Tag Archive | "education"

Sag Harbor School District’s Athletic Director and School Business Administrator to Resign

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Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio, School Board member Sandi Kruel, Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and School Business Administrator John O'Keefe celebrate the approval of the capital projects bond in November 2013. Photo by Michael Heller.

Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio, school board member Sandi Kruel, Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and School Business Administrator John O’Keefe celebrate the approval of the capital projects bond in November 2013. Todd Gulluscio and John O’Keefe are resigning from the district Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

According to the agenda for the Sag Harbor Board of Education meeting Tuesday, June 24, the board will accept the resignations of School Business Administrator John O’Keefe and Todd Gulluscio, Director of Athletics, Physical Education, Health, Wellness, and Personnel.

Mr. Gulluscio’s resignation was confirmed several weeks ago, but Mr. O’Keefe’s came as a surprise when the agenda was posted on the district’s website. The business administrator has been in Sag Harbor since 2012. Prior to joining the district, he was the Chief Financial and Operations Officer for the Cleary School for the Deaf in Nesconset for three years.

Once accepted, Mr. O’Keefe’s resignation will be effective July 16. Mr. Gulluscio’s term ends June 30.

The resignations come at a time when the district is already doing a lot of interviewing and hiring, as seven longtime teachers and staff members are retiring. Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso is also leaving his position, although he is set to be appointed as temporary assistant to the new superintendent Katy Graves. Dr. Bonuso will help Ms. Graves settle into her new position for 14 days between July 1 and July 31. He is being paid at a daily rate of $950, pending board approval Tuesday.

Update: In Second Vote Attempt, Bridgehampton School Budget Passes

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District Treasurer Laura Spillane and District Clerk Tammy Cavanaugh celebrate after the passage of the Bridgehampton School budget vote on Tuesday, June 17. Photo by Michael Heller.

District Treasurer Laura Spillane and District Clerk Tammy Cavanaugh celebrate after the passage of the Bridgehampton School budget vote as school board member Jennifer Vinski looks on on Tuesday, June 17. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Bridgehampton voters approved a $12.3 million budget that pierces a state-mandated tax cap on the second try on Tuesday, June 17.

Out of 385 voters casting ballots, 240 voted yes and 145 said no, giving the budget 62-percent approval, just above the 60-percent supermajority required to pierce the state-mandated tax cap.

The budget requires a $10.6 million tax levy, an 8.8-percent increase over the 2013-14 budget. It amounts to an increase of about $56 for the year on the tax bill of a house valued at $500,000, district officials said.

In the district’s first budget vote on May 20, a total of 247 voters turned out. Of those, 54 percent, or 134 voters, said yes to the budget and 113 said no.

School board members, parents and community supporters responded to the defeat with a grassroots, get-out-the-vote campaign to ensure there were more ballots to count in the second go-round. With a turnout increase of 138 and double the supporters in attendance as the results were read, it appeared they had succeeded.

Those students, parents and administrators gathered in the Bridgehampton School gymnasium Tuesday night to hear the results of their second and final attempt seemed to let out a collective sigh of relief as the tally was read.

“We are thrilled,” said Lillian Tyree-Johnson, a lifelong Bridgehampton resident and school board member, who said she had gotten little sleep in the weeks in between the votes, as she lay in bed wondering what they would do should more cuts need to be made.

If the budget had failed a second time, the district would have been forced to adopt a 0-percent tax levy increase and craft a new plan with some $800,000 less in spending than the one proposed.

Contractual obligations account for the majority of the budget’s increased costs. An increase of $332,000 in the cost of medical insurance for employees alone put the district’s levy increase over the tax cap.

Elizabeth Kotz and Melanie LaPointe count absentee ballots following the Bridgehampton School budget vote in the school's gymnasium on Tuesday, June 17. Photo by Michael Heller.

Elizabeth Kotz and Melanie LaPointe count absentee ballots following the Bridgehampton School budget vote in the school’s gymnasium on Tuesday, June 17. Photo by Michael Heller.

“It’s good that they didn’t have to go through that struggle of trying to figure out how to make the cuts that they would have had to face,” said Elizabeth Kotz, who served on the board this year when the budget was crafted but did not seek another term. “It would have been just terrible.” Ms. Kotz is the wife of Sag Harbor Express managing editor Stephen J. Kotz.

