By Carrie Ann Salvi
A new committee, which calls itself School Cooperation Regional Effort, or SCORE, has formed with the goal of promoting collaboration among East End school districts.
Patricia Hope, a retired East Hampton high school teacher and a former member of the East Hampton School Board, described the group, which she co-chairs, as “local, experienced people with good will.” She introduced the committee via press release this week to “let the community know who we are and what we are doing.”
Charles Hitchcock, a retired Southampton College sociology professor, is the co-chairman. He said on Tuesday that the committee would begin to contact local school districts shortly. The group of 10 started discussing how it could help local schools at the Springs Presbyterian Church in March.
The committee, which meets twice monthly, is comprised of residents from varied school districts, many whom Ms. Hope called senior educators, including herself. She taught biology in East Hampton schools for 33 years and was chairwoman of the high school science department for eight years. She also served on the school board for three years, including one year as president.
“We have a group that has the time, space, staff, and money to take a good hard look,” said Ms. Hope.
“We are looking at what the school districts do, with hopes to help them share their services beyond their boundaries,” said Mr. Hitchcock. “They already do some. We hope to encourage them to do more. The longtime resident of Springs served on the Springs School Board from 2003 to 2006.
“Chuck is a genius” said Ms. Hope, and she jumped at the chance to start a committee with him to help school districts when he called her in January. Mr. Hitchcock has worked internationally with the United Nations, Peace Corps, and the civil society Peace Action. “Retirement has been good,” he joked.
Of the other members, Ms. Hope said, “These people are all heavy hitters in one way or another.” While they want the committee to remain a manageable size, they are not opposed to considering new members with a strong interest in the issue and the time to devote to it, Mr. Hitchcock said. In addition to himself and Ms. Hope, current members are former Sag Harbor School Board member Mary Anne Miller, former East Hampton Town Councilwoman Diana Weir, Mary Croghan, Michael DeSario, Wendy Hall, Phyllis Italiano, John P. Lycke, and Joi Jackson Perle.
The group is asking lots questions in order to define roadblocks, small and large, to see if collaboration would work “in areas where nobody gets hurt, creating no layoffs, no tax increases, and no additional expenses,” she said.
Prekindergarten education and transportation are first on the group’s agenda, which committee members feel are important in every district.
“Buses from Montauk drive through Amagansett to get to East Hampton, so let’s look at that,” Ms. Hope said. Montauk, Amagansett, and East Hampton schools all send their own buses to Westhampton for BOCES, added Mr. Hitchcock.
The committee plans to create a global questionnaire for every district about prekindergarten. “If the study shows that full-day pre-k is a beautiful possibility at district X,” Ms. Hope said, the group will consider if it could work for more than one district. “A broader pre-k program would help parents not have to drive so far,” said Mr. Hitchcock.
“We’re fact finding right now, we have to gather the information first,” said Mr. Hitchcock of the committee’s first steps.
Committee members initially met with state Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. “to see indeed what funds are available, and he assured us that there was money on a state level for us to do studies,” Mr. Hitchcock said. The committee plans “exhaustive studies that we can then share with the school districts to see if they want to save money and increase academic access,” he said.
The committee chairs said they know how difficult it is to be an educator, administrator, or a parent, who must often work more than one job while raising children. “Business officials are very busy, it is very difficult and it changes every day,” said Ms. Hope.
“We’re looking for shared services that will decrease the costs and increase the academics,” said Mr. Hitchcock. “That’s the pie in the sky for us,” said. Ms. Hope.