In tears and sometimes choking on her words, Gina Kraus on April 2 thanked the East Hampton School Board, parents, teachers and others for the opportunity to have been the John Marshall Elementary School principal, a job that will end on June 30 after a determination by Superintendent Richard Burns that she not be granted tenure.
“Thank you for this wonderful journey. I have absolutely not one regret,” Ms. Kraus said during a public comment period at the School Board meeting, at which the board had been asked to “acknowledge” the superintendent’s determination. “I want to thank you for the opportunity to be a principal and the honor to return,” she concluded, evidently referring to an intention to return to the elementary school classroom this fall.
Among many in the packed boardroom who stood up to applaud were her counterparts, East Hampton High School Principal Adam Fine and Middle School Principal Dr. Charles Soriano, as well as a number of parents of elementary school children, some of whom spoke as well in support of Ms. Kraus.
Ken Kraus, Ms. Kraus’s husband, had harsh words for Mr. Burns and Assistant Superintendent Robert Tymann, who remained silent while sitting in the audience, where Ms. Kraus sat in a row between them with her head bowed.
“This is institutional bullying,” Mr. Kraus said, asking if the district should be run in a “democratic” or “tyrannical” way. “Stand up, successful men,” he told the two administrators after alleging that Mr. Tymann’s school district in Lindenhurst had been “happy to get rid of him” and that Mr. Burns “stood in my home and said how lucky he was to have Gina as his principal.”
Ms. Kraus, who spoke after her husband did, began by joking through tears. “I told him if he came tonight it was grounds for divorce,” she said.
She cited her commitment to “making a difference in the lives of children” and the difficulty of “a perfect storm” of major changes at the elementary school, including common core standards and a balanced literacy curriculum, that she faced as a new principal.
“I kept my focus on the kids,” she said, adding that that’s what she wanted the teachers to do, too.
Later, another member of the audience also spoke in tears on another subject. Ashley Blackburn told the board that her son and other children had been “bullied, harassed and discriminated against” at the East Hampton Middle School. “Parents want to know how these problems are being addressed,” she said, indicating that she had already contacted administrators and School Board members.
Dr. Soriano replied that he could not speak publicly about the issue, and Mr. Burns spoke generally about what the principal’s options might be: a several-day suspension, for example.
Ms. Blackburn replied that the student had remained in school after the incident with her son, with Mr. Burns replying that the matter “has been addressed” in part by getting help for the student in question.
Reached several days after the meeting, Ms. Blackburn said her son had been punched in the face early in March and that, while it had taken several weeks, a series of similar incidents had brought attention to problems at the middle school and that “now that there’s an awareness, I think things are moving in the right direction.”
In other news, School Board member Lauren Dempsey, whose term expires this year, announced that she would not seek reelection.
She was resigning, she said, “because of the time constraints.”
“I just want to say that my experience on this board has definitely had its challenges, but it’s one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had,” Ms. Dempsey said. She encouraged others to give it a try.