“We have some work to do in the very near future to begin strategizing on new and innovative ways to communicate to naysayers about how wonderful their school is,” Ronald White, president of the school board, said Wednesday. “We appreciate the super majority, as their answer was clear to pierce.”

“The current board has worked very diligently to cut costs and provide savings to our district,” he added.

After the results were read Tuesday, school board member Jennifer Vinski accounted the success to “the community at large that really kind of realized that this was serious business. There’s too much to lose.”

“We are grateful to the Bridgehampton community for their support on the second vote,” Dr. Lois Favre, superintendent/principal for the district, said in an email Wednesday, June 18. “We thank everyone who took the time to vote, and we look forward to continuing our good work on behalf of the students of Bridgehampton School, confident that we can continue to move forward with our goals for continual improvement.”

Pierson and the Ross School Win Big at the 12th Annual Teeny Awards

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Pierson High School students rehearse the final dance number of "A Chorus Line" in the high school auditorium January 26. Photo by Michael Heller.

Pierson High School students rehearse the final dance number of “A Chorus Line” in the high school auditorium January 26. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Up against 15 other competing high schools, Pierson High School and the Ross School took home 10 awards between them at the 12th Annual Teeny Awards ceremony at Longwood High School Sunday, June 8.

Hosted by East End Arts, the Teeny Awards recognize exceptional acting, directing and technical work in the theatre productions at local high schools. The 2013-2014 awards saw the entry of over 30 dramas, comedies and musicals, with more than 1,000 students involved in the casts, crews, pit and production teams.

“Whatever position you hold in a theatrical production–it is of the utmost importance,”  Teeny Awards Coordinator Anita Boyer said in a press release Sunday. “Each member of the troupe relies on the others in order to pull off a show and being a part of it is such a unique and incredible experience.”

 

Pierson High School

Before a crowd of past Teeny Award winners, theatre owners, local politicians and other distinguished guests, Pierson students performed the number “What I Did for Love” from “A Chorus Line,” warming up for what would be a long night of shaking hands and grabbing trophies.

Pierson took home one of the biggest awards of the night, winning “Best Ensemble” for its production of “A Chorus Line.”

The technical end of “A Chorus Line” was also featured in a heavy showing during the awards. Shelley Matthers was recognized for her role as stage manager and Shane Hennessy took home a technical design recognition award for his role in lighting design for ”A Chorus Line,” as well as Pierson’s other productions “A Murderer Among Us” and “The Fantasticks.”

Emily Selyukova was also recognized for technical design for her work as set designer and student director for “The Fantasticks.”

Emily and the entire cast of “The Fantasticks” took a Judges’ Choice Award home to Sag Harbor for their work as a student run and directed production.

The Lead Actress in a Drama award went to Rebecca Dwoskin of Pierson for her performance as Olga Buckley Lodge in “A Murderer Among Us.”

 

The Ross School

The Ross School also had a strong showing. Joannis “Yanni” Giannakopoulos was named best supporting actor in a drama for his performance as Scotty in “Median.”

Ross also earned best supporting actress in a drama, with Amili Targownik winning the award for her solo showing in “The One-and-a-Half-Year Silent Girl.”

The supporting actress in a comedy award resulted in a surprising tie, but the twist simply gave Ross School two awards instead of one; For their performances in “The Grand Scheme,” Daniela Herman, who played Bethel, and Naomi Tankel, who played Clarice, were honored.

Inga Cordts-Gorcoff was awarded a prize for her role as stage manager for “One Acts” at Ross.

Sag Harbor School Board Honors Retirees, Grants Tenure

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Retiree Bethany Deyermond is congratulated by school board member Mary Anne Miller while board vice president Chris Tice, president Theresa Samot, interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and board member David Diskin look on at the board of education meeting Monday, June 9.

Retiree Bethany Deyermond is congratulated by school board member Mary Anne Miller while board vice president Chris Tice, president Theresa Samot, interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and board member David Diskin look on at the board of education meeting Monday, June 9. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

At what many members of the Sag Harbor School Board call their favorite meeting of the year, the district recognized the contributions of seven retirees and granted tenure to five teachers Monday.

The retirees, interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso joked, have been in the district for some 20 to 200 years each.

