Tag Archive | "Elizabeth Kotz"

Bridgehampton School Eyes Shared Transportation Services

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School districts across New York State were sent reeling after the New York State Legislature adopted Governor Andrew Cuomo’s two percent cap on the property tax levy. The new law restricts school districts and municipalities alike in how much they can raise spending each year.

However, there were some concessions made within that bill to attempt to ease the burden, including one that allows school districts to share transportation services. This week, the Bridgehampton School began considering just that.

During a school board meeting last Wednesday, business administrator Robert Hauser informed the school board that they have the ability to go out to bid for the 2012-2013 school year for transportation services.

Hauser said BOCES has suggested the district hire a consultant to look at what kind of contract would best benefit the school district. He noted that the East Hampton, Sag Harbor and Southampton school districts own their own buses and Bridgehampton is now allowed to contract directly with those schools for transportation.

“Nothing is preventing us from at least opening a dialogue with the Southampton School District,” said Hauser, noting Bridgehampton could contract with them to transport district children who attend The Ross School, for example, instead of paying the $50,000 the district does now to provide that bus route. The same could be done with East Hampton.

Bridgehampton School spends about $53,000 annually for a bus to take about nine students to Our Lady of the Hamptons, said Hauser, noting East Hampton and Southampton already provide buses to the Southampton-based, private Catholic school.

“When you think about it, for those school districts, they are already covering the fixed costs so anything we can offer them would be extra,” said Hauser.

Board president Nicki Hemby wondered if the district could assign a bus stop for those pickups.

Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre suggested the board consider hosting a workshop on transportation to strategize for the future.

Shakespeare at Bridgehampton

If Josh Perl gets his way, next summer East End residents will be treated to two weeks of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on the expansive lawn behind the Bridgehampton School. In Perl’s vision, the lawn would be transformed into festival grounds in celebration of the pageantry that historically coincided with the mounting of the great poet and playwright’s productions.

Last Wednesday, Perl made his pitch to the Bridgehampton School Board.

The founder and director of the Hamptons Independent Theater Festival asked the board if his not-for-profit theatre company could set up shop on the school’s grounds for three weeks in August. During that time, the company would host a theatre camp for children and stage about a dozen performances of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” said Perl.

The company would have a suggested donation of $20 for the performances, although Perl stressed it is his mission to make theatre accessible for all, and those who could not pay the donation would be welcomed with open arms.

The camp, however, would have to charge for students to attend.

In addition to using the rear of the school grounds, Perl also asked for the use of the school’s restrooms and two classrooms to be used as the actor’s dressing rooms.

Perl noted there could be an opportunity for Bridgehampton students to participate in the production, or at the very least in the festivities planned prior to the show.

Dr. Favre suggested Perl fill out a building use form, and that the board would then discuss the concept in earnest, including whether or not the district could waive grounds fees for the theatre company.

In other news, Dr. Favre reported that the district’s new ASPIRE (After School Program of Inquiry, Research and Enrichment) program is an enormous success in its first 10-week session.

The daily after-school program for elementary school students offers an interdisciplinary approach to one subject during each 10-week session.

While Dr. Favre originally expected between 15 to 20 students, it quickly grew to host 40 students, she said.

Teachers like David Elliot and Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz have actually donated their time to the program at no cost to the district, said Dr. Favre.

Elliot said the program was “evolving” and credited Bridgehampton principal Jack Pryor for administrating the program, and Dr. Favre for conceiving the idea of bringing ASPIRE to Bridgehampton.

After school, students are studying their subject – bugs in this first session – in the library and in the greenhouse, with physical activity mixed into the curriculum, said Elliot.

“We are feeding bodies and minds,” he said.

Bridgehampton School Names New Superintendent

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By Kathryn G. Menu

This week, the Bridgehampton Board of Education announced that Dr. Lois R. Favre will take the helm at the Bridgehampton School this August when Superintendent Dr. Dianne Youngblood retires.

Dr. Favre will be formally presented to the Bridgehampton community at a school board work session Wednesday night, where it is expected the board will pass a resolution naming her the new superintendent. She will begin her work in the district as Deputy Superintendent on July 1, officially taking the reins from Dr. Youngblood on August 3.

“We really felt like she was the perfect fit for the Bridgehampton School,” said school board president Elizabeth Kotz on Tuesday. “She understands our smaller learning community and the emphasis on individual learning styles.”

After Dr. Youngblood announced her retirement last summer, the school board hired School Leadership, LLC, the same firm the Sag Harbor School District employed to find its Superintendent Dr. John Gratto over two years ago. According to an announcement sent in Spanish and English to members of the Bridgehampton community, School Leadership, LLC used surveys, interviews, meetings and forums with the community, teachers and students to discern what qualities the new superintendent should have.

On Tuesday, Kotz said 53 candidates submitted resumes for the position, although citing privacy, decline to say how many became finalists for the superintendent position.

