Bridgehampton School Board Talks Need for More Class Options

The Bridgehampton School Board discussed adding more rigorous class options to its curriculum on September 26. Christine Sampson photo

Bridgehampton School senior Jonny DeGroot’s class schedule this year looks like this: Advanced Placement courses in history, literature, environmental science and calculus. Electives in nutrition, horticulture and the foundations of agriculture. Lunch, of course. And a freshman-level “Spanish I” class, because it was the only foreign language option available to him after he took all four years of French plus the one year of Italian that the Bridgehampton School offered leading up to his senior year.

“I’m pretty sure there’s a high demand for the languages — more variety, and more advanced,” Jonny said on Tuesday, after varsity tennis practice was over. “Right now, we only offer Spanish and French, and Italian every few years if there’s demand.”

The environmental science course is the only AP science class the school offers.

“Unlike most schools, we have one AP science option and you can only take it in the senior year,” Jonny said. “We don’t have AP physics, chemistry or earth science. We could benefit from that. There are a lot of advanced students at this school.”

His father, Bridgehampton School Board member Doug DeGroot, cited these examples during last Wednesday’s school board meeting in a discussion of whether or not there needs to be a greater emphasis on rigor and diversity in the school’s course offerings. It is a particular need for juniors and seniors, who often run out of high-level classes to take in subject areas like foreign language, science and math, Mr. DeGroot said.

“Just like we are improving our building, we want to make sure we are improving our educational opportunities,” he said Tuesday, referring to the district’s expansion and renovation project, which now has a price tag of more than $29.4 million.

But it was evident last week that it isn’t as easy as an agreement among board members to hire more teachers or add classes to the curriculum. It became a question of where to house additional classes were the district to hire more teachers and offer its students more options. The 1930s-era building is about to undergo a transformation, adding 35,400 square feet to more than double its size, but its completion is still at least a year away.

“We are in a transition,” school board president Ron White said last Wednesday, “and I think with the expansion, we’ll have the chance to expand our curriculum. We’ll have to talk about hiring more teachers.”

Mr. DeGroot replied by saying the district has to prioritize academic rigor and hire more teachers. Board member Michael Gomberg suggested moving ahead “sooner rather than later” with higher-level technology courses.

“We need more teachers, but we have no place to put them,” Mr. White said.

On Tuesday, Mr. DeGroot pointed out it is a matter of meeting the needs of students on all ends of the learning spectrum — children who are advanced alongside those in special education programs.

“Kids have a wide range of abilities and you should be trying to help them all,” he said.

During last Wednesday’s meeting, school principal Michael Miller said he would prepare a presentation about adding more advanced courses to the curriculum.

Bridgehampton Gets Good Marks from Auditor

Jill Sanders, an analyst with the auditing firm Cullen and Danowski, delivered good news for Bridgehampton last Wednesday: the firm’s annual audit of the district’s fiscal state and financial practices found “no material weaknesses or deficiencies.”

“The district has worked really, really hard to live within its budget and monitor its budget throughout the year,” Ms. Sanders told the school board.

Cullen and Danowski issued what’s known as an “unmodified opinion,” which is the best a district can hope for.

According to Ms. Sanders, Bridgehampton has complied with a state law that says school districts cannot have an “unassigned” surplus — meaning money that is not already designated for another purpose, such as outstanding bills or state-mandated reserve funds — of more than 4 percent of next year’s voter-approved budget left over. That amounts to $624,036, or just under 4 percent of the $16.3-million budget.

Additionally, Ms. Sanders said, Bridgehampton’s reserve funds, such as those designated for capital projects, emergency repairs, workers’ compensation and others, “have amounts that are reasonable and make sense.”

The school board commended the business office staff and the administration, particularly superintendent Robert Hauser, who was previously the business administrator, and Melisa Stiles, the current business administrator, for their hard work and attention to detail.

“This is something to be proud of,” Lillian Tyree-Johnson, the school board vice president and a member of the district’s audit committee, said.

DeGroot Family Helps Renovate Greenhouse

The Bridgehampton School Board last Thursday recognized one of its own, Doug DeGroot, who, along with his wife Kathryn, donated a new floor for the school greenhouse valued at $25,000.

The board and administrators publicly thanked them for the donation, which they said will help with drainage issues in the greenhouse.