Eastern Southampton School District Budgets Pass; Sag Harbor Shuffles Its Board


By Colleen Reynolds
and Shaye Weaver
All five school district budgets in eastern Southampton Town—none of which tried to pierce the state cap on tax levy increases—passed with ease on Tuesday night.

In two other key votes, Bridgehampton School District residents approved a proposal that will revise the district’s busing policy to pay for a bus sending district students to Mercy-McGann High School in Riverhead, the only parochial high school in the area. In Tuckahoe, a proposition was approved giving the district permission to allow students attending Westhampton Beach High School to finish their academic careers there, even as Tuckahoe begins an exclusivity agreement sending matriculating students to Southampton.

In the races for School Board seats, only Sag Harbor was contested this year, and some shuffling took place in that district.

Past member Daniel Hartnett, a bilingual social worker in the East Hampton School District, and incumbent Susan Kinsella, a stay-at-home mother appointed in September to fill an unexpired term, clinched the two seats with full, three-year terms that were up for grabs on Tuesday. Mr. Hartnett collected the most votes, 741, in a six-way race for four seats, while Ms. Kinsella received 696 votes.

Meanwhile, first-time challenger David Diskin, the president of a home accessories company, finished in third place, with 689 votes, claiming a two-year unexpired term that starts immediately. He took the oath of office on Tuesday shortly after the results were announced.

Board Vice President Chris Tice, a Realtor, grabbed the final open seat, also a two-year unexpired term, with 680 votes.

Ed Drohan, an incumbent, will not retain his seat after he finished fifth with 514 votes, and Tom Ré, a first-time candidate, tallied 423 votes.

In an unusual twist, Ms. Kinsella, who filled an unfinished term in September, will now be off the board for more than a month until the district’s reorganization meeting in early July, when her full term officially starts. If she had finished in third place, rather than second, she would have stayed on the board without a gap.

Sag Harbor’s $35.51 million budget passed comfortably, 825-377. Proposition 2—to keep in place the district’s bus transportation policy, which provides service to all resident students in kindergarten through 12th grade who live between one and 15 miles from school—also passed easily, 865-309. Proposition 3—to spend about $1.11 million to repair the Sag Harbor Elementary School and Pierson Middle/High School gym roofs, and the bleachers at Pierson, with $240,000 of the cost coming from the 2013-14 budget and $873,600 from a facilities renovation capital reserve fund—passed overwhelmingly, 910-268.

Standing in the middle/high school gym after the vote, Mr. Hartnett said he felt grateful to the community and the public and thanked his fellow candidates. “The community is very fortunate—we had a very wide array, very talented options for our School Board. But there’s clearly work ahead. I feel it’s daunting, and I just look forward to getting going.”

Ms. Kinsella said she was thrilled with the result. “I wasn’t sure how things were going to turn out. I was sixth on the ballot, so that’s not a great position to be in,” she said. “But I guess people are paying attention, and I think you can tell people are paying attention also because of how the proposition votes went through. … I am going to work very hard to make sure our district improves in educational excellence and also in its fiscal responsibilities.”
Southampton School District voters approved the 2013-14 $61.9 million budget on Tuesday, 402-160.

Incumbent Christina Strassfield was reelected to her second five-year term on the board, with 328 votes.

Voters also approved, by a vote of 426-37, Proposition 2, which would keep in place the district’s bus fleet replacement program for another year, not exceeding $350,000, for the purchase of one bus and two vans; Proposition 3 (435-129), which authorizes the district to spend $1.5 million in capital funds to continue to repair all three school buildings; Proposition 4 (413-150), which authorizes the spending of $398,320 for the district’s participation in the Southampton Youth Association; Proposition 5 (345 to 212), which authorizes the spending of $326,509 for the district’s participation in the Parrish Art Museum; and Proposition 6 (394-167), which would authorize the spending of $98,000 for the district’s participation in the Southampton Historical Society.
Bridgehampton School District voters approved a $11.2 million budget for the 2013-14 school year, 137-50, and elected two incumbents, Lawrence LaPointe with 143 votes, Gabriella Braia with 113 votes, and one newcomer, Jennifer Vinski with 147 votes. Ms. Braia will serve the balance of an unexpired term previously held by Elizabeth Kotz, effective immediately.

Voters also approved Proposition 2, 139-48, which authorizes the district to levy $160,000 for participation in the Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center; and Proposition 3, 109-78, which will allow the district to change the maximum eligibility criteria for busing students in grades nine through 12 from 15 miles from their home to the school they attend to 25 miles, an estimated cost of $60,525.

The district is not required by the state to transport students to private and parochial schools outside a 15-mile radius of the district. For more than a year, Bridgehampton parents who want their children to attend Mercy-McGann have been petitioning the School Board to change its policy.
Tuckahoe School District voters approved the 2013-14 $18.5 million budget on Tuesday night, 244-142 votes.

School Board President Dr. Daniel Crough will return to his seat next school year, with 219 votes as the lone candidate. There were no write-in candidates.

All the additional propositions were approved as well: Proposition 2 (254-118), giving the district the authority to contract with Southampton and Westhampton School Districts for the education for Tuckahoe students in ninth through 12th grades; Proposition 3 (252-127), authorizing the district to levy $55,473 to participate in the Southampton Youth Association; and Proposition 4 (243-134), giving the district authorization to levy $7,688 for participation in the Parrish Art Museum.

“I’m relieved,” Dr. Crough said about the approved budget. “I’m proud of the district and the hard work that has been put into education and how the staff has handled sacrifice. The community recognizes it is a team effort, and the vote reflects the community’s commitment to citizenship. Every year, this gets more and more important.”
In Sagaponack, voters approved a $1.735 million budget, 42-2, with one abstention. Incumbent Cathy Hatgistavrou, who ran unopposed for a three-year term, was reelected, 44-1. This seat is at large. There were no write-in votes.

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