For the most part, the topics at Tuesday night’s East Hampton School Board meeting were positive ones, ranging from a proposal for a garden at the John M. Marshall School to fund-raising on school grounds. But Mary Laspia, a Gould Street resident, who had been before the board in December to complain about the noise generated by cooling equipment on the roof of the high school, was back, and shaking visibly.
“It’s a loud, droning noise that wakes you up,” she had said in December, describing “sleepless nights and tortured days.” The issue had not been resolved.
“This has been a year. Nothing has changed. I am not taking this crap anymore,” she said, her voice cracking. “If you send me one more person with one more noise meter, I’m going to shove it down their throat,” she said.
“We’ve arranged a meeting with Ms. Laspia in the very near future to address her concerns,” Richard Burns, the interim district superintencent, said yesterday morning. “In fact, a whole team is meeting with her to try and resolve this.”
On a happier note, Kate McCarty, a kindergarten parent, East Hampton graduate, and landscape architect, floated the idea of a “discovery garden” at the elementary school. The goal, Ms. McCarty said, would be to “transform the courtyard into a beautiful sanctuary,” where children could learn about nature and protecting the environment through age-appropriate hands-on activities.
The cost of the project, which would include edible plants, a boardwalk, mossy and digging areas, and a worm bin, among other things, would come from private donations, to be “umbrella-ed” by Project MOST, the nonprofit school advocacy organization. The board agreed to continue discussing plans with Ms. McCarty, noting that long-term maintenance and state guidelines had to be ironed out.
The matter of the district’s fund-raising policies was addressed at the meeting by Patricia Hope, a board member on a committee formed to take a closer look at the policies.
Reading some of the group’s findings, she said, “We’ve come up with an overview.” Fund-raisers “must directly support the East Hampton Union Free School District.” This brought an immediate response from some members of the audience who wondered, for example, about an event “benefiting a student whose house has burned down.”
Each request would be looked at on a case-by-case basis, Ms. Hope said. Mr. Burns added, “This is still totally open to discussion.”
“We’re just trying to prevent misuse of public property,” added George Aman, another board member.
Ms. Hope said she was amazed by some of the rules set forth by the Department of Education, including a statewide kibosh on selling baked goods that were not prepared in a kitchen approved by the county Health Department. “We will have to decide which rules to obey and which to ignore,” she said with a smile.
The board also heard news of a pleasant nature about an international heritage fair at the elementary school on Friday, which brought out 800 people, and a teachers versus students basketball game at the East Hampton Middle School, which raised about $1,300, half of which will go toward a fund in memory of Herman Stephens, a much-loved custodian who died in the fall.
Also boosting spirits were kudos for last weekend’s production of “Anything Goes” at the high school. The Sunday performance was preceded by a lunch for senior citizens, with over 200 attending from the over-65 set.
The performance, Mr. Burns said, “really showed that there is so much more to education than just standardized test scores.”
“Academics, arts, and athletics,” offered Ms. Hope.
In addition to Ms. McCarty, Paul Fiondella, an East Hampton resident who frequently speaks at board meetings, had a troubling concern.
“There are 150 people in the district making over $100,000 a year,” he said. “We’re already paying $2.8 million in pension contributions. When these people retire, how can you sustain this? This is what happened in Greece,” he said.
“We’re negotiating with the unions,” Jacqueline Lowey, a board member, responded. Since the matter involved personnel, she said the board could not comment further.
“There are teachers in the district who are sensitive to this.”