School Board Candidates State Their Cases

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School board elections will be held by mail-in ballot this year.

Amagansett

Kevin Warren

The father of two children in the Amagansett School, incumbent board member Kevin Warren, 35, grew up in East Hampton and returned to his hometown to go into the construction business. Mr. Warren, a partner with John Hummel and Associates Custom Builders, described himself as a local leader and community volunteer who is dedicated to the education of the school’s children.

“The most important issue that our district faces is the continued wellbeing, safety, and education of our students,” he said. “Our board needs to continue to work with all stakeholders in Amagansett to develop comprehensive plans, dealing not only with crises and emergencies, but to continue to empower educators and engage students in the learning process. Whether that process is remote learning, face-to-face engagement, or a hybrid of the two, I want to maintain the unity and small-town feel that we all know and love.”

Mr. Warren said he would work to make sure residents, who share a wealth of knowledge and the goal of supporting district students, would “continue to have a voice as our school navigates future challenges.”

If reelected, Mr. Warren said, “I will continue to uphold my ethical commitment to a clear vision for our district, set and maintain proper goals, and assist our principal and superintendent, all while ensuring that every action is being well-communicated to everyone.”

Meredith Cairns

Meredith Cairns, 44, said she is the proud parent of a fourth-grade daughter who joined Amagansett School in prekindergarten. Ms. Cairns serves as PTA class parent liaison and elementary school representative on the Shared Decision Making Committee. She has lived in Amagansett for the past 13 years, serves as a trustee of the Amagansett Library Board, leads a local Girl Scout troop, and speaks fluent Spanish.

As a former sex crimes and domestic violence prosecutor with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Ms. Cairns successfully advocated for women and children and continues to do pro bono legal work in the field.

Ms. Cairns said she recognizes the central role Amagansett School plays in the community.

“Now, more than ever, communities are looking for its leaders to be prepared,” she said. “It is crucial that our school board is ready to face all challenges to ensure that faculty have the necessary resources to teach and that our students have the tools at home to learn. We also need to be prepared to welcome new families from Gansett Meadow, as well as city families choosing to stay.”

Kim Slicklein

Kimberly Slicklein, 46, is the mother of two children in the Amagansett School. She attended Princeton University and Harvard University’s Kennedy School in Leadership and Public Policy. Locally, Ms. Slicklein serves on the board of the Children’s Museum of the East End.

Ms. Slicklein is currently the CEO of Macrae Skye, a sustainable children’s clothing company. She said she has recently launched a nonprofit initiative called Tomorrow SKYE, which is designed to remove clothing waste by giving donated used clothing to women and children in domestic-abuse shelters.

Prior to moving to Amagansett, her family lived in four different countries, giving her “firsthand experience with multiple pedagogies, each reflecting varying social, political, and cultural values,” she said. While living in South Africa, Ms. Slicklein founded The Solar School to serve impoverished children. “We leveraged solar energy to fuel the school, and crafted a robust public-private partnership to fund it,” she said.

She called the COVID-19 crisis “the most pressing issue” facing all school districts and said the second most important issue confronting Amagansett will be the “imminent increase in students that will be joining the Amagansett family” as a result of the pandemic and the Gansett Meadow housing development.

“If elected, I will work to ensure that the students’ needs are being met — not just academically, but also socially and emotionally,” she said. “I will help create a stronger sense of community. I will help manage the budget so that we can create ways in which to do more, with less.”

Bridgehampton

Kathleen McCleland

Incumbent member Kathleen Griffin McCleland, 49, was born and raised in Bridgehampton. After graduating from Colgate University, she worked for Goldman Sachs, where she managed large-scale events, meetings, and conferences. In 2004, she returned to Bridgehampton to follow her passion and now is a pastry chef at the Beacon and Bell and Anchor restaurants in Sag Harbor, where she is a co-owner. She has two children who attend Bridgehampton School.

“Our biggest challenge remains how to provide progressive and innovative educational and extracurricular programs while being fiscally responsible and staying under the New York State tax cap,” she said. “My focus is always student driven and forward thinking.

Are we providing the best possible education for all students? What can we do better?”
The coronavirus pandemic has presented a new set of challenges, she added. “Now more than ever, we need the board of education to provide consistent and comprehensive oversight,” she said.

