Three candidates are running for two seats on the seven-member Westhampton Beach Board of Education this year. The current term expires on June 30.
The candidates are incumbent Halsey Stevens, former board member Joyce Donneson and newcomer Claire Bean. Current board member Dr. Gregory Frost opted not to seek a fourth, five-year term. All three candidates are hoping to make a splash on the Board of Education and help the district promote education and the community moving forward.
Voters will take to the polls on Tuesday, May 21, when they will be able to cast ballots on Westhampton Beach’s proposed $53.5 million spending plan for the 2013-14 school year. Voting will be held in the large groups room at the high school from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m.
Mr. Stevens, 60, is seeking his second five-year term on the board. If reelected, Mr. Stevens said he wants to be able to continue working to keep the district budget under the New York State tax levy cap. He said the district needs to be consistent, and keep spending at bay.
“I see a continued need to stay involved, especially with the tax cap,” he said. “There is too much grappling going on, I feel the need to be there at this point.”
A lifelong area resident, Mr. Stevens and his wife, Jill, moved to Westhampton 18 years ago. He first joined the Board of Education when his son, Griffin, who is now a senior in college, was a student at the high school. In addition to being on the board, Mr. Stevens serves as a captain in the Westhampton Beach Fire Department, where he has been a member for 14 years.
Moving forward, Mr. Stevens said his main goal is to maintain programs in the three-school district. He said it is very important to him that children get a well-rounded education, and not just core classes.
“My goal is to maintain all the programs that are in effect now,” he said. “I think it is important to consider all the programs—academic, athletic and music—in the district. I feel it is very important to maintain these programs in all aspects of education, despite the tax cap.”
Also a lifelong East End resident, Ms. Donneson, 55, now lives in Quiogue. Having served on the board from 2001 to 2008, Ms. Donneson said she feels it is time to return to the board. Although she does not have children in the district, Ms. Donneson said she views the board as a great way to advocate for the community children.
A self-employed meat distributor for Boar’s Head, Ms. Donneson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education from St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue. This week, she said it is her love for education that will make her a great asset for the board.
“A board member must have a passion for academics and an understanding of how to run a business,” she said. “You have to have a heart for serving your community. I have that necessary passion and experience.”
Some of her goals if elected to the board include keeping class sizes small, utilizing teaching assistants, and continuing the tradition of extracurricular activities for students. Ms. Donneson said she also hopes to highlight the importance of new and young teachers in the district, referring to failed teacher negotiations this winter that would have kept all teaching positions and kept the district below the tax levy cap.
“We need to make sure that our tenured teachers don’t lose sight of where they started,” she said. “Our young teachers play a vital role in the ongoing future success in our schools. I think the union members themselves need to take a good, hard look at their leadership.”
Ms. Bean, 48, owns her own special events designing and planning business based in Westhampton. This is her first time running for a board seat.
The mother of three boys—Reilly, 19, who has already graduated, Declan, 18, and Aidan, 16—Ms. Bean said she has a solid understanding of the needs of the district. Although she has considered running for the board in the past, she opted to wait until her children were older so she would have more time to dedicate to the position.
“I have my finger on the pulse of the community,” she said this week. “I know how important what happens here at Westhampton Beach schools is and the opportunities it gives students moving forward.”
Ms. Bean, who has a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama from Washington College, said she sees serving on the board as a good way to give back to the community, noting that the district has done great things for her sons.
If elected, Ms. Bean said she hopes to be able to further integrate technology throughout the learning process. Although she said the district does have a lot of technology opportunities, there are more ways to utilize the programs offered to students than are currently being taken advantage of.
“I want to be able to integrate technology within the schools across the curriculum so that it is a part of teaching, shared learning and information sharing,” she said.
As well as owning her own business, Ms. Bean is an active member of the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Quiogue, an advocate of the HUGS program, and was a longtime member of the Committee on Special Education.
“We need to be able to work collaboratively,” she said. “It is all about the community and connecting everybody.”