Letters to the Editor - 04.28.11

Durell Godfrey

Quick Response
    East Hampton
    April 25, 2011
Dear Editor,
    I would like to thank all of the ambulance volunteers and the town police for their quick response to a 911 call that my daughter made on my behalf to our home at 316 Accabonac Road last week. I am now home and as good as new!
    Donna Cuomo

    East Hampton
    April 24, 2011
To the Editor,
    I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars for the basket of fruit which they gave to me for Easter. It was nice to be remembered by my fellow comarades.

 Vote ‘Yes’
    April 25, 2011
Dear Editor,
    I am urging all residents of Springs to turn out and vote “yes” on the Springs School budget on May 17.
    Local school budget votes too often provide voters with the only chance to give vent to the frustration felt over rising tax burdens. While that frustration is understandable, voting “no” on school budgets does little to control the mandated increases that cause school bud­gets to increase year after year. Make no mistake — the system of financing schools in New York is unfair and in need of reform; however, voting down your local school budget will do nothing to bring about that reform.
    Voting down the Springs School budget will not reduce teacher salaries and benefits. Voting down the Springs School budget will not result in an objective and balanced board of education. Voting down the Springs School budget will not result in improved school ranking. Voting down the Springs School budget will result in the adoption of a contingency budget, which will result in the cutting of enrichment programs and extracurricular programs for our children.
    For the average Springs taxpayer, the difference in cost between the proposed 5.8-percent tax increase and a 4.3-percent contingency budget increase would be $74 per year.
    While we have seen property values fall in Springs, as they have across the nation, please understand that in districts where contingency budgets are in place, property values fall further and faster. Similarly, a contingency budget in Springs would see property values drop even further, taking many years to recover.
    As a Springs taxpayer, and resident for over 18 years, I am concerned with the future of our school and the ability of our community to properly fund that school. Because of that concern, I am running for one of the two open seats on the Springs School Board.
    As a board member I will continue the work that the present board has done to deal with the tuition issue and continue to bring openness and clarity to the fiscal operations of our district. 
    A special note to Springs residents 18 years of age and older and who are not registered in any other voting district: You are eligible to vote in the Springs district and may register with the district clerk on any business day up until May 12. Please register and vote.
    Thank you, 

Voting No
    April 25, 2011
Dear Editor:
    I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve been through all kinds of inflation, stagflation, cold wars, hot wars, recessions, depressions, etc. I have also been fortunate enough to graduate from a few Ivy League schools with degrees in both physical sciences and liberal arts and humanities. I know the educational situation and salaries in Springs are evidence of collective madness.
    The board of education needs to be told no to the $24.8 million budget.
     Look at these 2010 salaries Newsday published on its Web site: Michael Hartner, superintendent: $190,000 ($20,000 of which represents a raise this year), Eric Casale, principal: $138,555, Kenneth Hamilton, district treasurer: $104,968. And some teachers, Maryjane Arceri: $129,903, Lisa Dragone: $125,870, Margaret Thompson: $124,779, Lucy Yardley: $123,403, Irene Tully: $122,964, Mark McKee: $122,054, Nancy Olson: $121,745, Sue O’Connor: $120,587, Ann­marie Schuppe: $120,164, Terry Miller: $118,929, Maryellen Farrell: $118,763, Patricia Philipbar: $117,598, Valerie Policastro: $117,367, Karen McKee: $117,367, Joan Branche: $117,367, Jodie Hallman: $112,708, Colleen McGowan-Whelan: $112,640, Tracy Frazier: $108,997, Louann Ramsden: $108,997, Maria Goncalves: $106,769, Maritza Santos: $104,866, Geraldine Tapia: $103,614, Llaine Bickley: $102,754, Francis Cole: $101,084, Lisa Seff: $100,310.
    Let’s not forget the generous benefits and pensions on top of these salaries, and the fact that they are not “one-shot” payments; they continue year after year. Plus there are 22 additional teachers making between $75,000 and $100,000, and 50 more teachers, aides, support staff, etc., receiving paychecks from the Springs taxpayers, taxpayers who never came close to making this kind of money.
    How could this have happened? Manipulation of the public’s perception of reality and not voting no to the Springs School budgets, that’s how.
    Get out and vote no on Tuesday, May 17, otherwise you will be compelled by law to perpetuate this madness. Voting will take place between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the Springs School.

