School closure petition prompts busy board race

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Five people have picked up petitions to run for two seats on the Bridgehampton School Board this May, according to District Clerk Joyce Manigo.

Ms. Manigo confirmed Tuesday that current Vice President Elizabeth Kotz and board member Joe Conti have picked up petitions to run for reelection to their seats, and Ms. Kotz has since turned hers in. Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) members Karen Hochstedler and Nicki Hemby also confirmed that they are running on a ticket together. Ms. Manigo did not reveal who picked up the fifth petition.

Ms. Hemby is the president of the PTO and she said that she was debating whether or not to run before board member Joe Berhalter submitted a petition to close the high school two weeks ago. Mr. Conti signed his petition, and Ms. Hemby and Ms. Hochstedler both said that their goal is to replace Mr. Conti on the board.

“I plan to have his seat,” said Ms. Hemby. “No matter what happens, it’s really healthy for our community to see there are other options out there.

“Elizabeth [Kotz] is amazing, dedicated and fantastic. Karen [Hochstedler] is equally amazing. I hope out of us three women we can keep those two seats and keep the ?positive momentum going in Bridgehampton,” she added.

Ms. Hochstedler, the secretary of the PTO, has six children in the district. She said that she’d like to “try to come up with a strategic way to bump” Mr. Conti out of office. “He and Mr. Berhalter have an agenda,” she said.

Ms. Kotz said that she hopes to “encourage people to get to know our school today,” adding that Bridgehampton can serve as a model for the good education that can be had in an intimate environment.

Mr. Conti could not be reached for comment.

Prospective board members have until April 21 to return petitions and must collect a minimum of 25 signatures.

The School Board also voted last week to table the third reading of its non-resident students policy last week, after confusion between board members and the public over how the new policy will address current students.

Ms. Kotz said last Monday that she would like to see the students currently attending the school allowed to continue at a reduced tuition rate. The School Board had voted last September to charge $11,500 to elementary school students and $15,000 to high school students who do not live in the school district.

In previous years, the board had waived tuition for many out-of-district students, some of whose parents work at the school, in the interest of increasing the district’s dwindling population.

Ms. Manigo said that 18 students from other districts currently attend the school and many parents said that they would like to see those students grandfathered in.

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