WELCOME GUEST  |  LOG IN
clubhouse, east hampton, indoor, tennis, cornhole, bar, happy hour, bowling, mini golf
27east.com

Story - News

May 13, 2009 9:54 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tension brewing prior to School Board elections in Bridgehampton

May 13, 2009 9:54 AM

The tension is getting thick in Bridgehampton.

In the days leading up to the May 19 election of three members of the Bridgehampton School Board, the nagging question of whether to close the district’s high school and send its students to one of three surrounding districts—East Hampton, Sag Harbor or Southampton—has been back on the lips and minds of many residents.

And as expected, the issue dominated discussion among the seven candidates attending the Bridgehampton School’s Meet the Candidates night on Monday. Even when questions did not center specifically on the subject—such as when the candidates were asked whether they see opportunities for shared services with other districts—many candidates brought the discussion back to whether or not the high school should be closed.

The frequent referrals led moderator Bryan Boyhan, editor and publisher of The Sag Harbor Express, to remind candidates to stay on point more than once.

And there were frequent applause breaks throughout the evening from the approximately 70 people who attended the event. The support came for those candidates who pledged to keep the high school open if elected—Lillian Tyree-Johnson, Doug DeGroot, Ron White, and current School Board President Jim Walker—and for those who vow to look into sending the district’s high school students to surrounding schools—Joe Conti, Nathan Ludlow and Laurie Gordon.

At the center of the debate is the quality of education currently being provided to the students at Bridgehampton High School, and whether or not taxpayers would save money by sending the students to other districts. Both sides say they have facts and figures on test scores, cost projections and studies done on how students fare at smaller schools versus larger schools in order to support their stances. While a study completed last year, at the request of the School Board and by Mr. DeGroot’s wife, Kathryn DeGroot, determined that it would cost more money to send the high school students to different districts, Mr. Conti, Mr. Ludlow and Ms. Gordon are calling for an additional study—completed by an independent contractor—to be done.

Even the students themselves have gotten involved in the debate.

At Monday evening’s event, all of the approximately 25 students who attended had buttons adorning their clothes that read: “We [heart] our school, ask us why.” Those buttons were available at a table outside the gymnasium, where the event was held, though no one seemed to know where they had come from. And a flier being circulated among parents and students has several students quoted on it explaining why they want Bridgehampton High School to remain open. The flier also did not have anything on it that would identify its author.

A website, welovebhs.com, created by Alejandro Valdecasas, and a blog, which was created anonymously, have also been discussed throughout the community in recent weeks. The blog, people4bhs.blogspot.com, was shut down earlier this month. In the closing post titled “When you gotto go ... you gotta go!” the author noted that it had come to his or her attention that the blog had been “pissing people off.”

After the Meet the Candidates event was over on Monday, students went up to the candidates to talk about the issues. They spoke passionately about why the high school should stay open.

“I don’t think they have enough of the kids’ opinions,” said 14-year-old Ciena Quinn, a ninth-grader, referring to a reference Mr. Conti made to a recent poll of students that asked what they thought about the school. Mr. Conti said the students said they wished they had more clubs and activities and a larger variety of subjects, things he and his running mates argue could be achieved by sending them to a larger high school.

Another student, 15-year-old Ben McLaughlin, said he loved having small classes. “You can actually learn what you want to learn,” he said. “It’s much better.”

The contentious nature of the debate, which has been raging off and on for several years, has even prompted Mr. Conti, Mr. Ludlow and Ms. Gordon to request poll watchers, who will oversee the counting of the ballots after Tuesday’s election is over. That request did not go unnoticed by at least one other candidate, Ms. Tyree-Johnson, at the board meeting held after the Meet the Candidates night.

“I feel no need to have anyone looking out for me,” she said while the board evaluated the trio’s request. Ultimately, the board opted not to approve two of the seven people who had been nominated to serve as poll watchers: Barbara Conti, Mr. Conti’s wife, and Kenneth Johnson, who is married to Ms. Gordon.

