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Important Decisions for School District Voters

Wed, 06/03/2020 - 11:33

Though delayed and being conducted by absentee ballot, school board elections have arrived at last. The ballots are due back in district offices by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, so the time is now to mark them and get them in the mail. Unfortunately, there has been a hitch in some districts, such as those where mailing and residential addresses are not the same or in areas where there is no mail delivery altogether. For example, there might be a Springs voter whose post office box is in East Hampton or an Amagansett resident who gets mail in East Hampton. Those who believe that they should have received ballots already but did not can phone or email their respective district offices to see what can be done at this late hour.

Recommending our choices from among the candidates is no small matter. There are competitive races for school board in four of the eight districts The Star follows and ballot measures in several. There is not much that we object to in the budgets, as a state cap on annual tax rate increases has enforced generally sound fiscal discipline, though Wainscott will need 60-percent approval for the spending plan. Voters may still want to consider if they want to send the boards in small districts a message regarding some form of consolidation to reduce costs by combining administrations and services.

 

Amagansett

While we cannot necessarily agree with the way the board initially brought on Kevin Warren, with no open dialogue or transparency, he is actually a good choice for voters, with his expertise in technology, facilities, budgeting, and local knowledge. Meredith Cairns also deserves a vote; she is an experienced volunteer at the Amagansett School and in the community (library board, Girl Scouts).

That’s not to say Kim Slicklein wouldn’t be a valuable board member; her accomplishments and professional experiences are impressive, but she should be encouraged to dig into the community more deeply. Also, all of the Amagansett candidates should be encouraged to have an open mind and question the status quo and whether the district is serving all stakeholders in the Amagansett community as well as it could.

A voter authorization for a playground upgrade makes sense; the pre-K space in particular looks like its components were picked from Walmart shelves.

 

Bridgehampton

Voters have a choice of three fine candidates for two seats on the Bridgehampton School Board. In his short time on the board, Markanthony Verzosa has been a standout board member with regard to technology and capital improvements.

Michael Gomberg’s financial expertise and familiarity with special education proved valuable during his previous term on the board, and Kathleen McCleland has a lot to say about student wellness and the curriculum. It is a very tough call, but we think Mr. Verzosa should be re-elected for a second term, and Mr. Gomberg should be awarded a new chance to serve. A neatly trimmed budget pared out of a high-priced first draft deserves the okay.

 

East Hampton

In East Hampton, John Ryan Sr. and Jackie Lowey are seeking another term on the board. George Aman is also in the running but does not make as strong a candidate as the incumbents. Mr. Ryan’s broad community involvement makes him a strong conduit for views from outside the education bubble. Ms. Lowey is a tireless worker and brings a passion for long-term planning to discussions. Her commitment to seeing the high school through its transition to a new principal after Adam Fine takes over as assistant superintendent on July 1 is commendable.

We feel very strongly that a ballot measure for professional-level food and hospitality education should be approved. It represents cost-savings by not sending students to Board of Cooperative Educational Services campuses for the same program. The money comes from an existing reserve fund and will not be reflected in the tax rate. Important to consider is that most East Hampton BOCES students cannot take part in after-school sports, clubs, or activities because of the distance they have to travel to return from afternoon classes.

 

Montauk

In Montauk, what appears to be a budget increase on the ballot will not show up in school district taxes because it comes from a reserve fund. The measure should be approved. The board seats there are not in play.

 

Sag Harbor

Another truly tough call is in Sag Harbor, where five candidates are vying for three seats.

Sandi Kruel, a former school board member, is experienced with contract negotiations, is passionate, and knows the school policy book like it is her own child.

We like what Ronald Reed has to offer. He is an architect and artist who hopes to bridge a gap between the school district and the village itself.

Helen Roussel also is a very promising candidate. Her positions on special education and environmental advocacy are well suited to Sag Harbor’s needs.

Over all, returning Sandi Kruel, along with electing Helen Roussel and Ronald Reed, would bring a balance of experience and fresh ideas to the board. Voters will also find on the ballot a proposition that would allow the district to buy a new school bus.

 

Springs

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Springs has shown adaptability and vision. Springs residents have been asked to support spending up to $135,000 for a new school bus. The board seats are uncontested.


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