“I’m speaking as a colleague of theirs, somebody who started in the school when all of them had already established careers,” Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone, who started as a teacher at the school, said of his teachers before a crowd of friends and family gathered in the Pierson library.

“From the minute I walked into the building, I could always look to these four ladies for guidance and support and for setting the benchmark of professionalism,” he added.

Art teacher Laurie Devito, Mr. Malone said, has worked for 31 years to “ensure that art has been an integral part of our school and the educational experience for all the boys and girls. When you enter our school, art is truly alive.”

Mr. Malone spoke of the commitment shown by third grade elementary school teacher Bethany Deyermond, who has been in the district for 29 years, to promoting the growth and success of her students.

“All the boys and girls who have had the good fortune to work with her have truly benefited from that experience,” he added.

Those who have been “lucky enough” to work with Nancy Stevens-Smith, the elementary school’s Response to Intervention (RTI) specialist, during her 33 years at the school have learned much under her direction, Mr. Malone said.

“Each year, Nancy guided her students, our school and our entire community to become more aware of the tremendous contributions of African-Americans throughout history and for that we are grateful,” Mr. Malone said.

School board member Sandi Kruel thanked all the retirees, saying she is privileged and honored they have all worked with at least one of her three sons.

When asked what he was grateful for on a school assignment, “my son was grateful for Martin Luther King because if it wasn’t for him, he wouldn’t have been able to have Ms. Stevens as a teacher,” Ms. Kruel added.

Retiree Nancy Remkus has served the district for 31 years, filling multiple roles as a classroom teacher, special education teacher and music teacher.

“The institution that we all call Morning Program started with Nancy’s encouragement and triumphed due to her talents and care,” Mr. Malone said. “Our school is going to continue starting each day with a song and we thank Nancy for that.”

Spanish teacher Rafaela Soto Messinger is also retiring from the elementary school, although she was not in attendance Monday.

Director of Pupil Personnel Services Barbara Bekermus honored longtime staff member Laurie Duran, senior clerk typist for the district.

“When I was going to take this job,” Ms. Bekermus said of her position. “I thought, well, at least I have Laurie to teach me this job and show me the ropes.”

“The directors came, they went, and the only constant has always been Laurie—and every director has relied on you to steer the ship and show them the way. I’m grateful that I had my first year with Laurie, because I could not have done it without you,” she added.

A special education teacher for 33 years, Peggy Mott has “worked with some of our most challenging students, not only academically, but emotionally,” Ms. Bekermus said, adding that Ms. Mott advocates for her students and many of them told Ms. Bekermus they never would have taken challenging courses, graduated and mapped out careers without the guidance of Ms. Mott.

Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols celebrated his friend and longtime colleague Douglas Doerr, a science teacher.

“The pride with which he approaches his position here at Pierson is the same pride and commitment that he shows with regard to his own kids and as a single father, I’ve watched his kids grow up and turn into wonderful, wonderful people,” Mr. Nichols said.

Also at Monday’s meeting, five teachers were nominated and unanimously approved for tenure. Teachers can be nominated for tenure after they’ve served three years in the district.

“The board treats—all of us treat—tenure very, very seriously,” Dr. Bonuso said. “It’s not something that we automatically dole out. We know how important the teaching act is.”

For grades seven through 12, Anthony Chase Mallia was awarded tenure for mathematics, Richard Schumacher for chemistry and Kelly Shaffer for French. Elizabeth Marchisella earned tenure for Visual Arts and school counselor Adam Mingione was granted tenure in his field.

“This is one of the many fun things we get to do as a board and we have many very talented staff throughout our buildings,” said Chris Tice, school board vice president.

“To me,” said Dr. Bonuso, “I think teaching is the most noble of all professions, so to have the ability to say thank you to people who have devoted their life to that is an honor.”

Second Budget Vote for the Bridgehampton School District is Tuesday, June 17

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By Tessa Raebeck

After its first budget vote failed to garner the 60 percent supermajority needed to pierce the state-mandated cap on property tax levy, the Bridgehampton School District has decided to bring an identical budget back to the public for a second vote on Tuesday, June 17, this time hoping to earn the support needed to keep the school’s programs and personnel in staff.

The Bridgehampton School Board has proposed a $12.3 million budget.