Ms. McCleland described herself as goal oriented and a critical thinker. “These skills, along with being an effective communicator have allowed me to be a productive member of the board for the last six years,” she said. “In that time, I am proud to say we have made huge strides in working to make our school district the best it can be. We have seen enormous growth in our school population, in the academic programs we offer, and in our relationship with the greater Bridgehampton community, but there is always more work to be done.”

Michael Gomberg

Michael C. Gomberg, 47, who studied accounting and finance at Washington University in St. Louis and is currently on the Bridgehampton budget advisory committee, is seeking to return to the board, where he previously served one term.

He has worked in financial markets for more than 25 years, currently as an advisor with Edward Jones Investments, and has two children in the district.

“While a lot of progress has been made in recent years, the district is facing many challenges,” he said. “It is my priority to make sure all students are learning and not falling behind during these uncertain times. This only happens when the faculty and students are performing at their best.”

Mr. Gomberg said he saw three main issues facing the district. The first is the need for crisis contingency planning for situations like the possible reemergence of the coronavirus.

“As a small district we are at an advantage because we can be more agile in executing our plans,” he said.

Another is raising the bar on academic achievement. “During my past term on the board, I was instrumental in building the technology curriculum and teaching staff, as well as successfully advocating for improvements and investments in special education,” he said.

A third issue will be budgeting with new financial constraints that are emerging in the wake of the pandemic. “With the amount of state aid uncertain, some tough choices might have to be made,” he said.

MarkAnthony Verzosa

Markanthony Verzosa, 49, who is seeking his second term, is the father of two children in the Bridgehampton School.

As a designer and builder by profession, he said he has played an influential role in the renovation and expansion project currently underway in the district. His understanding “of the value of aesthetics, schedules, finances, and communication between the district and the build team has brought balance to all of these components,” he said.

Mr. Verzosa said his influence on the school’s teaching philosophy “has become a benchmark in the understanding of the current state of the education of Bridgehampton’s children” and would help guide future decisions of the district’s curriculum committee, which he helped establish. “As the campus changes for the better of the district, the curriculum should expand and develop along with it,” he said. “They are inseparable.”

If reelected, he said he would work to help teachers feel more comfortable about developing a more creative, innovative, and progressive learning environment.

“We are living in unprecedented times. The current board has been essential to the education of Bridgehampton’s children and has been able to collaborate with the administration to provide an evolving system that meets and exceeds the standards of the New York State during this pandemic,” he said.

East Hampton

John Ryan

John Ryan, 85, a retired teacher who has been training East Hampton lifeguards for 40 years, is seeking another term on the East Hampton School Board. He said he previously served 14 years on the board before taking a break and returning six years ago.

Mr. Ryan received his undergraduate degree at St. John’s University and master’s degree from the University of California Fresno and taught math for four years in Westhampton Beach and 24 years at East Hampton Middle School and High School.

“I have always enjoyed working with kids,” he said.
To find a serious issue facing the district, one needs look no further than the coronavirus pandemic, according to Mr. Ryan. “This virus is a challenge,” he said. “God help us if we can’t open in September.”

Another challenge related to the virus is getting the district’s proposed $71.9 million budget passed in an all-absentee ballot vote. “The budget is coming in under the cap, but everyone is feeling strapped,” he said of the current economic downturn. It is also important that voters support a bond measure allowing the district to convert a portion of its cafeteria into a commercial-grade kitchen for culinary arts classes, he said.

“I have a good history, I’m knowledgeable, and I’ve been involved in education my whole life,” Mr. Ryan said. “I’m pro-education, but I’m cheap and want to see that our money is spent wisely.”

“I am running for re-election because I care deeply about our community and its children,” said incumbent East Hampton School Board member Jacqueline Lowey, 56. “During my nine years on the board, I have been a leader for our kids and families.”

As the parent of two students in the district, Ms. Lowey said she was tapped into the district’s concerns and has maintained an open-door policy for all.

