East Hampton School Board Candidates

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Three incumbent East Hampton School Board members are seeking reelection to their seats and one former board member is challenging for one of the open seats.

Voting will be held at East Hampton High School from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19.

Christina DeSanti

Christina DeSanti is seeking reelection to a second three-year term on the board.

She is currently the vice president of the board and the liaison to Project Most.

Ms. DeSanti, 44, has two sons in the district, one in the middle school the other in the high school. A Sag Harbor native, she holds a degree in business management from Ithaca College, formerly working in the mortgage and real estate appraisal business and has run a catering business with her husband, Rudy, for the last 12 years.

Ms. DeSanti said she is most proud of the work the district has done in her first term on the board with the STEM Initiative, an effort to boost instruction in science, technology, engineering and math, and with the expansion of the pre-K program from half-day to full-day and possibly the addition of transportation for its students. Among the additional programming that the district has added are computer coding and robotics classes as well as more hands-on science programs. The board has also kicked off an initiative to provide every student from fourth through 12th grades with Chromebook laptop computers over the next three years.

The board, Ms. DeSanti said, has made the expansions in programming while balancing a budget to stay within the state tax cap, which was just 1.6 percent this year.

“It takes a lot of time to meet that mandate without hurting our educational programs,” she said this week. “With all of our cost-cutting, saving money here and there, this board has been adding some very important things while staying within the cap.”

Ms. DeSanti said that the next cost-saving measure the board will tackle is the installation of solar power on district buildings, which she said could save the district a significant amount of money.

Liz Pucci

Liz Pucci is seeking reelection to a second term on the board. She was appointed to the board in 2011, replacing Stephen Talmage, and was elected to a full term in 2012.

Ms. Pucci, 52, has three sons who have graduated from the district in the last four years and a fourth who is a junior at East Hampton High School now. She is a member of the Ladies Village Improvement Society and a stay-at-home mom who dedicates all of her time to school board issues, she said.

In the wake of criticism of the board’s policy toward openness under a previous administration, the district has made efforts to make its deliberations and policy discussions more accessible to the public, she said.

“We’ve been much more transparent,” she said, noting that the board now broadcasts all of its meetings and budget work sessions on LTV. “We invite the public to send us feedback much more. We’re a very open-minded board, we really look for the feedback from the parents and staff.”

Ms. Pucci said she is proud of how the current board has worked together on expanding STEM classes and will be a good team to tackle coming teacher contracts, decisions about transportation and the maintenance of progressive educational programs.

“We want to continue to keep up with the rigor that is required with the common core,” she said. “We have transportation concerns, contracts are coming, the solar initiative and all the programs we’ve added recently. This board is working extremely well, we really seem to have hit our stride. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done.”

Deme Minskoff

The third incumbent seeking election in the East Hampton School District is the board’s newest member, Deme Minskoff. Ms. Minskoff, 52, was appointed to the school board in October to replace Patricia Hope, who resigned. It is the first time Ms. Minskoff, the mother of a high school student and a middle school student, has sought election to the school board.

She is a former president of the middle school Parent Teacher Association. A retired fashion industry buyer, she holds a degree in economics from Allegheny College.

“In the six months I’ve been here we’ve made some great strides for the district,” she said, nodding to the coming Chromebook program, the expansion of coding classes and the STEM Initiative.

Maintaining the pace of the expanding academics in the era of tight budgeting will be the hardest chore facing the new board members in the next three years, Ms. Minskoff said.

“It’s a rapidly changing world and I think keeping up with technology has to be the main priority. We have to keep up with the technological change, continue advancing academic achievement and prioritize our spending directly on the students.”

John Ryan Sr.

The lone challenger to the incumbents this year is John Ryan Sr. But Mr. Ryan is not a newcomer to the East Hampton School Board having served on it for 18 years until 2011 when he declined to seek reelection. He said he was inspired to run again after the school considered doing away with the in-school swim program.

Mr. Ryan, who will turn 80 this month, has been a lifeguard for most of his adult life, and started East Hampton’s Junior Lifeguard program, which he still coordinates.

“I am a lifeguard since I’m 16. So I’m 55 years a lifeguard, but I don’t get wet anymore,” he said, adding that living in a seaside community makes it necessary to have a lifeguard program for youngsters.

“We should be sure that by the age of 9 every kid can tread water in the deep end of a pool,” he said. “We are surrounded by water in these unprotected pools. Everybody has a pool at home, so all kids swim.”

Prior to retiring from the education field, Mr. Ryan was a teacher of math and computers. He spent 24 years in the East Hampton School District and 4 years in the Westhampton School District. He now sits on the board of managers of the East Hampton YMCA where the swim program is held.

“That is my passion for wanting these kids at age 9 to be swimmers,” Mr. Ryan said of the swim program.

Mr. Ryan, who has lived in East Hampton since 1967, has 9 children and 23 grandchildren who have all gone through the East Hampton School District.

“I think I can make a difference on the School Board and I want to run,” he said. “I’ve got the time, I’ve got the background and I’ve got the interest. I think I can get elected.”

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