Enough Is Enough
    April 23, 2011
Dear David,
    I am very upset with the Springs School board and its budget. Because a tuition agreement was reached with the East Hampton High School, the Springs School Board believes it is off the hook and doesn’t need to find expenses that could be reduced (or eliminated, God forbid!) to save the very strapped taxpayers money.
    There were cuts proposed by the superintendent (some $4 million worth), but once the tuition agreement was reached these all went out the window. Why the school board would not try and implement cost-reducing measures is just mind-boggling to me. It is also pure negligence on the part of the superintendent and school board’s fiduciary responsibility.
    Montauk’s school superintendent, Jack Perna, and teachers stepped up to the plate when it was needed. What happened to Springs teachers? Why in Springs is it always at the expense of the children or taxpayer? Enough is enough. Please vote no to the Springs School budget on May 17.
    Respectfully submitted,

Downward Spiral
    April 18, 2011
    It is rare that I take the time to comment on such matters, but the time has come to speak out on what is happening to our community.
    The Springs School budget, which accounts for over 70 percent of our taxes, needs to be brought into the real world. We have nonessential activities, non­essential busing, bloated salaries at both the administration and teacher levels, and it is destroying the value of both personal real estate and the community at large.
    There is no need to have a district of one school supervised by both principal and superintendent. I question the need for teachers who are paid for personal education enhancements that have little to do with their position as a primary instructor, and I question why the community has to provide busing and pre-K when neither is mandated by the state.
    I understand the passion of the parents and the school board to want the best, but there is a point where their desires outweigh that which the community can afford. We are at that point and beyond.
    While a good school can be looked at as an added value in real estate, we are at the polar opposite. High taxes brought on by all the above-mentioned is having a negative impact on the district that houses the largest number of full-time residents and makes up the highest number of workers that keep our Town of East Hampton what it is. The downward spiral of home values, beyond an already “soft” market, has not only a negative impact on the residents of Springs, but will eventually impact the rest of town.
    I strongly oppose the current budget and request there be considerable review of the school’s priorities that the majority of residents can no longer afford. It is also time to recognize the time has come for a more efficient school system in the entire Town of East Hampton. No corporation worth its salt would run an operation such as this and archaic reasons for having separate school districts are no longer valid.

New Perspective
    Scottsdale, Az.
    April 24, 2011
To the Editor:
    It’s that time of year again, when we the voters and taxpayers of East Hampton get an opportunity to let our school board and the administration know how we feel about the out-of-control spending they package and sell to us as a school budget.
    This year, in addition to letting the powers that be know how we feel about their intolerable overspending, we can send two new board members into the lions’ den to fight for fiscal sanity. I, for one, will vote for Paul Fiondella for the school board.
    I do not know him personally, but I have heard him speak at town and school events and always read his letters in the newspapers. He never fails to zero in on the heart of the matter and then to present solutions. He will not be cowed by those who currently run the show. I believe he will speak for the community and be part of the solution. I do not see Mr. Fiondella falling into the trap of continuing the willy-nilly spending that passes for fiscal competence in our schools.
    A huge attribute Mr. Fiondella brings to the table is that he is not a part of the current school milieu. He brings fresh eyes and a new perspective. Anyone else I vote for in the school election will have to do the same. I do not want someone sitting on the board who is part of our current “education” system.
    At the moment, I do not know enough about Mr. Fiondella’s fellow candidates. Hopefully, they will fill us in on not only their qualifications, but their ideas for stemming the financial folly that the current and past boards have continuously characterized as budgets fashioned in the best interests of the students. For me, before I pull the lever I want to know who and what I am supporting.
    Are the people in control today actually telling us that running the East Hampton school district costs more than running the whole Town of East Hampton? How stupid do they think we are? I can’t blame them for counting on our continued non-involvement, since that is the history of East Hampton district voters.
    I urge everyone to pay attention to this election in May so that together, we put people in office who truly can multitask, that is, control costs while providing the best education for our children.