“I am proud that our board has established full-day, free Pre-K and a new dual language program; funded new mental health initiatives; established STEM initiatives, including coding, Science Olympiad and Invention Convention; added advanced courses like AP Seminar; new vocational programs such cooking and mechanics; expanded athletic programs and extra-curricular activities; funded new Chromebooks for all district children, increased transparency by televising board meetings, increased efficiency with new web site and on-line registration and communication; funded new safety and security measures; established new solar and renewable energy program to save funds; and put together multiple budgets under the 2-percent tax cap,” she said. “I am particularly proud of the leadership role our district has taken in feeding the food-insecure members of our community during this COVID-19 crisis.”

“This will be my final term, and I would be honored to be re-elected and serve my community,” she added.

George Aman

Dr. George Aman, 81, who served one term on the East Hampton School Board from 2010 to 2013, is seeking to return.

Dr. Aman enjoyed a long career teaching mathematics at the high school and college levels in the Syracuse area before serving as an assistant superintendent in the Longwood and Riverhead school districts. He later served as superintendent of the Amagansett School District for 10 years.

“I think they need another experienced pair of eyes and ears to help with the problems they are dealing with,” Dr. Aman said of the district.

As an example, he said he believed the district could have found a way to keep the running track open during the pandemic shutdown so that fitness buffs like himself would have a safe place to jog.

He also said the district should hire a full-time adult-education program director and print catalogs of offerings to encourage more senior citizens to sign up for classes.

Dr. Aman also said board seats should have term limits. “If you can’t get your ideas through in six to nine years, you’re never going to do it,” he said, and called for the district to find a place to introduce the study of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution into the high school curriculum.

East Quogue

Kristin Jankowski, 44, is the only incumbent seeking re-election to the East Quogue Union Free School District Board of Education, with incumbent Brian Babcock choosing not to seek a second term. There are two, three-year terms up for election on the board.

Ms. Jankowski, who has lived in East Quogue since 2005, is seeking a second term on the board. She and her husband are the owners of Westhampton True Value.

“I have been an accountant in both Massachusetts and New York for the past 22 years, and I feel my experience and financial background is a big help to this position,” Ms. Jankowski said. “I have two children in the Westhampton Beach Middle School, who thoroughly enjoyed their time at East Quogue Elementary School. My first term on the School Board is coming to an end, but I feel the work I have started is not done. The current board worked hard to create a bond plan, which was passed by our community. We are in the middle of construction, and I would like to see the project to completion. In our current financial times, it is important to continue to keep our community and our children first.”

Kristina LoRusso

Kristina LoRusso, 42, has been a resident of East Quogue since 2004 and is seeking her first term on the Board of Education.

“One of the main reasons my husband and I chose to settle here and start our family was because of the school district and its high standing reputation,” said Ms. LoRusso, who has three children, in the third, sixth and seventh grade in the school district, and teaches at the Love of Learning preschool in Quogue. A board member on the Wildcat Education Foundation, a nonprofit that helps supplement educational programs within the East Quogue School District, Mr. LoRusso has also worked alongside administrators and staff in the interviewing and hiring committee that helps select teachers and administrators for the district.

“For the past eight years, being part of the East Quogue School District has by far exceeded my expectations,” said Ms. LoRusso. “My children have all thrived here. I admire how family orientated this school is and its dedication to the community and students. I’ve seen our school go through some trying times, as well as work so hard together to overcome them and strive to be the best it can be.”

Ms. LoRusso said she decided to run for the board to continue working with and advocating for the educational needs of all children in the district.

“I want the opportunity to contribute my knowledge, my energy and my sense of commitment to the students of the East Quogue district,” she said. “I believe that a school board member should be responsive and receptive to parents to parents, staff, students and the community always encouraging open communication. These next couple of years will no doubt bring many challenges that I am willing to be part of and do whatever I can to help our community get through it all.”

Joseph Sanicola

Joseph M. Sanicola, 41, has been an elementary school teacher for over 18 years and works in the East Hampton School District.

“As a teacher of elementary education for over 18 years, I have built a successful character education company, worked with at-risk communities to help students excel, and successfully negotiated complex contracts where both sides were at odds,” Mr. Sanicola said. “Over the years, I have built a strong knowledge of school budgets, staffing considerations, and, most importantly, the needs of students and families.”

