Three people are vying for an empty East Hampton Union Free School District Board of Education seat. The selection, to be made by the board, will be announced and approved at the Wednesday, November 4, meeting, which was pushed to Wednesday due to Election Day.
Board members decided to appoint a new member rather than have an election due to several factors, including the expense associated with running an election, even though some community members pushed for one.
Either former board president and former Amagansett Superintendent George Aman, physician assistant Jerry Simons or estimator Justine O’Mara Limonius will replace Wendy Geehreng, who resigned this summer after being hired by the district as a nurse specializing in COVID-19 health logistics.
“The board was not unanimous in appointing a board member,” Board President James Foster said, with some not liking the idea of selecting a candidate instead of having the community vote on one. “Everyone knows it’s a little expensive to run an election, and with COVID-19, there’s a lot of reasons it just won’t happen and can’t happen. That was taken off the table early on.”
He said the pandemic was also the reason it took longer than usual to get around to deciding what to do about the vacated seat.
“With COVID, it’s not the first priority,” Mr. Foster said, adding that board meetings were quickly consumed with coronavirus talks and issues, and that more administrative changes than in years past set things back. “But a majority of the board feels it’s important to appoint, and the reason being is that there’s a lot going on — and that’s why we haven’t done anything to fill the seat yet.”
Mr. Aman, who was one of three running for two seats earlier this year, resigned after three years on the board in 2013 to pursue other administrative positions available in the area. He served as the superintendent of the Amagansett Union Free School District for 10 years and has more than 40 years of experience in the field, including being a math teacher, serving as principal in Liverpool, New York, and being an assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Riverhead and Longwood.
“We all know who he is,” Mr. Foster said. “And most of the community knows, too.”
Mr. Simons, whose family traces its Hamptons roots back to 1685, graduated from Stony Brook’s Health Science Center in 1993 with departmental honors for a Bachelor of Science degree in cardio-respiratory sciences. He worked at The Morrison Center in New York City, East Hampton Urgent Care and is a faculty member at the Stony Brook School of Health Technology and Management.
Mr. Simons received the March of Dimes Health Career Award, the Kirklin Award for Excellence in Surgical Skills as a Physician’s Assistant — less than 25 have been awarded in more than 40 years — is a past New York State Society of Physicians Assistants Educator of the Year and has received more than eight university awards for academic teaching. He has received the Fireman of Year award from Springs Fire Department, and in 2010 was awarded the Humanitarian of the Year award by the Turn the Corner Foundation — now Global Lyme Alliance — for his dedication to the treatment of complex patients with Lyme disease. He is a founding scientific advisor for the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital Regional Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center.
Ms. O’Mara Limonius has been an estimator for Ben Krupinski Builders. She has also been involved in charitable work, raising money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and donating to the Springs Food Pantry and John M. Marshall Elementary School Parent Teacher Association amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’d like to thank everyone for putting their name in, because lots of people have opinions, but nobody often has the time,” Mr. Foster said. “It’s a huge commitment, probably now more so than ever. Everyone brings something to the table that’s important, but the board has honed in on what’s important to us and what we feel is important to the district, and we’re going in that direction.”
Some members came around after opposing choosing a candidate in the beginning. John J. Ryan Sr. has voiced his opposition to the idea since the beginning.
“I’m against the board appointing someone,” he said back at the September 1 board meeting. “I think there should be an election, but I don’t want an election because of the expense, so I think the seat should remain open.”
With the potential for three vacated board seats next election, other members began to point to the importance of bringing someone up to speed sooner rather than later. Mr. Foster said it’s also always good to have an odd number of members.
“We weren’t staring down any imminent ties, but for the fact that we’ve got a lot of moving parts this year, I really think it’s important to have that odd number,” he said, adding it’s also important to be caught up with what’s happening, like the building of a bus garage, building of a commercial kitchen and completion of a turf field. “You need to know what’s changed, what you’re facing, what’s behind you now and works and what’s behind you and doesn’t. You can also see the writing on the wall. There’s going to be a lot of change in the board the next couple of years. You don’t want to have too many people not familiar at any one given time. It’s difficult, to say the least.”
The November 4 meeting Day will begin at 6:30 p.m. and streamed live on the LTV East Hampton YouTube page.