A Changing of the District’s Guards

    Tuesday night’s East Hampton school board meeting was a time of reflection for those stepping down from either appointed or elected posts, along with a handful of school employees who will be moving on, but it was also a night to celebrate those who are moving up.
    Those include Keith Malskey, the assistant East Hampton middle school principal, who will remove the “assistant” from his title and fill the shoes of the departing Thomas Lamorgese, effective July 1, and Lawrence Roberts, who will split his time between his current job as the district’s director of unified arts and his new job as assistant middle school principal. Gina Kraus, the current assistant principal at the John M. Marshall Elementary School, will be taking over as the principal when Christopher Tracey retires, effective Feb. 1, 2012. The district’s bilingual social worker and director of the alternative school program, Daniel Hartnett, will be taking Ms. Kraus’s spot as assistant principal of the elementary school.
    District Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri and the school board honored the departing principals and others who have tendered their resignation. Mr. Tracey and Dr. Lamorgese, both with 16 years of service, were greeted with applause from the board and the audience, along with Donna Halsey, who has been employed by the district for 13 years as a speech therapist, and Bernadette Brown, a 27-year district veteran. There was a posthumous salute to the former district clerk, Donna Russo, who died last November after a prolonged struggle with cancer.
    “If we don’t vote yes, will she have to stay?” asked Alison Anderson, a board member, when the board voted to accept, with regret, the resignation of Geri Fromm, who has been the head clerk at the high school and has been with the district for two decades.
    James Amaden, the school board president, and John Ryan Sr., another school board member, said their goodbyes as well. When the school board meets again for its reorganization on July 5, Patricia Hope and Jacqueline Lowey will be stepping up to the board.
    “It’s been a pleasure working with the current board members and past boards as well,” said Mr. Amaden. “It’s a big job being on the board, but it’s also a big job being a teacher. It takes a lot of people to make a good school district.”
    Notably absent from the school board was Stephen P. Talmage, who has been a board member for 14 years but resigned suddenly on Monday.
    “It’s been a time coming,” Mr. Talmage told The Star yesterday. “The public is demanding more — and I’m not in any way passing judgment on whether that’s right or wrong. It just takes more time.” Time, according to Mr. Talmage, that he simply can’t fit into his schedule.
    He referred to the committees, like the budget finance committee, a group of civilians formed to work on the school budget. “They give their time,” he said, “so it’s only right for the board to put in more time too. Executive meetings are longer than they used to be,” he continued, “and now the board will be choosing a new superintendent,” a process that is bound to be time consuming as well, Mr. Talmage said.
    Recently Mr. Talmage expressed his opposition to banners being sold to sponsors and placed around the football field for the Police Athletic League’s youth football games. But, he was quick to point out, that has nothing to do with his decision to quit.
    “Whether a few signs go up, or whether the parking lot is rented out won’t affect the students,” he said. “PAL is a great program and the people who run it are as dedicated in time as the school board. I just have a little different philosophy about it.”
    “A heated exchange doesn’t mean the school is broken,” he said. “This is not a broken school.” Mr. Talmage went on to praise the current and newly elected school board members.
    A Talmage has sat on some board, whether it’s town, village, school, or committee, since the town was formed, he said. With both Stephen Talmage and Thomas Talmage simultaneously stepping down from the East Hampton and Springs school boards, Stephanie Talmage Forsberg, an incumbent East Hampton Town Trustee and 12th-generation East Hampton resident, is the only one of her family left on a board.
    Asked how the board was planning to replace Mr. Talmage, Dr. Laura Anker Grossman answered that whoever was chosen would finish Mr. Talmage’s term, which ends in 2012. The conversation, she said, would be held in public, but with private interviews, and would be discussed further at the July 5 meeting.
    “I may run again some time, if there’s an issue that I really feel passionate about,” Mr. Talmage concluded. But for now, he said he’s going to “definitely” attend school board meetings and watch from the audience.