The Board’s Big Decisions

Beth Doyle, the principal of the John M. Marshall Elementary School, greeted students on the first day of classes yesterday morning. Carissa Katz

The East Hampton School Board had a full agenda Tuesday night, one that could be said to have gone from soup to nuts, just hours before the start of the new school year. Of particular interest were announcements that it had decided to appoint someone to fill the vacancy on the board left by Patricia Hope’s surprise resignation in July, that it would be posting a security guard at each of the three district schools, and that it had come up with a way to prompt those parents with outstanding balances for their children’s lunches to pay up.

 Since Ms. Hope’s resignation, the board had weighed whether to hold a special election, which could have cost upward of $10,000, to appoint someone, or keep the seat vacant. In order to make an appointment, the board is soliciting interest among residents of the district. They are being asked to send letters no later than Oct. 1 to Kerri Stevens, the district clerk, explaining their background. Of particular interest, the board said, are candidates who have finance, or even municipal finance, backgrounds. Interviews will be conducted in public, and the board hopes to announce an appointment by Nov. 1. The new member will serve until next May’s annual meeting and election.

Richard Burns, the district superintendent, announced that after reviewing the security audit commissioned in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, a decision had been made to hire a security firm to place one guard in each school during daytime hours.

On the matter of school lunches, the district realized it had a problem in June, when it found that it was owned nearly $17,000 from parents whose children participate in the program using a swipe-card system called NutriKids. NutriKids, which does not distinguish between those paying full or reduced prices, allows parents to prepay. Now, after numerous letters and phone calls, the outstanding balance has been reduced to $6,300.

Nevertheless, J.P. Foster, who became president of the board after Ms. Hope’s resignation, said the children of those with an outstanding balance will not receive hot lunches, but a “basic meal,” such as a bagel and an apple, until payment is received. They also will be prohibited from charging for extra snacks like cookies or muffins.

Also at the meeting, enrollment and class sizes were briefly discussed. Beth Doyle, the principal of the John M. Marshall Elementary School, said that some grades were in the high teens to mid-20s, with the highest section being first grade with 25 students. Charles Soriano, the principal of the East Hampton Middle School, said four to five classes there had hit the 30-student mark because of limited sections

Earlier in the meeting, the board accepted the resignation of Kyle Anello, a technology teacher, and Michael Denslow, a paraprofessional. It reinstated the employment of John Prussack, and appointed Kylie Tekulsky to a part-time, non-tenured English as a second language teaching position at an annual salary of $36,249.

Toward the end of the sparsely attended meeting, Stephen Grossman, an attorney who is a school district parent and the husband of Laura Anker Grossman, a former president of the board, asked about recent performance on annual statewide exams.

“Newsday posted some pretty dismal state scores,” Mr. Grossman said. “Is there a reason, or, if you think those tests are relevant, do you have a plan to improve those scores?”

“Are they relevant? Yes. Do we have a plan? Yes,” said Robert Tymann, the assistant superintendent. “The scores don’t appear the way we would have liked them. But when we look at districts we compare ourselves to, we stayed about the same. But what was disappointing was that we didn’t improve as much as everyone would have hoped. Staying the same isn’t good enough.”

After a robust discussion, Claude Beudert, a middle school teacher, noted that the dismal eighth-grade math scores were related to the fact that 48 students opted out of taking the exam since they were enrolled in upper-level high school math courses.

Before the meeting was adjourned, Mr. Grossman urged that the board reconsider its preference for appointing someone to the board with a financial background. “You’re discouraging people from applying, people who have an interest in education,” he said.

The board will next meet on Sept. 16 at 6:30 p.m.