Ongoing Lawsuit May Go to Trial

    In an otherwise routine meeting of the East Hampton School Board Tuesday, at which loose ends were tied up in anticipation of Monday’s start of the 2013-2014 academic year, it was learned that the district’s ongoing lawsuit against Sandpebble Builders may go to trial.

    “We have attempted to negotiate and make settlement offers, but to no avail,” said Kevin Seaman of Stony Brook, who is representing the district. “It appears very clear to us that this matter is going to have to be adjudicated at trial at some point in 2014.”

    At issue is a multimillion-dollar contract that dates  to April of 2002 for construction. When Sandpebble, a Southampton company, began negotiations with the district, the project was slated to cost $18 million. Eventually, it ballooned to upwards of $80 million.

    Mr. Seaman spoke toward the end of the two-hour session, during which the board voted on 34 recommendations. Among the highlights, Dawn Gallagher, a former school bus driver who appeared in public disciplinary hearings earlier this year, has been reinstated to her position, effective Sept. 1. At the same time, the board voted to accept the resignations of two bus drivers, Cherylann George and Sandra Dombkowski.

    The board also accepted the resignations of two teachers, Jonathan Bowe and Eric Ferraro, and approved the contract for Ana Núnez, a community liaison who works to improve ties between the school district and the Spanish-speaking community. For the 2013-2014 school year, she will receive an annual salary of $23,520.

    The board also voted to extend the contract of Bridget LeRoy, who, as the district’s communications consultant, will be paid an annual salary of $40,000. On the matter of driving instruction, the district is now contracting with Chucky’s Driving School, which will be paid by parents of students taking advantage of it rather than the district.

    Later in the night, to great applause, Patricia Hope, the board president, read aloud a letter from the East Hampton Rotary Club whose $17,000 donation will allow the district to do long-awaited repair to the scoreboard on the high school football field.

    The board also voted to approve the implementation of the NutriKids Cafeteria Payment System at a one-time implementation cost of approximately $17,000 and an annual maintenance fee of $2,000. The new system, which is likely to be implemented in late October or November, will eliminate the stigma for those students in the district who receive free or reduced-price lunches.

    Ms. Hope, a former science teacher at East Hampton High School, also spoke, calling her two and a half years of service on the board the “most important thing I’ve gotten involved in that directly helps children.”
    Lastly, Jackie Lowey, a board member, briefly discussed the results of recent state exams. East Hampton, as with most other neighboring districts, saw a steep decline in scores in most subjects.

    “There’s an enormous concern, which I share, that there’s already enough teaching to the test,” said Ms. Lowey, who urged that a public discussion concerning next steps convene at a later date. “No one wants the lesson here to be that we have to teach more to the test.”