Three seats on the Bridgehampton School Board are up for election this year, but the race is uncontested. Incumbents Gabriela Braia and Lawrence LaPointe are seeking reelection, but JoAnn Comfort, who was elected to the board in 2010, will not return. Newcomer Jennifer Vinski is expected to fill her seat. Terms are three years.
Ms. Vinski, a kindergarten special education teacher at Southampton Elementary School, said joining the School Board would be a good opportunity to try and help out.
“I am a teacher myself, and I know the challenges faced in education—financial struggles as well as state testing and teacher evaluation systems,” she said. “These are challenging times and I would like to have some input in where the future of our school goes and try to make sure our kids are in the forefront as a priority—that’s difficult to do when we get wrapped up in these challenges.”
Ms. Vinski said that Ms. Comfort asked her to run in her place because she has a lot going on personally. The two know each other through the school, Ms. Vinski said. Ms. Comfort did not return requests for comment.
Ms. Vinski said in Ms. Comfort’s place, she wants to bring new ideas to the board.
“Hopefully, I can bring a new perspective, new eyes, and just maybe the fact that I am in the field, I can bring in suggestions on how other schools are doing things,” she said. “With Bridgehampton, it is important to keep a positive community impression and continue to let the community know how great a school it is and work on increasing the enrollment or look at other options.”
Ms. Vinski, 39, is a member of the Bridgehampton Parent Teacher Organization, a member of the school’s audit committee and a member of the Bridgehampton School Foundation. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and elementary education from Dowling College and a master’s degree in special education at Long Island University. She has twin boys in the second grade at Bridgehampton School and a 3-year-old daughter. Her husband Ed is a full-time professor at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.
Ms. Braia, 45, was appointed last year to fill the remainder of a three-year term for former board member Elizabeth Kotz, who resigned last July. Ms. Braia ran in last year’s election, but did not garner enough votes to earn a seat on the board. But she was asked to step in when Ms. Kotz left.
With almost a year under her belt, Ms. Braia said it was important to keep the children as a priority but also imperative to keep finances in line in light of the state-mandated tax levy cap. Tough choices have had to be made, including losing the school principal. Dr. Jack Pryor took a retirement buyout this month in order to save the district money. School Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre will also serve as principal.
“It’s never easy—Dr. Pryor is a great principal, but we are lucky that he has accepted our incentive,” she said. “It will help us with the budget and stay under the tax levy cap.”
Ms. Braia said the school also needs to pay attention to its enrollment and work to increase it.
“Bridgehampton is more like a private school, but on the other hand the socializing for the kids is only as much as there is to go around,” she said. “It would be great to have bigger enrollment numbers.”
A real estate agent for Douglas Elliman, Ms. Braia has children in the second and sixth grades at the school and has lived in Bridgehampton for 16 years. She is originally from Romania and moved to the U.S. almost 20 years ago. Her husband, Sorin Braia, is a builder.
Mr. LaPointe, a lifelong Bridgehampton resident, will seek a second three-year term. He was first elected to the board in 2010.
He is a landscape designer and has two children who graduated as salutatorians of the school: Brandon, in 2007, and Lindsay, in 2009. His third child, Justin, is in the seventh grade at Bridgehampton.
Mr. LaPointe did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Bridgehampton residents can cast their votes on Tuesday, May 21, between 2 and 9 p.m. in the Bridgehampton School gymnasium.