Administrators say the budget, which pierces the cap with a levy increase of $1.1 million, is necessary to keep the school strong and special. It fell short of a supermajority by 36 votes in the first vote May 20.

The vote is from 2 to 8 p.m. in the school gymnasium. If the budget fails to pass a second time, the district will have to draft a new budget with a 0-percent tax levy increase, requiring an additional $800,500 in spending cuts.

Those cuts, school board member Lillian Tyree-Johnson said, would be “devastating” to the district.

Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island Discovers History While Making It

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Students from the University of Minnesota look for artifacts during an archaeological dig at the Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island in June. Photo courtesy Sylvester Manor.

Students from the University of Minnesota look for artifacts during an archaeological dig at the Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island in June. Photo courtesy Sylvester Manor.

By Tessa Raebeck

“When I was growing up, Sylvester Manor was like a mystery to me,” Glenn Waddington said as he drove his truck through the manor grounds, passing by farms and field trips, stopping to reflect at a slave burial ground, eat a few snap peas with vegetable grower Mary Hillemeier and check in with a team of archaeology students digging through native American and Colonial artifacts in the garden.

As a kid, Mr. Waddington played on the outskirts of the plantation, then a private estate. Today, he serves on its board of directors and is witnessing a historic change of hand, as nearly all of the property is transferred from the family that’s owned the manor for 14 generations to the non-profit organization, Sylvester Manor Educational Farm.

Glenn Waddington in front of the new barn, currently being built by Pennsylvania mennonites, which will provide more space for the growing farms at Sylvester Manor Friday, June 6. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Glenn Waddington in front of the new barn, currently being built by Pennsylvania mennonites, which will provide more space for the growing farms at Sylvester Manor Friday, June 6. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

The first transfers occurred in 2012 and will be completed this summer. It is the vision of founder and special projects advisor Bennett Konesni, who convinced his uncle, Eben Fiske Ostby, the 14th Lord of the Manor according to tradition and now president of the new non-profit’s board of directors, to use the land as an educational farm.

That new use has many facets.

Farm manager Julia Trunzo and Ms. Hillemeier are leading a group of apprentices and WWOOFers, young people who are placed as volunteers on organic farms through the American branch of World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, in the season’s first harvest this week. The farm at Sylvester Manor sustains a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, a farmstand and supplies local restaurants with produce.

In addition to feeding the residents of Shelter Island, the educational farm also aims to entertain them. Ron Ickes and Trey Hensley are playing back-to-back bluegrass house concerts this Saturday, June 14. The theatre program, with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” opening July 19, is thriving under the direction of Samara Levenstein, who brought summer Shakespeare to Sylvester Manor several years ago.

With the events ongoing and the hustle and bustle of farm life a constant, Sylvester Manor keeps itself busy with its day-to-day operations.

But then, of course, there is the history.

Kat Hayes, who has done past archaeological digs at the manor and has written several publications on the site’s deep anthropological history, returned this summer for a field study project with a team of students from the University of Minnesota.

“This is a very, very rich site, there’s a lot of material,” Ms. Hayes said Friday, adding that her crew is finding multiple artifacts daily.

Professor and Anthropologist Kat Hayes is leading a group of University of Minnesota students in an archaeological dig at Sylvester Manor. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Professor and Anthropologist Kat Hayes is leading a group of University of Minnesota students in an archaeological dig at Sylvester Manor. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

The archaeologists are digging through the site that has been the plantation’s garden since Nathaniel Sylvester first purchased it in 1651. Two small pits at the outskirts of a 2 by 2 meter unit have already yielded eight bags of artifacts.

Whereas in other corners of the garden digs have only garnered a single bag, in this particular spot the artifacts are plentiful, offering glimpses of insight into the land’s memories. The team has found metals such as nails and hinges, glass from bottles, lots of animal bone, primarily from domestic livestock, brick, mortar and other destruction debris from when the original plantation structures were demolished, and much more.

“These are ceramics,” Ms. Hayes said, holding up a bag. “I like this one in particular, because it’s dull, but it’s got this apple green glaze that’s pretty typical of Dutch ceramics.”

The first lord of the manor, Nathaniel Sylvester, grew up in Amsterdam. He, his brother and two other partners bought the island in 1651 to use as a provisioning plantation because they had two sugar plantations in Barbados and needed supplies.

