The candidates in the East Hampton Board of Education election Tuesday present a range of perspectives and qualifications. Of these, one, Jackie Lowey, stands out as an outstanding and obvious choice. Ms. Lowey has an impressive résumé with work in Washington, D.C., as well as locally for the Wounded Warrior Project. She is a parent of two students at the John M. Marshall Elementary School, but she also would bring her significant professional qualifications, as well as intelligence, to a post on the board. We can confidently vouch for her intellect and strong commitment to the causes she takes on. (In the interest of disclosure, it should be noted that Ms. Lowey is a personal friend of The Star’s editor.)
Less clear is the best choice among the four remaining candidates. With the retirement from the board of John Ryan, a longtime East Hampton teacher, and James Amaden, a businessman, there are only two seats open. From among Liz Pucci, Marie Klarman, Pat Hope, and Paul Fiondella, it is Ms. Hope who will be the best fit at this time.
As parents of students now in the district, Ms. Pucci and Ms. Klarman, to some extent, would come from a perspective similar to Ms. Lowey’s. Though their individual strengths are different from hers, should either succeed in Tuesday’s voting, there would be a degree of duplication. Nevertheless, it should be said that we believe both would make fine school board members.
As a retired science teacher at East Hampton High School, Ms. Hope could be viewed as likely to be too sympathetic to her former colleagues. However, to assume that is to not understand who she is. Ms. Hope was ever the iconoclast, someone who has always known her own mind. There is also a certain delicious irony in her running for East Hampton School Board, as it was in a previous incarnation that it was responsible for briefly bringing her to national notice.
Way back in 1982, when she was still teaching at the school, the board nearly fired her for getting pregnant but not being married. Rival petitions circulated, network television crews descended on East Hampton, People magazine ran a long feature, and in the end the board let her keep her job. Little about that controversy matters much now; it was a different time with different players and different ideas. But it does point to Ms. Hope’s long history in East Hampton as a teacher, a single mother — and as a parent of daughters who went through the schools here, too. Her philosophical bent, ability as an educator, and thrifty common-sense approach make her a superb candidate.
Lastly and put simply, Mr. Fiondella would be a mistake. Based on our years of observations of his past performance at a range of public meetings, he does not have the temperament for group deliberations or teamwork; respecting the opinions of those with whom he disagrees is not his strength. We could even imagine that his combative style, if he takes a place on the board, could become a disincentive to other prospective candidates in future elections. Regardless of his dedication and many qualifications, Mr. Fiondella is not suited for a seat on board that is best fueled by cooperation, not confrontation.
We endorse Ms. Lowey and Ms. Hope.
As to the East Hampton school budget of $64.4 million for 2011-12: We can only say that, when considering that impressive figure, a highlights and bloopers reel of the administration’s recent history runs involuntarily through our head. The district has made only a halfhearted effort to control costs after several years of wasteful and embarrassing spending growth. A yes vote would result in a 5.89-percent tax-rate increase, according to the district. It must be up to individual voters to decide whether or not they, personally, can afford to support it.