A New Assistant Principal

       During Tuesday night’s three-hour budget workshop, the East Hampton School Board announced the appointment of a new assistant principal at the John M. Marshall Elementary School.

       Following a comprehensive search, Dennis Sullivan, who last served as the administrative dean for the South Huntington School District, will assume his new post following next week’s February recess. Keith Malsky, the current assistant principal, announced his unexpected retirement early last month. Tomorrow is his last day.

       “We’re thrilled to have you here,” Richard Burns, the district superintendent, said during the meeting.

       “I’m excited to be here and look forward to being part of a great educational team,” said Mr. Sullivan, who holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stony Brook University. A resident of Hampton Bays, he is enrolled in a doctoral program at Dowling College.

       Prior to working in South Huntington, Mr. Sullivan spent eight years in the Hampton Bays public schools as both an elementary school math specialist and a middle school social studies teacher. Before becoming an educator, Mr. Sullivan worked as a Suffolk County deputy sheriff.

       Mr. Sullivan joins Beth Doyle, John Marshall’s principal, who will begin a maternity leave in the spring. In an email to parents last month, she assured them that she would be gone for six weeks, “barring any medical complications.”

       Shortly after announcing the hiring, the board began a line-by-line dissection of the budget.

       Patricia Hope, the board president, called it a “painstaking and agonizing process for everyone involved.”

       Though numbers are still being finalized, she estimated that the overall 2014-15 budget would likely involve some $1.2 million in cuts districtwide, given the state-mandated 2-percent tax increase cap.

       “Personally, I would like to see us come in under the cap one more time,” Ms. Hope said yesterday. “But I don’t know if that’s going to be possible.”

       On Tuesday night, the board reviewed budget lines for both the high school principal and assistant superintendent’s offices. The high school principal’s proposed budget is $451,599 — a nearly 5-percent increase over last year’s. The assistant superintendent’s proposed budget is $297,333 — a 4.3-percent increase.

       But with little left to cut and department heads defending the need for textbook purchases, the board spent the bulk of the meeting wrangling over relatively small amounts.

       Among the bigger-ticket items, a $2,699 vertical metal band saw, requested by the technology department, was deemed excessive, as was the $1,200 requested by the English department for 500 packages of short-response Scantron answer sheets. In addition, Ms. Hope called a $5,500 wireless sound system for the annual spring musical “exorbitant.”

       Education conferences were also a main focus of possible cuts, with Ms. Hope explaining a newly instituted policy. “In the current tax-cap landscape, the new approach is turnkey. Instead of four people going, one goes and runs a workshop for other teachers,” she said. “Over the years, teachers take turns going. It’s not the best thing to do, but considering time, space, staff, and money, it’s the best way.”

       One big-ticket proposed addition is $20,000 for increased mental health services. Adam Fine, the high school’s principal, said he was hoping to take the lead in helping ramp up local mental health services — including the creation of a mobile crisis unit and the potential hiring of a part-time psychiatric nurse. Mr. Fine said the need was acute, with three students requiring hospitalization over the past two weeks. He also discussed the possibility of increased state aid, in addition to joining forces with Southampton Hospital, East Hampton Town, and local nonprofits to provide a greater array of resources.

       Regarding languages, the board also weighed whether to reinstitute American Sign Language and whether the money was available for expanding a Chinese program, which is now offered online. But with a 4.9-percent increase in the high school budget, Jackie Lowey, a board member, along with several others, said that something had to give.

       As talk turned to increased cuts, many expressed frustration.

       “I don’t see how we can continue to function as a district and how we can do it and be viable and continue to offer such programs,” Arthur Goldman, a high school teacher, said.

       “This year is the breaking point,” concluded Richard Wilson, a board member.

       The next budget workshop is planned for Feb. 25 from 6 to 8 p.m.