New East Hampton School Board To Consider Drug-Sniffing Dogs, Televising Meetings


The newly appointed president of the East Hampton School Board, Patricia Hope, will have a lot on her plate in the coming school year. Many topics the board members want to discuss surfaced toward the end of the district’s reorganization meeting on July 2, including the possibility of bringing in police drug-sniffing dogs to patrol school hallways.

“There has been talk among the parents about having a discussion about bringing the drug dogs into the middle and high school,” said board member Christina DeSanti. “Twenty parents approached me during the school year asking, ‘Can we do this?’ and ‘Why wouldn’t we?’”

Ms. Hope said that a presentation in the middle school auditorium would be the best venue for such a discussion since parents and other stakeholders would be invited to participate.

“We want to listen to the community, hear their reasons and hopefully we will prevail—not a decision that can be made with a gavel, it has to be made by the community,” she said.

Ms. Hope noted that a similar proposal to bring in drug-sniffing dogs had died in committee 10 years ago.

This time around, the district will look at other places that have introduced the dogs with varying degrees of success, namely the Sag Harbor School District. In 2012, Sag Harbor adopted a policy that would allow drug-sniffing dogs into Pierson High School to deter students from bringing illegal drugs to school.

Board member Jackie Lowey said that she felt it was a good idea to have a community discussion in the fall. “It’s a big deal to a lot of people on principle,” she said. “It’s a civil liberty and law enforcement issue that people feel strongly about, and there’s a growing concern from parents about drugs at school.”

On a lighter note, board members agreed that it might be a good idea to have LTV broadcast their meetings on television. One member, J.P. Foster, said LTV executive director Seth Redlus would like to make a presentation at a future board meeting about the service, which would be free of charge.

Kerri Stevens, the district clerk, said that in order for LTV to record board meetings, there would need to be a policy put in place. She said she has asked Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services for a sample policy in case the board needs to draft one.

Board member Liz Pucci said even if all goes well, LTV wouldn’t start recording until October or November at the earliest.

Ms. Hope suggested that an internship be made available for students if LTV starts filming board meetings, and suggested that there be Spanish subtitles in place.

“I think it’s a great idea to get information out to the public—it will help us all,” Mr. Foster said. “It would be good for the public and good for us.”

At the top of the meeting, Ms. Hope, who taught biology in the district for 33 years and is starting her third year on the board, was voted in unanimously as the newest president. Replacing her as vice president will be Ms. Pucci.

In addition, three new members joined the board—Wendy Geehreng, Mr. Foster and Rich Wilson—replacing Dr. George Aman, Lauren Dempsey and Alison Anderson.

The board also appointed Robert Hagan to a three-year probationary period, which began on Monday, as an assistant high school principal. He will be paid an annual salary of $127,500, pro-rated. He replaces Phillip Pratt, who resigned.

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