Who’s Who in 2018 School Board Races

In East Hampton, from left to right, Christina DeSanti, Sarah Minardi, Jeffrey Erickson.

When voters go to the polls on Tuesday to choose new school board members or return incumbents to their posts, those in East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton, Springs, Amagansett, Montauk, Sagaponack, and Wainscott School Districts will find 15 official candidates vying for 12 open seats. The only contested races on the ballots are in East Hampton, Amagansett, and Sagaponack. 

East Hampton

In East Hampton, two seats are vacant; an incumbent hopes to retain one of those while two newcomers vie for the other.

Christina DeSanti is the current vice president of the board, on which she has served for six years. If re-elected, this will be her third term. A native of Sag Harbor, Ms. DeSanti graduated from Pierson High School and went on to receive a degree in business management from Ithaca College. She has lived in East Hampton for 24 years, with two sons at the high school, and since 2004 she and her husband have owned and run Dreesen’s Catering in East Hampton.

Ms. DeSanti has been instrumental as a board member in getting East Hampton high schoolers “college ready,” with recent graduates being accepted into top tier schools. Then came a renewed focus on the “career ready” side of an equation mandated by New York State, which asked schools to prepare those pupils not on a college track for careers instead. As a small-business owner, Ms. DeSanti said she appreciates the school’s responsibility to provide these students with marketable skill sets and has been a vocal advocate of the invigorated vocational educational program at the school. Safety and security in school is another issue she is focusing on, as well as substance abuse and mental health. “These are topics of interest to me that I would like to continue to work on, as these are very serious issues affecting our kids today,” she said.

Sarah Minardi was born and raised in East Hampton, like her parents and her paternal grandfather. Ms. Minardi’s mother was a teacher at the John M. Marshall Elementary School for over 30 years and her grandfather, Amasa W. Brooks, was a school board member for several years. 

Ms. Minardi is a licensed real estate broker and said that, “joining the East Hampton School Board feels like a natural progression for me as a young leader and positive influencer in our community. I am a team player but I am also vocal about issues I think are important for the well-being of our children and our community.” She added that, if elected, she plans to bring a fresh voice to the school board, and, as the only member with a child attending the elementary school (with another scheduled to join in three years), she would be able to bring her experiences and knowledge of that particular division to the board. 

Jeffrey Erickson, a sergeant with the East Hampton Village Police Department, is running for a seat on the school board because “I understand the importance of safety and education in our schools. I believe the East Hampton school district would benefit from my experience and knowledge.”

Mr. Erickson is a graduate of the State University at Oswego, where he earned a degree in technology education. 

During his tenure with the police department he has served as a DARE instructor at East Hampton’s elementary and middle schools. He was also the union president of the East Hampton Village Police Benevolent Association for 13 years.  Currently, Mr. Erickson is a team leader with the police emergency service unit.  

“These experiences have provided me with leadership skills, knowledge of collective bargaining, and contract negotiations,” which he said would enable him to make purposeful decisions that reflect the values of the community.

Amagansett

One seat is available in Amagansett as an incumbent faces tough opposition from a vocal critic.

Dawn Rana-Brophy is running for re-election. A native of Amagansett, she attended the Amagansett School, the third generation in her family to do so. Her mother, Virginia Rana, served as school board president for many years. While Ms. Rana-Brophy’s three children attended the school, she was active in leadership roles in the PTA, helping to create the popular fall fair, which still exists. She was appointed to the board in 2016.

“A well-run school district is much different today than in the past, as the state demands greater accountability from their districts, whether the district is small or large,” she explained, adding that school auditors have complimented the district as being well run and fiscally responsible. 

Ms. Rana-Brophy’s foremost goal, if re-elected, would be to select and hire “an outstanding superintendent.” The process is underway as Eleanor Tritt, the current superintendent will retire at the end of June.

Mary A. Eames has become a fixture at Amagansett School Board meetings over the last year. She is a vocal critic of board policies and, especially, of Ms. Tritt, whom she regularly claimed operates more like the employer of the board rather than vice versa, which is usually the case.

She is currently the principal’s secretary at the John M. Marshall Elementary School and also runs a massage therapy business. “I am very good with managing finances and schedules,” she said, adding that she is involved with preparing the budget at the elementary school.

Ms. Eames has been an Amagansett resident for over 45 years. Her children attended the school, and in 1984, she was instrumental in petitioning for the introduction of the 3-year-olds program. Her daughter, now 37, was one of the first students of the program, which still exists today. Ms. Eames has also been involved in community service programs and is currently in her 27th year as an E.M.T. driver and helper. 

At board meetings over the past year, she has taken the board and the superintendent to task over what she says is overspending by employing three administrators for a school district with fewer than 100 children.

Most recently, she has started to record the meetings on her phone and publish them on YouTube because, she said, she wants the answers to her tough questions to be public.

Sag Harbor

In Sag Harbor, two candidates are running for two open seats.

