In an effort to make their tuition more competitive for out of district pre-kindergarten students, the Bridgehampton School Board debated and then adopted more affordable rates.
On Monday, July 7, during a re-organizational meeting, board vice president Elizabeth Kotz broached the issue as the board considered tuition rates as a whole for the 2008-09 school year. Kotz laid out a plan that entailed charging pre-kindergarten students $4,000 for the full day program, $2,500 half-day. Originally, it had been proposed that the district adopt a tuition schedule of $7,500 for a full day and $4,000 for a half day.
School board president James Walker, seeming amenable to the reduction, noted that the Stella Maris Regional School charges $5,000 for non parish members for a full day, the Country School charges $7,100 and Our Lady of the Hamptons charges $4,200.
While superintendent Dr. Dianne Youngblood noted only four students have signed up for the full day program as of Monday’s meeting, she added registration for half day had yet to commence. School principal Jack Pryor said the school recently had nine students each in the full day and half day program and the number proved too crowded for the staff.
“I was thinking eight and eight would be the maximum,” said Dr. Youngblood, for a cap of 16 pre-kindergarten students.
Board member Joe Berhlater asked the board if they understood that according to Seneca Falls formula — a state formula — it would cost $62,000 to educate each out-of-district child in the pre-kindergarten.
A majority of the board disagreed with Berhalter’s claim of cost, with Walker saying filling an empty seat does not cost $62,000. However, said Walker, he did believe the program should be capped at 16 students to avoid having to hire additional staff or fund additional resources.
“I think it would be a good idea to let parents explore the school through this opportunity,” said Delano.
The board adopted that tuition rate, along with the rates for out of district kindergarten through eighth grade and high school students, which is $11,500 and $15,000 respectively, save the students who have been grandfathered in without tuition. Berhalter voted against the measure.
The debate between Berhalter and the rest of the board continued into a discussion over school lunches — a peanut butter and jelly debate — with Berhalter asking comments he made at a meeting last month be placed in the minutes of the meeting. The discussion has revolved around what the school does when a student forgets lunch or lunch money. Currently, the school provides a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and as Kotz pointed out, maybe an apple, rather than a cafeteria lunch from the school lunch program. Berhalter argued this is a violation of state law, ignores the advice of school district counsel and can be considered a gift of funds.
“The issue comes down to accountability,” he said, adding school counsel had advised the board follow policy when it comes to school lunches.
“The issue is feeding the kids Joe,” countered Walker.
“I just heard people take an oath of office here where people swore to uphold the state constitution,” said Berhalter.
“Are you opposed to the district giving a kid who has forgotten a lunch a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” asked Kotz.
Berhalter said he was not, but the issue of accountability and following policy remained.
In other news, Walker and Kotz were unanimously re-elected to serve as president and vice president of the board, respectively. New board member Nicki Hemby, who bested incumbent Joe Conti in this year’s school board race, was also sworn in during the meeting.Â
Above: Elizabeth Kotz is sworn in as school board vice president at the Bridgehampton Unified School District’s reorganizational meeting. (k menu photo)