“They didn’t spend a whole lot of time raising food in Barbados because the sugar was worth much more,” Ms. Hayes said. “So, this was supposed to be the place that provisioned meat, crops — orchard crops and grain crops — any other kinds of stuff that they would import and then ship down to Barbados.”

It operated in that fashion for some time, with Nathaniel and his wife the only partners who actually lived on the plantation.

“We know from his will that he claimed to own 23 people as his enslaved labor force,” Ms. Hayes said of Nathaniel. “But, one of the things that we discovered when we were digging here is the degree of native involvement in the plantation.”

She estimates some of the finds date back to the native Manhasset from up to 1500 to 2000 years ago, but others were made and discarded in the garden right alongside colonial Dutch ceramics.

“There’s an awful lot of material from right within the plantation context, those same deposits that’s traditional native pottery making, stone tool making and they were making wampum,” she added.

A University of Minnesota student sifts through the dirt in the garden at Sylvester Manor Friday. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

A University of Minnesota student sifts through the dirt in the garden at Sylvester Manor Friday. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Finding wampum gives Ms. Hayes an idea of why Nathaniel’s native labor force was undocumented in archival records.

“It may have been kind of a personal sideline for Nathaniel,” she said, “to have this extra source of income without having to tell his partners that it was happening. That’s just my guess. It’s one of those things that only shows up in the archaeology and not in the historical records.”

The archaeology, yielding everything from pottery to clothespins to animal bones, allows the history to go beyond the books, showing hidden elements like what people were eating and what kind of clothes they wore.

Ms. Hayes and her team have also done ground penetrating radar surveys in the “Burial Ground for Colored People of the Manor,” a slave burial ground dating from the 17th century. With upwards of 200 unnamed bodies, the eerie graveyard is near the entrance to the grounds, marked only by a plaque and dilapidated fence.

In the surveys, an antenna, pulled across the ground, emits radar waves into the subsoil, reflecting those waves back up to be interpreted.

“It gives you a profile picture of what’s underground,” Ms. Hayes said, adding, “It’s something that is really valuable, especially when you’re working in a burial ground…it’s a good middle ground of learning what’s there without disturbing it.”

Vegetable Grower Mary Hillemeier on the farm at Sylvester Manor Friday, June 6. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Vegetable Grower Mary Hillemeier on the farm at Sylvester Manor Friday, June 6. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Students from Laurie DeVito's 4th grade art class at Sag Harbor Elementary School tour the farm during a field trip to Sylvester Manor Friday, June 6. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Students from Laurie DeVito’s 4th grade art class at Sag Harbor Elementary School tour the farm during a field trip to Sylvester Manor Friday, June 6. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Bridgehampton School Ranked as One of the Country’s Best High Schools by U.S. News & World Report

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Bridgehampton School students Aries Cooks and Tyler Stephens worked with teachers Jessica Rodgers and Joyce Raimondo to complete a mural in the school's cafeteria last June. Photo by Michael Heller.

Bridgehampton School students Aries Cooks and Tyler Stephens worked with teachers Jessica Rodgers and Joyce Raimondo to complete a mural in the school’s cafeteria last June. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Bridgehampton School has earned a spot on the annual ranking of the Best High Schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Out of 19,411 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia, Bridgehampton was awarded a bronze medal, securing its spot on the list. Schools were eligible for the rankings if they had sufficient data and enrollment, which resulted in about two-thirds of the nation’s schools being judged.

They were assessed in a three-step process that took into account: performance on state tests compared to state averages and factoring in economically disadvantaged students; whether the school’s least-advantaged students—black, Hispanic and low-income—were performing better than average than similar students across the state; and college-readiness performance using data from Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) tests (not available for Bridgehampton).

The total minority enrollment at Bridgehampton School is 67 percent.

The school scored a math proficiency of 3.2 and an English proficiency of 3.6. By comparison, the number one high school in the country, the School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas, Texas, scored 3.8 in geometry proficiency and 3.6 in reading proficiency.

With 31 teachers and 159 students in pre-K through 12th grade, Bridgehampton has one of the lowest student/teacher ratios, 5:1. The ratio at Pierson Middle-High School in Sag Harbor is 9:1, East Hampton and Southampton both have a 10:1 ratio and Hampton Bays’ ratio is 14:1.