Susan Schaefer was appointed to the board earlier this year to fill the seat vacated by Tommy John Schiavoni when he was elected to the Southampton Town Board. Ms. Schaefer is required to run again, as the seat she inherited expires at the end of June. She is a vice president of Bridgehampton National Bank and serves as the manager of its Bridgehampton branch. She has previously served on the boards of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce and the Sag Harbor Little League. Despite several attempts to contact her, Ms. Schaefer did not respond to requests for comment this week.

Jordana Sobey is a corporate attorney with over 10 years of experience practicing law. Over the years, she has also been involved in many volunteer activities including providing financial literacy classes to women through Coalition for the Homeless and teaching angel investing to women entrepreneurs. Ms. Sobey received her law degree from Boston University School of Law and undergraduate degree from Tufts University. She has lived in Sag Harbor for over four years with her husband, who is a physician, and their two children, who attend the Sag Harbor Elementary School. Ms. Sobey serves on the board of Goat on a Boat at Bay Street. 

“I’ve been trying to find ways to become part of this amazing community in a more meaningful way since, as someone who works from home, I don’t usually get to interact with the community on a professional level like my husband and friends do whose professions and businesses rely on the local community,” she said about her decision to run for the board. “I also think I can add value as a school board member since, as a transactional attorney, I’m a natural problem solver.” 

Bridgehampton

In an uncontested race, three incumbents will seek re-election for their third three-year terms in Bridgehampton.

Ronald White, who has been president of the board since 2013, is seeking re-election. 

Lillian Tyree-Johnson is seeking her third term on the board, and is now vice president.

Douglas DeGroot, who owns and runs the Hamptons Tennis club on Buckskill Road in East Hampton, has been on the board for the past six years.

None could be reached for comment this week.

Springs

Unless a write-in emerges this week, the one vacant seat in Springs will be filled by the incumbent, Barbara Dayton, who is finishing her first three-year term. For the past two years, she has served as president. 

“I’m running again because I’ve really enjoyed the work that I have been part of there,” she wrote in an email. “I’m very proud of the board’s recent accomplishments — hiring a new superintendent and getting the bond passed for the building expansion, so I’d like to carry on and see the building project through.”

Ms. Dayton also said that she has become more aware of and interested in current educational issues, and is excited about some of the new initiatives being adopted by schools. “So I’d also like to be there to advocate for our administrators and teachers in their professional development,” she said.

Montauk

Lee White is uncontested in Montauk and will retain his seat for another five-year term. Despite attempts to reach him, Mr. White did not respond to requests for comment.

Sagaponack

One vacant seat has emerged in Sagaponack as Joseph P. Louchheim, the board’s president, declared himself unavailable after his term ends on June 30. Two newcomers will vie for the spot.

Lauren Thayer is a fourth-generation Sagaponack School graduate, and as of the fall, her two children, ages 5 and 7, will also be enrolled there. 

“I am passionate about our Little Red School and Sagaponack Village. I will never forget the unique education it provided me,” she said.

Over the past eight years she has worked with the school board as a member of the Shared Decision Making Committee, which was responsible for implementing a free prekindergarten program for Sagaponack residents, the addition of kindergarten, which allowed residents to stay in the district, and introducing a robotics program.

Ms. Thayer said she continues to promote the school’s mission to encourage outdoor play and learning by working with the Madoo Conservancy and the school board to develop a school garden with a focus on local farming and native plants.

“I also helped organize a 2018 open house with the teachers that helped raise community awareness of the school and . . . assisted in creating a video campaign to capture the unique and special school we have,” she wrote in an email. She believes that resulted in an increase in enrollment from 9 to 16 students.

The many reasons she offered as to why the community should elect her included the fact that she has children attending the school, her long ties to the school and the community, that she is a member of the Village Zoning Board, and a small-business owner — her family has owned Thayer’s Hardware and Patio in Bridgehampton since 1946.

Diana Payne also has two children at the school. Since 2007, she and her husband have owned and run a plumbing company, and overseen the marketing, branding, advertising, and graphic design for Marilee’s Farm Stand and the Foster family’s growing Sagaponack Farm Distillery. 

“Having worked extensively for homeowners and farmers, I recognize the complex issues faced by those who own here and those who farm the land, and will ensure their concerns are addressed and their voices are heard,” she said.

Ms. Payne also served on the school’s Shared Decision Making Committee, having being elected to the spot by parents in 2015. Currently, the group is tasked with constructing the school garden, which Ms. Payne describes as “a project that will serve as an awesome learning resource and educational opportunity for our students.” 

Ms. Payne said she is running for a seat on the board “for my daughters’ future, but also on behalf of any child who may have the opportunity to be part of our special school community.”

Wainscott

Kelly Anderson, the incumbent in Wainscott, is throwing her hat in the ring once more this year, hoping to serve her third three-year term. She is uncontested.

In Amagansett, at left, Dawn Rana-Brophy is running for re-election, contested by Mary A. Eames, at right.
In Sagaponack, at left, Lauren Thayer and Diana Payne, at right.