School employees were heavy users of commuter trains about 10 years ago when County Road 39 in Southampton was being improved. Now state officials are banking on them once again taking advantage of such trains, to be offered through the South Fork Commuter Connection, set to begin service in March of 2019.
New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. attended the August 29 meeting of the Bridgehampton School Board to pitch the service to the school district. In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Thiele said additional presentations to school districts — including Sag Harbor — are coming up soon.
“This thing is moving forward,” Mr. Thiele said. “The trains are in place, the money for shuttle buses is in place. This fall, we’re going out to the villages and school districts and following up with the chambers of commerce, doing outreach to tell people about it to make sure they are aware about it and how it works.”
While only one faculty member was in attendance besides the school administrators on August 29, Bridgehampton Superintendent Robert Hauser said he thought the South Fork Commuter Connection had the potential to be beneficial but that the district would need more information before it could formally advise its staff.
“We don’t know if the town is going to provide the shuttle from the train station to the school, or if it would just be to Main Street and our staff would have to walk from there,” said Mr. Hauser, who added, “I myself would do it, no doubt.”
Mr. Thiele has said the service will cost an estimated $6.50 for a daily round trip ticket, with monthly discounts possible. He has also released a tentative schedule of trains that the Long Island Rail Road has agreed to provide from Speonk — an “underutilized” station, he said — to points east. Eastbound, between October and May, trains will leave Speonk at 2:48, 6:16 and 9:48 a.m., stopping at Hampton Bays, a popular station according to Mr. Thiele, at 3:04, 6:35 and 8:26 a.m., respectively.
“Hampton Bays to Southampton is 10 minutes by train and on an average weekday it’s 45 minutes to an hour [by car],” Mr. Thiele said, noting the state has allocated $125,000 for improvements and additional parking spaces at the Hampton Bays train station.
The next step, he said, is for the towns of East Hampton and Southampton to put out requests for proposals from transportation companies to provide the “last mile” shuttle service to commuters’ destinations and commercial hubs.
Assistant Superintendent Steps Down
The Bridgehampton School District is searching for a new assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, following the resignation of Aleta Parker, who had served in the role since February 24. Ms. Parker has since returned to her previously held, tenured position with Bridgehampton, “literacy specialist,” and has been appointed to an additional role, “school and community relations advocate.”
Superintendent Robert Hauser said Ms. Parker stepped down for “personal reasons,” and said the district has utmost confidence in her appointment to the advocate role based on her leadership and 28-year history with the district.
“We’re finding that need to get in touch more with parents and students, not just at school, but before and after school, to be proactive rather than reactive,” he said. “The board felt that she has the strengths that they’re looking for to reach out to the community, the parents and the students. There’s so much going on, especially in the social world with the kids.”
Mr. Hauser said the district will publicly post the assistant superintendent position to seek candidates from both outside and inside the district. The Sag Harbor Express in January reported Bridgehampton’s previous administrative search, which yielded the appointment of a new superintendent, assistant superintendent, principal, business administrator and treasurer, was not publicly posted.
The school board approved Ms. Parker’s administrative resignation and teaching appointment following an August 20 executive session, and approved her advocate appointment on August 29.