While the prospect of closing the high school, which currently has 61 students, has been raised several times over the years, its most recent incarnation was floated by School Board member Joseph Berhalter immediately prior to last year’s board election, during which Mr. Conti lost his bid for reelection. He was one of the people who signed Mr. Berhalter’s petition, which sought to place a measure on the upcoming ballot to “make Bridgehampton a pre-K to 8, and phase out the high school starting with this year’s eighth grade.”

1  |  2  >>  

You've read 1 of 7 free articles this month.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

If you tuition out the grades 9-12, you still have to pay for the building and all its maintenance and insurance, right? You still have to pay the Superintendent her fat salary, correct? You still have to maintain some of the teachers because they are the same ones to teach grades 7-8, no? A school district still needs administrative/support staff for tasks like payroll, purchasing, district clerk, etc, etc., agreed?
So an INTELLIGENT financial mind would see that it is not a simple division ...more
By cat (18), Riverhead on May 13, 09 7:48 AM
If you tuition out the grades 9-12, you still have to pay for the building and all its maintenance and insurance, right? You still have to pay the Superintendent her fat salary, correct? You still have to maintain some of the teachers because they are the same ones to teach grades 7-8, no? A school district still needs administrative/support staff for tasks like payroll, purchasing, district clerk, etc, etc., agreed?
So an INTELLIGENT financial mind would see that it is not a simple division ...more
By cat (18), Riverhead on May 13, 09 7:48 AM
^why not tuition out all the grades?
By C Law (349), Water Mill on May 13, 09 10:05 AM
"a reference Mr. Conti made to a recent poll of students... asked what they thought about the school..."

This poll he refered to was actually NOT a recent poll, but was done three years ago. The strategic planning council had distributed a survey to students, teachers, parents and stakeholders of BHS. The survey had many, many questions. (It was rather grueling and not the best survey, to be honest). The survey was meant to help evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the school. It ...more
By Karen (4), Bridgehampton on May 13, 09 10:12 AM
I agree with cat. there are FIXED costs which will not go away so the $70,000 per student is not an accurate representation of the actual cost. The cost to tuition out a student might be around $25,000, but if a student has special needs, that number could be double or more. And of course that number can only rise every year (plus voters have no say on how the other school district runs).Only a handful of teachers would lose their positions, so that is not a huge savings. There will be an influx ...more
By tuffy (4), Bridgehampton on May 13, 09 10:41 AM
Well thank you tuffy. I agree with your comments about getting more children into the school instead of getting rid of the ones that are there.

Oh and I must say how appalled I was at Mr. Conti's remark about "an event he went to" last week. It was not an "event". It was our children honoring and mourning their friend. As I have said in past posts, if they do not get elected onto the BOE we will not see them again. Maybe next year when Mr. Berhahter is up for reelection.

And ...more
By momofthree (7), Bridgehampton on May 13, 09 10:57 AM
Ms. Gordon SInce you have been shown that the students at BHS are achieving high marks on test scores that are as competitive as the neighboring schools that you seem to want to farm the BHS kids out to why is it you still refuse to enroll your kids while continuing to profess your preference for public school education. Could it be that its not the academics but the wonderfully diverse racial mix that makes up the student body at BHS that scares you into trying to get your kids in anywhere besides ...more
By South of the Highway (2), Bridgehampton on May 13, 09 5:36 PM
I am insulted by your comment where and if they go to college. I know from the last three years most all of the graduating classes have gone onto college. and I know of quite a few seniors now who are going to college. I doesn't matter where!!!!! Unless you can pay the high tuition for my child to go to an expensive college then by all means let me know and I will gladly take your charity. I also know some kids that went to Ross and they flunked out of College because they couldn't take the ...more
By momofthree (7), Bridgehampton on May 13, 09 6:23 PM
iI find it hard to believe that the candidates spouting "better education" are doing this crap to our kids. They are in the final month of school, looking at testing, regents etc. and now have to worry about their school closing again. Having wasted $25,000 plus last year on this same issue to have to dismissed as moot does nothing? These interlopers should go back to where they came and leave is "locals" alone. We will prevail!!!
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on May 13, 09 7:33 PM
seems that BHS is looking to hire a combined superintendent/business administrator. Could this be a cost-cutting measure?
By cat (18), Riverhead on May 14, 09 12:01 PM
southamptonfest, hamptons funraiser, southampton rotary