An active participant in Board of Education meetings and a father of four, Mr. Sanicola said he sees the school as the heart of the East Quogue community.

“When I see something great, I always want to do my part to make it that much better,” he said. “Community is what binds us together. I believe fostering communication and engagement with the citizens of EQ is more crucial now than ever. Supporting the social, emotional, and economic needs of students and families is of primary concern. We will need to challenge our perceptions and allow ingenuity and creativity to move us forward.

“The road ahead requires attention to both fiscal responsibility and quality education. Through careful attention to budgetary issues and insight into the most crucial resources our school deserves in order to flourish, we can work together to build upon the wonderful foundation East Quogue has in place.”

Remsenburg-Speonk

Kathleen Hofmann

Kathleen Hofmann, 37, is the owner of Fluid Imagery, a computer business based in Westhampton. She has a master’s degree in education and has taught living environment and AP Biology classes for over a decade.

“I feel so fortunate to be a resident of the beautiful Remsenburg-Speonk community,” said Ms. Hofmann, who has a daughter, Kathryn, in kindergarten, and a son, Brady, in sixth grade. “My husband Scott and I decided to raise our family here because of the strong sense of community and the remarkable reputation of the elementary school.”

“As an educator, parent, and homeowner in the Remsenburg-Speonk community, it is my desire to see the district thrive in the best interests of our children while maintaining a fiscal balance and favorable tax rate,” Ms. Hofmann said. “As a board member, it is my hope to help maintain an educational program that promotes a love of learning in the children of our community, providing them every opportunity for future success.”

Daniel Arsdale

Dr. Daniel M. Van Arsdale is also running for the school board. He was an assistant professor teaching neuromuscular medicine at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine and is currently a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine, Population & Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University Medical Center. He is also the Program Director of Stony Brook’s Family Medicine training programs.

Dr. Van Arsdale has been a resident of the East End for over 10 years and has been dedicated to bettering our educational system.

Recently, Dr. Van Arsdale was awarded a $40,000 grant to support technology and the arts, at Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School, and is involved in the development of a farm-to-school program to improve access to fresh locally sourced produce for school lunches. Dr. Van Arsdale is a veteran of the US Army and did a tour of duty with the 42nd Infantry Division in Iraq in 2005.

Sag Harbor

Ronald Reed

Ronald Reed, 51, an artist and architect who has led teams of architects, artists, engineers, and contractors in implementing large complex projects for both public and private sector clients, is seeking his first term on the board.

A native of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, he studied fine arts at Boise State University and architecture at the University of Idaho, and is an alternate member of the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board.
The father of two students in the elementary school, Mr. Reed said he would be an “advocate for diversity and inclusion, and, of course, the best education the school can provide.”

Mr. Reed serves on the district’s facilities committee and said he is looking for other ways to serve the school community.

“Professionally, I believe the most effective way to create and implement change anywhere is by having a diverse mix of experiences, specialties, and backgrounds,” said Mr. Reed, who added that he feels his background as an architect would be valuable in future discussions of the district’s facilities.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in school closings and the need to provide remote learning programs, will demand creative thinking, he said. “The school district will need people who can help with the physical-spatial planning, and with my experience, I will be able to assist with that.”

Sandi Kruel

Sandi Kruel, 58 is a lifelong resident of Sag Harbor, Pierson graduate, mother of three Pierson graduates including one in the Class of 2020, and an active community member.

Her experience includes 12 previous years on the board, including as vice president and president, PTA president, PTSA president, athletic, audit, and building and grounds committees, president of the YARD after-school program, 15 years as class mother, and founder and president of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball league.

Ms. Kruel pointed to her extensive institutional knowledge, understanding of policies and procedures, and a commitment to transparency, oversight, and fiscal accountability.

“I believe that all children deserve a quality education that gives them the opportunity to reach their full potential,” she said.

During her board tenure, the school adopted the International Baccalaureate program and increased sports and club options while controlling costs and completing construction projects that added gym and classroom space as well as the renovation of Pierson’s theater, she said.

Ms. Kruel said she continues to regularly attend board meetings and Pierson sporting events as she is deeply committed to the students, the school, the taxpayers, and the community.