The only other East End school district to be awarded a medal and spot on the list is Greenport, which earned Silver. The district’s numbered ranking, available for Gold and Silver award-winners but not Bronze, is 121 in New York State and 1,525 in the country.

The complete list of the 2014 Best High Schools is at usnews.com/education/best-high-schools.

UPDATE: Sag Harbor Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio Expected to Resign

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Sag Harbor Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio is expected to resign at the end of the current school year, which formally ends July 1. Photo by Amanda Wyatt.

Sag Harbor Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio is expected to resign at the end of the current school year, which formally ends July 1. Photo by Amanda Wyatt.

By Tessa Raebeck

A source in the Sag Harbor School District confirmed last week that Todd Gulluscio is expected to resign from his position as athletic director for the district by the end of the current school year.

Mr. Gulluscio has declined to comment, other than to say he left the district on good terms. Other sources in the district likewise confirmed there is no ill will involved in his decision.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso said Wednesday, June 11, that Mr. Gulluscio has not submitted his official resignation yet but he expects a formal announcement on the decision will be made within days.

“We will have official word very shortly of the opportunity that has presented itself to Todd,” Dr. Bonuso said.

Although there is not yet confirmation, it is rumored that Mr. Gulluscio is relocating to the Shelter Island School District, where his family lives and where his wife is a teacher.

“It seems that there is a real good possibility for him that he may very well avail of himself,” Dr. Bonuso said. “But that can only happen if there is something far more formal and official that needs to be done.”

“So, he’s trying to be very good about not putting out any unofficial word or anything that has not been confirmed or affirmed, but because he wants to keep us out in front of what is a very likely possibility at this point he passed along unofficial word, just so we can prepare ourselves should it happen,” the interim superintendent added.

Mr. Gulluscio, a native of Shelter Island, joined Sag Harbor in January 2013. He took the position previously held by Montgomery Granger, who served in a joint position as director of athletics, health and physical education, as well as supervisor of facilities and grounds, from 2009.

Mr. Granger stayed on as director of buildings and grounds after Mr. Gulluscio’s appointment to a newly created position of director of athletics, physical education, health, wellness and personnel.

Before Mr. Granger, the district struggled to fill the void left by Nick DeCillis, who was athletic director from 1995 to 2007. Wayne Shierant, Bill Madsen, Mike Burns and Dan Nolan all held the position in the interim, making Mr. Gulluscio the sixth athletic director since Mr. DeCillis.

Prior to coming to Sag Harbor, Mr. Gulluscio worked in the Greenport School District for over seven years, the last two and a half years as its athletic director.

Pierson has seen much success in its athletic programs under the guidance of Mr. Gulluscio, with the field hockey team winning the state championship in the fall and the baseball and softball teams winning their respective Class C New York State Regional Finals Saturday, June 7, for the second year in a row.

“I think he’s done a remarkable job and I think just about everybody who has had the opportunity and privilege of watching him do his job would have the same sentiment,” Dr. Bonuso said. “But again, we want him to do what is best, obviously, for him and his family. I know how committed he is to this school family, but I guess sometimes you need to do what you need to do.”

Bridgehampton Student Harriet DeGroot Receives Chemistry Award

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Bridgehampton School tenth grader Harriet DeGroot was nominated by teacher Helen Wolfe for Outstanding Scholastic Achievement in High School Chemistry and received the award from the New York Chemical Society’s Long Island Subsection. Photo courtesy Bridgehampton School.

Bridgehampton School tenth grader Harriet DeGroot was nominated by teacher Helen Wolfe for Outstanding Scholastic Achievement in High School Chemistry and received the award from the New York Chemical Society’s Long Island Subsection. Photo courtesy Bridgehampton School.

By Tessa Raebeck

Harriet DeGroot, a tenth grader at the Bridgehampton School, received the New York American Chemical Society award for Outstanding Scholastic Achievement in High School Chemistry for 2014. Nominated by Helen Wolfe, her science teacher at Bridgehampton,  Ms. DeGroot was chosen for the award, which recognizes the best high school chemistry students at each high school in Nassau, Suffolk and Queens Counties. She received the award from the New York Chemical Society’s Long Island Subsection.

