Principal challenges incumbent in Hampton Bays School Board race

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A head-to-head contest will be settled in Hampton Bays on Tuesday, May 20, as incumbent School Board President George Leeman is being challenged by Eric Casale. The two candidates faced off during a “Meet the Candidates” night held on Monday evening in the library of the district’s new middle school.

In addition to the elections, Hampton Bays taxpayers will also be asked to sign off on the district’s proposed $41.2 million operating budget for the 2008-2009 school year. Polls will be open between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Hampton Bays Middle School.

George Leeman

Mr. Leeman, who is seeking his fourth three-year term on the board, touted his experience on Monday night, stating, “I’ve been engaged in on-the-job training for nine years.” In that time, he said he has relied on the school’s administrators, who he said he supports 100 percent, when appropriate. “I learned when to get involved and when to stay away,” he said.

The board president has also been a coach for several youth sports, such as Little League and soccer. He noted that his attendance record—he has missed only two board meetings in his nine years of service—demonstrates his commitment to the job and that he makes the time to fulfill his duties.

Originally from South Carolina, Mr. Leeman moved to Hampton Bays in 1988 and opened a commercial fishing dock. His dock has since closed, and he now works as a network administrator for the East Hampton School District. He has three children all of whom have attended the district schools.

In a letter asking voters to reelect him, Mr. Leeman wrote that his accomplishments include building the district’s new middle school on time and under budget, doubling the amount of income from sources other than property taxes over the past three years, and rebuilding the district’s capital reserves. He also noted that student scores are rising on standardized tests and that Hampton Bays is seeing more graduates with Regents diplomas.

As for his future goals, Mr. Leeman said he wants to see foreign language education start in kindergarten rather than seventh grade, and he wants to pursue expansions at the elementary school.

Eric Casale

A first-time candidate, Mr. Casale is running on his experience as a professional school administrator. He has been the principal of Springs School in East Hampton Town for the past three years, and before that he was an assistant principal for two years and a principal for another two in The Bronx.

He explained that, with his son in kindergarten and another child on the way, he feels an obligation to be involved in the school community. “I’m going to be vested in that school for the next 13 or 14 years,” Mr. Casale said in a recent interview.

Though he moved to Hampton Bays only three years ago when he took the principal position in Springs, Mr. Casale pointed out that he has been familiar with the area for much longer than that. He grew up in Queens and used to summer in Hampton Bays with his parents; he had family and friends in the area as well.

“I feel blessed that I can raise a family in such a wonderful community,” he added.

Mr. Casale said he wants to apply what he has experienced in The Bronx and Springs at Hampton Bays, and bring his “passion for academics” with him. “Kids are going to have similar issues regardless of where they are,” he said. “I have insights to academics and to instruction because of my position that many people don’t.”

For example, he explained that he understands the mandates under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Mr. Casale complimented current School Board members and district administrators on their handling of this year’s budget. He added that Hampton Bays offers solid programming, though he would like to place greater emphasis on music and art courses in the future.

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