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Bridgehampton Students Present Virtual Clothing Brand to School Board

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By Tessa Raebeck

They have formulated a business plan, gotten their taxes in order, and are busy preparing for a trade show — and they got it all done before the bell rang.

“I cannot tell you how impressed I was by them,” said Dr. Carrie McDermott, a teacher at Bridgehampton School, of her Virtual Enterprise (VE) class.

The group of high school juniors and seniors presented their virtual business to the board of education at their meeting October 30.

Currently in its first year in Bridgehampton, the Virtual Enterprises International Program is “an in-school entrepreneurship program and global business simulation that draws on the European tradition of apprenticeships, transforming students into business executives and classrooms into office settings,” according to its brochure. The teacher’s primary responsibility is to guide the students, rather than lecture them, and advise the class in the creation of a simulated global business, which they then market to other student groups.

“The nice thing about it is the students really are working on their own,” said Dr. McDermott, adding that the exploratory learning curriculum is reflective of New York State’s Common Core. “It gives them the ability to really be successful because they have to search within themselves to find out what it is they need to do.”

The students presented their brand, a clothing line featuring Bridgehampton’s zip code, to the board and outlined the development process.

“We decided we’re going to do clothing because clothing is a necessity and also we like to believe that we have fashion sense,” explained Henry Kotz, a senior at Bridgehampton and the company’s chief executive officer (CEO).

Although the brand is marketed to young adults, “we don’t mind if you’re 65 or you’re eight, if you want to buy a t-shirt, you can buy a t-shirt,” Kotz told the audience. The CEO said although all products and currency are at present virtual, the group intends to create a real life business from their class brand.

Vice President of Human Resources Hayley Lund said the group has had the help of business professionals from the outside community.

“In order to get the positions that we have,” continued chief financial officer (CFO) Tatyana Dawson, Dr. McDermott “had three mentors from the community come in and interview us.”

The students have learned the skills necessary for their respective positions.

“I learned how to do payroll, I do taxes, I learned how to do the 401K, I’m learning to do the break-even analysis,” said Jada Pinckney, a junior who serves as director of accounting.

“I handle all the marketing aspects, the sales, as well as the events,” said India Hemby, the chief technology officer, adding that the students have been to networking events, have a business plan due in December and will attend a mini trade show in New York City in January.

Anajae Lamb, vice president of marketing and sales, said that 25 percent of the group’s raised virtual funds must come from other VE programs, while the other 75 percent can come from the wider community.

Devin Brevard acts as the marketing, advertising and sales director and “everyone” serves as a sales associate.

“If you take AP government politics,” concluded Kotz. “That’s a great class, you learn a lot, but you’re really just reading a book and taking a test. With this class, it’s all hands-on — it’s not Dr. McDermott lecturing in front of a classroom, this is a business plan.”

The class thanked Dr. McDermott and passed out flyers to members of the audience, encouraging them to “virtually” buy a t-shirt.

“I want this t-shirt,” said Lillian Tyree-Johnson, a member of the school board. “I don’t know who came up with the concept, but it’s completely brilliant. Seriously, my mouth is wide open.”

Dr. Lois Favre, superintendent and principal at Bridgehampton, said as the district moves more toward the Common Core standards, more classes will resemble the hands-on learning of the VE curriculum.

“That’s what’s required in the Common Core,” Dr. Favre said. “That students learn to read and write and speak with a real purpose.”

As part of Board Appreciation Week, the district administrators supplied those in attendance with a complimentary pasta dinner and the Parents Teachers Organization provided a carrot cake that board president Ronnie White confirmed was “very delicious.”

The school board accepted a $1,000 donation from The Bridgehampton School Foundation, as part of an award received from the 2013 Town of Southampton Human Services/Cultural Arts and Recreation Grant to be used for supplies for the District’s afterschool ASPIRE program.

A $2,200 donation from The Bridgehampton School Foundation that covered a presentation on etiquette given to the student body by Catherine Arcure of Manhattan Manners was also accepted.

Bob Hauser, school business administrator, updated the board on the continued safety and facilities improvements around the school. Recent updates include seven new door locks, the placement of identification stickers on every classroom and office window, and the installation of hardware for a new access card system, which is currently being implemented. Three new SmartBoards have also been installed around the school.

On September 24, the district completed its Tax Anticipation Note (TAN).

“The tax rate, which is the amount that the taxes are going up on a resident’s tax bill is actually going down one percent,” explained Hauser. “Bridgehampton had $181 million dollars in new assessed valuation.”

Due to this increase in the hamlet’s assessed value, said Hauser, a $300,000 assessed home in Bridgehampton will see its school district taxes go down by about $5.

Originally scheduled for November 13, the next school board meeting will instead be held November 20 at 7 p.m. in the Bridgehampton School cafeteria.