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School Board Candidates Bow In, And Out

Publication: The East Hampton Press
By Virginia Garrison   Apr 17, 2012 2:51 PM
Apr 17, 2012 6:31 PM

School board seats will be contested this year in Springs and Amagansett. In East Hampton, Dr. Laura Anker, who first joined the board in 1989, has announced that she will not seek reelection, leaving two seats open for the only two candidates, Liz Pucci and Christina DeSanti.

In Montauk, Kelly White will be seeking reelection to a five-year term without an opponent, as a petition submitted by her brother-in-law, Lee White, was withdrawn the morning after Monday’s deadline for the candidates’ nomination packets. Mr. White could not be reached immediately for an explanation on Tuesday.

Wainscott will also have an uncontested race, although the higher vote-getter of two candidates will assume a full three-year term on July 1, with the other candidate getting to work immediately after the statewide school elections and budget votes, on May 15, to fill the remainder of a term left vacant when Iris Osborn resigned from the board in March. In the running are David Eagan, who’s been on the board since 2005, and Kelly Anderson, the mother of a child at the school and a special education teacher at the Southampton Intermediate School.

Dennis Donatuti has thrown his hat in the ring in Springs for the three-year seat now held by John Grant, who is seeking reelection. A former principal at the John Marshall Elementary School in East Hampton, Mr. Donatuti said on Tuesday that over the course of his 40 years in education, both here and abroad, he has learned the importance of bringing parents into the decision-making processes of a school district. “Parents need to understand that they can make a significant difference in the education of their kids,” he said, “but they have to be involved, they have to attend meetings, they have to ask questions.”

“Education is my passion,” he said. “I want to stay involved in any way I can.” He also said he felt the Springs School Board would profit from “a fresh view.”

In Amagansett, Rona Klopman will compete for the three-year seat now held by Mary Lownes, who is running for a fourth term on the board. Ms. Klopman is a retired teacher who has been active with the East Hampton Democratic Committee and the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee as well as a candidate last year for a seat on the East Hampton Town Trustees. She could not be reached immediately for comment on Tuesday.

Christina DeSanti has a son in sixth grade at the East Hampton Middle School and a son in fourth grade at John Marshall, is involved in both PTAs and is a member of the site-based committee at the elementary school. Ms. DeSanti, whose background is in business management, she said she’d watched the board chip at next year’s budget proposal and thought, both as a parent and as a taxpayer, that “they did a good job with it.”

Looking forward, Ms. DeSanti said, “I think there are a lot of exciting things going on.” She mentioned, specifically, an enrichment program that parents have been advocating for, an integrated technology program that is also in development, and changes to the curriculum such as a new reading program at the elementary school.

The present board has already done “a lot heavy lifting,” Ms. DeSanti said, including, this year, its search for a new superintendent of schools and its struggle to make the proposed 2012-13 budget conform to the state’s new tax levy cap. (A new superintendent was expected to be named Tuesday night.)

One of the East Hampton School Board’s tasks last year was to fill a seat left vacant when Stephen Talmage resigned last summer. Liz Pucci, who’d run for a seat last spring, was appointed to fill the remainder of his term. Now running for a term of her own, she said on Monday that the board was close to resolving many of its most pressing issues. “A lot of that pressure will be off,” she said.

Dr. Anker said that it had been “a difficult and painful decision” not to run for another term on the East Hampton School. “I come from a family of public school educators,” she said Tuesday. “I believe in a very deep way that public school education is the foundation of a democratic society.”

A professor and the director of SUNY Old Westbury’s Office of First-Year Experience, Dr. Anker said the obligations of her job were demanding and that “the board is really working together well” right now.

“The district will move on in a really good direction,” she said. “I feel like I’m leaving the district in a good place.”

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