Incumbents Will Run for School Board in Bridgehampton

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Ron White speaks to a gathering at the Bridgehampton School about the district's proposed expansion project last year. Michael Heller photo

Douglas DeGroot, Lillian Tyree-Johnson and Ronald White will file petitions next Monday to seek new terms as members of the Bridgehampton School Board of Education. If the incumbents run uncontested — as of Wednesday morning district clerk Tammy Cavanaugh said they were the only three residents so far to pick up nominating petitions —it will be the fifth uncontested board of education race in six years in Bridgehampton, as the district embarks on an ambitious $24.7 million expansion of its 79-year-old school building.

All three incumbents cited the expansion, and a desire to see continuity in school district leadership, as reasons to seek re-election, and have served collectively on the school board since 2009.

Mr. DeGroot is the president of Hamptons Tennis Company, Inc. and has four children that either attend or have graduated from the Bridgehampton School. Ms. Tyree-Johnson is the vice president of the school board, a bookkeeper and the manager of the Bridgehampton Community House. Mr. White, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman, is president of the school board, a position he has held since 2013. He is also a current coach of the Bridgehampton Killer Bees varsity basketball team, a position he took over from Ms. Tyree-Johnson’s husband, Carl, who retired in 2017.

“I believe if you live in a school district you should give back,” Mr. White said Wednesday. “I am blessed to be a part of the expansion, and blessed to be a part of a strong educational team that is seeking Middle States accreditation.”

In December 2016, voters approved a $24.7 million expansion of the Bridgehampton School that would effectively double the size of the main school building allow the district to raze three portable buildings that have long surpassed their life expectancy and are still being used for a prekindergarten program, middle school science and music instruction, and special education. A new gymnasium, new library and expanded classroom spaces are some of the other features included in the expansion.

On Wednesday, Mr. White said seeing that project to fruition was a priority, and that the district hoped to be able to break ground on the addition with a formal ceremony on June 8.

“I definitely want to be there to help ensure the school expansion project goes smoothly,” Mr. DeGroot said Tuesday. “I would like to be on the board to see it finished and to see the beauty of that new building, and how it affects our kids.”

Mr. DeGroot said the general sense from the board, and community, is that the school district is moving in a positive direction, attracting new students and expanding programming to include options like a new diploma program for students interested in agribusiness, plant science, food processing and natural resource systems.

“There is a lot of inclusiveness here, too,” he said.

“I had really hoped to step down,” Ms. Tyree-Johnson said, “but with the transition team and new construction, I realized we have such a good thing going and I want to be there to support the team moving forward.”

In February, Dr. Lois Favre — now Dr. Lois R. Morrow Horgan — retired from the district as its superintendent and principal. She was succeeded by business administrator Robert Hauser as superintendent and Mike Miller, director of athletics, as principal. The decision to promote from within was one the board believes has paid off, said all three members, giving the district as sense of continuity as it embarks on significant change.

“The transition is going well, but I still feel it is important to have experience on the board with what is going on,” Ms. Tyree-Johnson said. “I am super excited about the expansion, and want to be a part of watching that process happen from the board level.”

Nominating petitions are due in Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor school districts by 5 p.m. on Monday, April 16. The budget vote and school board election will take place on Tuesday, May 15, from 2 to 8 p.m. in Bridgehampton, and from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Sag Harbor.

In Sag Harbor, the seats currently held by Stephanie Bitis and Susan Schaefer, who was appointed in January to fill the seat of Thomas John Schiavoni after he was elected to the Southampton Town Board.

Ms. Bitis is not seeking another term, she confirmed last week. Ms. Schaefer did not respond to a request for comment. According to district clerk Victoria Handy, two residents have picked up petitions from the clerk’s office, although they are also available at sagharborschools.org.

“I thought about it, but in September Sophia will be a senior and Yanni will be a junior,” Ms. Bitis said, referring to her two children. “The same reason I ran for the board is the same reason I am not running and that is my children. The clock is ticking against me, and they’re both going off to college soon. Being a board member is a big responsibility.”

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