 

Hoping to Save Programs, Bridgehampton School Will Bring Budget to Voters a Second Time June 17

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Bridgehampton school personnel say extracurricular activities (like the community garden, pictured above) are what makes Bridgehampton School special and are worth piercing the tax cap. Photo by Michael Heller.

Bridgehampton school personnel say extracurricular activities (like the community garden, pictured above) are what makes Bridgehampton School special and are worth piercing the tax cap. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

After its budget fell short of approval by just 36 votes, the Bridgehampton Board of Education agreed last Wednesday, May 28, to present the same $12.3 million budget to the community for a second vote on June 17.

The 2014-15 budget, a 9.93-percent or $1.1 million increase over last year’s due largely to contractual obligations, required a supermajority of 60 percent because it pierced the state-mandated tax levy cap. With just 247 residents casting ballots, it came in short at just above 54 percent with 134 yes votes and 113 no votes.

“Certainly, while the support of the budget was positive, it wasn’t quite positive enough to get us to be able to pierce the levy limits,” said Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre. “In planning the budget, the board considered all possible scenarios. With community support, it decided the only way to move forward successfully was to pierce the cap.”
Members of the school board were optimistic they will see a larger, more supportive turnout June 17.

“I think it’s a learning experience,” BOE president Ronnie White said. “Maybe we should go back to the drawing board and try to get some of the folks, the naysayers, and really educate them on the actual numbers.”

Lillian Tyree-Johnson, a school board member since 2009, sent out an email May 21, the morning after the budget’s defeat, to her personal contacts with an attachment of Bridgehampton’s registered voters, whether they had voted in 2008 and 2009 (when Ms. Tyree-Johnson ran for the board and began keeping a tally of voters in an effort to mobilize them) and whether she thought they would vote yes or no.

Two days later on May 23, Ms. Tyree-Johnson sent a follow-up email with another spreadsheet, this time not including her thoughts on how people would vote.

“We just didn’t realize that it was going to be controversial,” she said in a phone conversation Tuesday about her decision to mark how she believed people would vote. “Some of our people that do really support us just get a little complacent and we don’t push so hard.”

Ms. Tyree-Johnson said her intention was not to target people, but merely to rally supporters to encourage people they knew who were on the list and did not vote to come out June 17.

“I did not send a list of parents trying to shame anybody, because for sure I don’t think you get anywhere with shaming everybody,” she said. “I’ve just been trying to encourage people who love it, who love this school.”

Mr. White said Wednesday the board never discussed the email collectively, adding that the list of registered voters is public information available under the Freedom of Information Law.

“Above and beyond being on the board, she’s a patron of the community,” Mr. White said of Ms. Tyree-Johnson. “So, whatever it is that she wishes to do to help our district out—I think she’s communicated with counsel to make sure the things she was doing were legit and legal, and it appears that there was no breach of any kind of confidential information.”

Ms. Tyree-Johnson wrote in the email that should the budget fail a second time, “The cuts that will have to be made are devastating.”

If the budget fails again, the district will be required to draft a new budget with a 0-percent tax levy increase, which would require an additional $800,500 in spending to be cut.

Dr. Favre sent out a letter to members of the Bridgehampton School community outlining some of those losses.

“The list is horrifying,” said board member Jennifer Vinski. “It would be devastating to our school and most importantly our children.”

Those cuts would include disbanding the pre-kindergarten classes for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“That’s a huge loss to me, because I think that’s what makes our school so special,” Ms. Tyree-Johnson said Tuesday, “especially for a school district where there’s a lot of lower income [families], because they can’t afford to send their kids to a private nursery or a pre-K program.”

A defeat would also require the district to cut its after-school programs, driver’s education, extracurricular clubs, drama program, field trips, swimming program, all summer programming (Young Farmers Initiative, Jump Start, drama program), Arts in Education and Character Education Programming, any increases in technology and updates to music equipment, the Virtual Enterprise program and internships, vocational education opportunities for students through BOCES, newsletters and printed communication and several teacher/aide/staff positions, among others.

Staff development programs mandated by many new state educational initiatives, summer guidance and library materials would also need to be reduced.

The proposed budget would enact a $10.6 million tax levy, an 8.8-percent increase from the current school year’s. For a homeowner of a $500,000 house, the annual tax bill would be increased by approximately $56 a year.

The second budget vote is June 17 from 2 to 8 p.m. in the Bridgehampton School gymnasium.