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Apr 25, 2012 9:57 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Contested School Board Races in Westhampton Beach, Eastport South Manor

Apr 25, 2012 12:22 PM

School board seats will be contested this year in Westhampton Beach and Eastport South Manor, while Hampton Bays, East Quogue, Quogue, Remsenburg-Speonk and Riverhead will all have uncontested elections.

Westhampton Beach Board of Education member Beecher Halsey, who has sat on the board since 2002, has decided not to run for reelection next month. Seeking his seat are Gordon A. Werner of Westhampton and Joyce Donneson of Quiogue—both former board members. The open seat is a five-year term.

Mr. Werner has been the owner of Follett & Werner Funeral Home on Mill Road in Westhampton Beach for the past 23 years. He served on the School Board from 1992 until 2002, and had five children attend the district.

“Education is very important to me because I believe education for children is a great equalizer,” Mr. Werner said. “With an education they can go anywhere. I think the dynamics of education is going to change because of the economics; the 2 percent law is going to change things a lot and that is what I am concerned about.”

Ms. Donneson served on the School Board from 2001-2008. Ms. Donneson, who has lived in the area for 54 years, currently has two nieces attending the elementary school. She works as an self-employed wholesale meat distributor for Boar’s Head.

“I have been dormant for the past four years, and it is time to get active again in the community,” she said.

In Eastport South Manor, School Board President Kevin Gleason and Vice President Kenneth Cooke are both seeking reelection to their second, three-year terms. Standing in one of their ways could be newcomer Stevenson Petit.

Mr. Petit, who has lived in Manorville since 2007, said he is seeking a seat because he wants to improve the relationship between the administration and community members. A guidance counselor at a school in Brooklyn, Mr. Petit said he has two children—a second-grader and a seventh-grader—attending ESM schools. His youngest daughter will be entering kindergarten at South Street Elementary in September.

“The relationship between the administration and the community is very poor and the relationship between the board and the community does not exist at all,” Mr. Petit said. “I will be the bridge we need to fix that communication.”

Hampton Bays School Board Vice President Christopher Garvey is seeking his fourth non-consecutive term on the board, while fellow incumbent Warren Booth is seeking his second three-year term. Both are running unopposed.

Mr. Garvey has also served on the board of the Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services since 2003. He hopes that his next term in Hampton Bays will see the introduction of more technical education classes.

“There is still work to be done,” Mr. Garvey said when asked why he is seeking another term.

Mr. Booth has been a resident of Hampton Bays for more than 40 years

East Quogue School Board Vice President Kathryn Tureski is seeking her fourth three-year term on the board. Ms. Tureski, who has served since 2003, is not being challenged.

Over in Remsenburg-Speonk, School Board President Kevin Federico and fellow board member Cecilia Spellman-Frey are both running unopposed for reelection. Both are finishing their first terms and seeking three-year terms.

Quogue School Board President Walter W. Stockton, who has served for 18 years, has decided not to seek reelection. Seeking his seat will be Dr. Anael Alston. Dr. Alston, who could not be reached for comment, is running for a five-year term.

And in Riverhead, incumbent board member Timothy Griffing has decided not to seek reelection. William Hsiang, who has been serving since July after a resignation, has also opted not to seek election. Their pending departures leaves two open seats that are being sought by Riverhead residents Susan Koukounas and Thomas Carson. Both seats are for three-year terms.

Mr. Carson, the owner of Farm Country Kitchen on Main Street in Riverhead, has two children attending elementary school in the district. He said he has wanted to serve on the board for years.

“I want to be involved with the district and I want to see how decisions are made,” Mr. Carson said. “Riverhead gets a bad reputation sometimes and I thought, maybe, I could see if I could help change that.”

Ms. Koukounas lives in Aquebogue and also has two children attending the district. She is a map processor for Suffolk County Community College, and wants to help steer the school district as it navigates the obstacles created by the state’s new cap on the tax levy.

“I have been very involved with the schools in the past five years,” Ms. Koukounas said. “The 2 percent tax levy cap is my main concern—where are we going to get the funding to keep our schools running the way they should?”

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Gordon Werner would be an excellent choice for the WHB school board. He has a long record of thoughtful and vigorous involvement in a wide range of community affairs, going back many years. Gordon walks the walk as well as talking the talk, and that's what we need.
By Turkey Bridge (1826), Quiogue on Apr 25, 12 11:35 AM
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