Editorial: Shared Services in Bridgehampton

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Parents and even one member of its own board of education were understandably frustrated at a budget forum at the Bridgehampton School earlier this month when it was announced the district has proposed money to support the hiring of additional administrators, while parents report a lack of teachers has resulted in too few class options for students in the upper grades of high school.

It was not long ago, in 2018, under the leadership of then-Superintendent Lois Favre that the Bridgehampton School District had a total of three administrators: Ms. Favre in both the superintendent’s role and as the school principal, current principal Mike Miller in the assistant principal’s seat and current superintendent Robert Hauser in the role of business administrator. If approved by the board and eventually voters at the polls, the Bridgehampton School just one year later would have as many as six administrators — a superintendent, principal, assistant principal, business administrator, a director of pupil personnel services and English as a new language and a director of curriculum.

While two of three new administrative positions have already been hired, using unassigned fund balance to pay for those positions, all three must be budgeted for in the next budget at a total cost of $373,370 — nearly three times the amount the district has proposed to budget for new teacher salaries. In the meantime, there are a number of parents expressing concerns about their children not having enough classes to fill their schedules, while others are calling for more competitive Advanced Placement (AP) options.

Even more concerning is there has not been a detailed public presentation about the real need for the administrative positions. Has enrollment increased at the Bridgehampton School? Yes. While the Western Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services predicted enrollment would be roughly 197 at the Bridgehampton School in the 2023-2024 school year, Mr. Hauser estimates next year the school will house a total of 240 students in pre-kindergarten through 12thgrade. That increase, and the projected jump in enrollment BOCES previously predicted, was certainly justification to support the expansion of the Bridgehampton School, which was an easy endorsement after touring the school’s cramped quarters and with no fruitful talks about consolidation between any South Fork school districts on the table.

All that said, it is troubling that there seems to be a push — now in Bridgehampton and certainly in other school districts as well — for top-heavy administration, which tends to result in less funding for programming and teachers. Just as it was not long ago that the Bridgehampton School had only a handful of administrators running a successful program, it was also not long ago that there was an earnest conversation about reducing administrative costs through shared services in an effort to increase programming and opportunity for the children. In a region with more than its fair share of school districts, it is time to reignite some urgency behind that discussion.