science this year, with a focus on the science of how food is produced, botany, agriculture and nutrition. The Career Academy landscape design class, which has resulted in the Edible Garden at Bridgehampton, currently overflowing with ripe tomatoes, melons, basil, corn, herbs and bright with a variety of flowers, is a class that has integrated business classes, design courses, botany and mathematics. The nutrition course, which will likely evolve throughout the year, noted Carmack Fayyaz, will introduce science to the class with a lab course that will focus on cooking healthy snacks – snacks Carmack-Fayyaz said she hopes will eventually be sold in the school’s cafeteria.

“This year at Bridgehampton we do have Whitsons,” said Carmack-Fayyaz of the school’s food service provider. “We have been working closely with the Bridgehampton manager for Whitsons, Dan, and he has been great in cooperating with us to ensure we are introducing more greens into the cafeteria. What we need to do this year as a school is explore the economic feasibility of running our own cafeteria. We have to see if we can afford it.”

Carmack-Fayyaz said the district has already reached out to administrators from the Tuckahoe School District, which self-operate their own cafeteria. A representative from that district is expected at Monday’s Eat-In to talk to Bridgehampton School officials about how they have made the program work in Tuckahoe.

“I have to give a lot of credit to [superintendent] Dr. [Dianne] Youngblood for embracing this movement,” said Carmack-Fayyaz. “Bridgehampton is unique in that this administration has shown a commitment to these projects and have made resources available.”

“This is a collective movement,” added Carmack-Fayyaz. “We have a lot of great support for this across the East End.”

Bridgehampton to Start Seeking New Superintendent

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By Marianna Levine

Following a Bridgehampton School Board work session last Wednesday evening, School Superintendent Dianne Youngblood confirmed that she will be retiring in August of 2010, after five years as superintendent and two years as Bridgehampton’s principal.

“Its good news because I’m retiring,” she added. Her history with the school runs deeper, as she had also been the school’s guidance counselor for six years starting in 1985.

Although the Bridgehampton superintendent’s position has been posted on official educational websites, Dr. Youngblood has said she isn’t officially announcing her retirement until this August.

Applications for the position have already been accepted, and are currently being reviewed by Dr. Youngblood. Kotz added that, although nothing has been officially organized as yet, “we hope to make up some sort of new committee which will include board members, community members, and maybe students” to review the applications as well. She did stress nothing was worked out as yet and that more information about this may be discussed at the next school board meeting on June 8. Kotz also mentioned “what we want really here is a business official/superintendent.”

The recent election that has resulted in three new members joining the school board in July, also prompted a contentious discussion Wednesday night on who gets to observe voters on election day.

Board Member Joe Berhalter’s request to iron out the rules concerning poll watching during school voting was answered with a board resolution banning poll watchers at school board elections. All board members except for Berhalter voted for this resolution, citing that poll watching during school board elections wasn’t common practice on the East End.

The poll watching issue came up prior to this month’s election when candidates Joe Conti, Laurie Gordon, and Nathan Ludlow requested poll watchers on Election Day. Initially the board had approved the poll watchers but had excluded the candidates’ spouses. That decision was reversed when it was discovered they could not limit who could be a poll watcher as long as they were registered to vote in the State of New York.

Prior to the vote, out-going school board president Jim Walker voiced his anger and frustration at what he perceived to be Berhalter’s continuing mistrust of the school district. Berhalter apparently had asked to see the absentee ballots in the name of “openness and transparency.” However, Walker and board vice-president Elizabeth Kotz wondered what exactly he wanted to accomplish by looking over the ballots.

Walker declared, “you are insinuating that signatures were forged and are questioning the trust we put in people like Joyce Manigo (the district clerk) and others who are sitting next to us at this table. I find this appalling to me as an individual.”

Kotz continued “I want to refer you to a letter we received from our attorneys who told us it was up to us how we do this anyway, because it isn’t usually done. Poll watchers are usually there to make sure people aren’t turned away in elections, and what you’re doing is suspecting people who have signed to vote.”

At the end of the workshop, the issue of transparency came up once more, and Walker asked if Berhalter would be willing to rescind his request under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to see the absentee ballots. Berhalter declined to do this stating, “I want to compare signatures and ballots.” To which District Clerk Manigo replied, “the majority of absentee ballots do not require signature cards. The majority are new voters anyway.”

After the workshop Berhalter explained, he did not use FOIL officially but had asked along with another board member to compare the signatures on the absentee ballots, the envelopes, and voter registration lists. It is something anyone can ask to do because of FOIL.



Although the workshop was short, a few other items were discussed. During the Superintendent’s report Dr. Youngblood gave an update on the Middle States Accreditation process stating that Bridgehampton’s application was received. She also updated the board on the hiring process for a secondary school English teaching post noting that over 60 applications were received and that she hoped the BOE would be presented with a candidate for approval by July.

Interim business administrator George Chesterton also updated the board on the school’s food bidding process. The school’s bid had been returned by the state since they had changed the bidding process this year and needed a lot more detailed and specific information concerning food safety and specific food specification.

In the end Chesterton said, “I don’t think we’ll be able to do it in time and these requirements may make the bids more costly, and as a result I would like to recommend we continue the lunch program we have now.”

Board member Nicky Hemby also requested that the board approve the presenting and opening of board member packets for the newly elected board members prior to their July starting date so that they can get a head start on learning board procedure. This and a resolution to let the new members sit in on executive sessions which had been suggested by out-going board member Susan Hiscock was unanimously approved.