“In making its decision, the board sought a proven communicator with leadership skills in short and long-range planning, finance and budgeting, a solid foundation in human resource administration, and the ability to work effectively with a board of education,” the school board said in a written statement. “Dr. Favre has been an educator, has a broad K-12 understanding and is an experienced, hands-on administrator who will be visible at school and community events and is willing to make a long-term commitment to this vital leadership role.”

Prior to Superintendent Dr. Theodore Grocki, who was hired in 2001 and groomed Dr. Youngblood before she took the superintendent’s position in 2003, the Bridgehampton School had five superintendents over the course of five years. At a community forum in January, district residents asked the board to choose a superintendent who not only understood the close-knit nature of the Bridgehampton community, but would also stay with the district for at least five years.

Dr. Favre was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ladycliff College in Highland Falls, New York before earning her Master’s degree in special education from Mount St. Mary’s College in Newburgh, New York. She received a Doctorate in Instructional Leadership from St. John’s University, earning Best Doctoral Dissertation at St. John’s University and with the International Learning Styles Board in 2003.

Before joining the Lakeland Central School District in 2005 – where she was named Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Curriculum in 2006 – Dr. Favre spent four years at Monroe-Woodbury Central School District as Director of Pupil Personnel Services for Special Education. During her tenure in the Lakeland Central School, that district was designated a Demonstration School District of Excellence for its work with Learning Styles, an educational focus of Dr. Favre’s that Kotz said appealed to the Bridgehampton School.

Published in several educational journals over the last decade, Dr. Favre also publishes a monthly article for the website Learning Disabilities Worldwide. She remains active as a member of the board of directors of The International Learning Styles Conference.

“Dr. Favre is a strong advocate and supporter of students, staff, families, community agencies, and parent teacher organizations,” said the board of education in its statement. “Her insight regarding student learning and her ability to assist in bringing quality enrichment programs to Bridgehampton School will be invaluable.”

On Tuesday, Kotz said the staff and faculty of the Bridgehampton School was informed of the board’s decision that morning and the response was positive. The board of education, she added, was “100 percent unified” in the decision to hire Dr. Favre.

“She will be able to keep the momentum going, keep us moving forward with the kind of programming Dr. Youngblood began,” said Kotz. “It will be a seamless, beautiful transition.”



Raise for Bridgehampton Superintendent and Principal

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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.”

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.

 

Commissioner Nixes Bid to Close Bridgehampton School

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By Marianna Levine

With three seats available that could ultimately have a dramatic effect on the direction of the Bridgehampton Board of Education, the board majority was relieved this week to learn an appeal to allow a vote on closing the high school was denied by the state’s commissioner of education.

The proposal was originally floated by current board member Joe Berhalter and former board member Joe Conti, and would have seen the district close the upper grades beginning this year.

In a vote last year, the board denied the proposal for this year’s ballot saying, in essence, the proposal failed to give voters enough financial information to make an informed decision.

In his decision released this week, commissioner Richard P. Mills, responding to an appeal from the two men, upheld the school board’s decision, and added the timing of the vote would have made it impossible to effectively make the changes at the school, and ultimately indicated the ballot would have asked voters to decide on something they were not empowered to.

“I think everyone is looking forward to just moving on,” said board voce president Elizabeth Kotz on Wednesday. “It’s been hanging over our heads.”

Board president James Walker agreed: “It’s good to have this behind us. Everyone on the board is very pleased with the decision.”

Walker’s is one of the three seats available on the board this May, and he is the only one who so far who has committed to running for re-election.

“I have seen some excellent progress going on at the school, and want it to continue,” he said Wednesday. “I want the school to continue to provide a better education for students in our district and perhaps other communities as well.”

The two other sitting members, Rick Delano and Sue Hiscock, have decided not to run again.

Hiscock states, “I have done nine years on the board, many of them as president and vice president so I am not going to run again. Let’s get some other parents involved.”

Delano has been kept out of town on business too much recently to feel he can devote a proper amount of time to serving on the school board. He explains, “my travel schedule has gotten so crazy that I am not participating at the level I should, so I have decided not to run for a second term.”

Delano further recounts that he ran in 2006 for three reasons, “First it came to my attention that the district was carrying forward a very large unused fund balance whose size and lack of public disclosure was a serious impediment to the community’s continued trust. Second, I felt my experience in education reform around the country could be useful in our community’s school. Third, I wanted to get to know my community better.” 

He feels after three years on the board that the district’s finances are now transparent enough, and that he is more connected to the community. He adds, “I hope to be invited to continue to serve the school in other ways.”

When asked what advice he would give those seeking a place on the school board this year, he joked, “don’t do it for the money!”  And then more seriously added, “and don’t do it with a particularly narrow agenda in mind.”  Instead, he emphasized one should have a desire to improve the quality of the district’s educational and social outcomes.

Joyce Crews Manigo, the Bridgehampton district clerk, said no one else has yet picked up a petition to run for the board. Petitions are due back at the school office by April 17 for the May 19 election.