“I pledge to be your voice on the board, to always be available to you, and to help the school navigate the difficult years ahead,” she said.

Brian DeSesa

Brian DeSesa, 39, is a former assistant Suffolk County district attorney, who is currently in private practice with offices in Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton, focusing on real estate, land use, and litigation. He has lived in Sag Harbor since 2008 with his wife and daughter and is seeking his second term on the board.

“The most pressing issue for the school district is how will we return to school in the fall during the COVID-19 crisis,” he said. “Specifically, what will education look like, how will instruction be changed and how can we get the district’s children back to a new normal?”

Mr. DeSesa added that the district will have to accomplish those tasks in a safe way “that is fair to all members of our communities and our students.”He said the district also needs to prepare for the future. “I think we also need to focus on courses that are geared for the current world, more technology, computer science and the like and look into phasing out outdated classes and materials to make our students the best prepared for life,” he said.

“Also, I think alternative educational classes need to be increased. Specifically, vocational offerings need to be increased to be fair to all students. Creating well-rounded students on an evolving basis is the main focus of the board and most important.”

Alex Kriegsman

“As a parent of three Sag Harbor children, nothing is more important to me than our school system,” said incumbent board member Alex Kriegsman, 48, a former federal prosecutor who now has a Sag Harbor law practice. “With a high property tax base, and many second homeowners, we should be able to have a first-rate school system, with the best curriculum and programming, while being sensitive to our taxpayers.”

With a new PLANT course for Middle School students, increasing enrollment and success with the International Baccalaureate program, thriving athletics, music and theater programs, Sag Harbor has become the best school district on the East End, Mr. Kriegsman said, attracting tuition-paying students from neighboring districts.

“At the same time, it has become increasingly expensive for our full-time residents to live here,” he said. “I have fought for lower taxes each year I have been on the board, and the past three years we have stayed below the tax cap by the largest margin ever. “

He said the COVID-19 crisis will be the district’s primary challenge in the coming months.

“We need leadership and experience to navigate this in a way that is safest and best for our children and community,” he said.

Helen Roussel

Helen Roussel, 53, who works in the art conservation business and has three children in the Sag Harbor School District, said she was running for a seat on the board “to improve students’ academic achievement and bring sustainable initiatives to the school while saving taxpayer dollars.” A native of England, she has lived in Sag Harbor for eight years.

Ms. Roussel has a bachelor of science degree in environmental studies and served on the board of the Sierra Club Long Island Group and on the Sustainable Southampton Green Advisory Committee. She also served on the PTA and was involved in the successful effort to halt the installation of artificial turf at Pierson High School and said she would work to enact sustainable policies in the district.

“To achieve higher academic performance, increased collaboration between the two school buildings, administrators, teachers, and parents is vital,” she said. “I would advocate for lead teachers to collaborate with administrators to improve curriculums and develop early-remediation strategies starting at kindergarten and first grade. Science informs us that early identification and expert remediation save taxpayers the expense of trying to solve problems once that critical window for most effective intervention has passed. I aim to encourage collaboration at the school to reduce the number of students that need Individual Education Plans by implementing early science-based remediation.”

Other Districts

Nine school districts on the South Fork will hold uncontested school board elections this spring.

In Hampton Bays, incumbent Dorothy Capuano is seeking the single, three-year term.
Longtime board member and current president Diana Hausman is running unopposed in Montauk.

Malcolm McLean is an incumbent on the Quogue Unified School District Board of Education and will run unopposed for the one, three-year term up for grabs in that district.

While incumbent Brian Villante will not seek another term on the school board for the Sagaponack Common School, Thomas Schultz runs unopposed for the only seat up for election in that district.

Incumbents Anastasia Gavalas and James F. McKenna were the only candidates to file petitions to run in Southampton for two seats on that board.

Similarly, Patrick Brabant and Timothy Fraizer will run unopposed to keep their seats in Springs.

Robert E. Grisnik, an incumbent, will run unopposed for the single term up for election on the Tuckahoe Common School District Board of Education, with board president David Eagan also running unopposed to continue to serve on the board of the Wainscott School.

In Westhampton Beach, Joyce l. Donneson and Suzanne Mensch, both incumbents, are running unopposed.

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