To the Brink
    East Hampton
    April 24, 2011
Dear Editor,
    I welcome the other five candidates into the East Hampton School Board race. The job of a board of education member is to make sure we are getting the best possible quality of education for our students out of every dollar we spend. Unfortunately, the current school superintendent has brought us to the brink of financial disaster.
    Next year’s budget, 2012-13, the one my fellow candidates will be responsible for if elected, must confront a possible 2-percent budget cap on the tax levy. The tax levy, currently over $45.6 million, is the amount that must be raised in property taxes. This year’s tax levy is well over that cap. Next year’s tax levy with a 2-percent cap would allow us to spend $912,460 more.
    On two occasions I demanded that the superintendent provide the board with a line-item analysis of the major expenses that will increase in 2012-13. On both occasions he refused.
    Even lacking such information, one can easily conclude that we cannot meet the cap. Our revenues in 2012-13 from the state and the feeder districts will be lower. Our pension fees over which we have no control are estimated by Newsday to go up $1.6 million. Add to that the cost of a new teachers’ contract that must be negotiated. Without even looking at the other items in the budget, we are over the cap. Then there is the Sandpebble lawsuit claim against the school district for $3.5 million.
    To my fellow candidates I say, I hope you are all fast learners because this is what you are up against. This is what the job amounts to.
    Of course there are some people in the district who remain in denial; they ask why we have to cut the budget at all. Maybe the Legislature will not pass the cap, maybe the taxpayers will approve a budget that goes beyond the cap. After all, in nine years the district budget has doubled and it has never been voted down.
    Then there is one long-serving board member who admitted at one of the budget sessions that if we get into this kind of crunch then we will have no choice but to lay off teachers to meet the cap. This is happening this year in school districts all over the state.
    I totally oppose laying off teachers and I totally oppose rubber-stamping inflated school budgets. Why should financial incompetence and mismanagement on the part of the superintendent and his rubber stampers jeopardize the quality of education in the East Hampton School District? We can do better than throw in the towel and follow him off the cliff, we can cut the budget in ways that avoid jeopardizing the quality of education in the district. It just takes leadership.
    I don’t think there is anyone else in the school board race who knows enough about the budget to come up with the cuts that will prevent teacher layoffs in 2012-13. That is why I’m running for school board. I ask for your vote on May 17.

Most Important Work
    East Hampton
    April 24, 2011
To the Editor,
    Dear Reader: My name is Patricia Hope, and I am running for a seat on the East Hampton School Board.
    I have been a district parent, employee, and taxpayer. I understand the issues, and have respect for every stakeholder.
    For 33 years, I worked in our classrooms as a science teacher, and I believe that our students are the most important population in the district. As an experienced educator, I can bring common sense and clarity to discussions and decision-making regarding our schools.
    The most important work a public servant can do is to serve the public. We, as taxpayers, have questions about district costs and expenditures. I will not hesitate to ask those questions and will work toward eliminating waste and ratcheting back spending.
    In public discourse, civility is a responsibility, and it is necessary for a school board member to be reasonable as well as informed. I will work to increase the community’s trust in their school board and in their schools.
    If I am elected, I will practice the art of the possible, keeping students in the forefront of the district vision, and I will respect the burden on the taxpayer. 
    Please vote for me on Tuesday, May 17, at the high school. I can make a difference.

Option to Attend
    East Hampton
    April 20, 2011
Dear Editor,
    I am writing this letter as a graduate of East Hampton High School and a current Elon University student in regard to the “alternative school” that is being run by Richard Hartnett within East Hampton High School. It has given students the option to attend school who have faced relative deprivation within their family life because they are forced to work days in order to help their families, or for those students who have fallen behind due illness or any family problems.
    One of the most unique aspects of the alternative school is that it takes in students who are not morning learners, which was one of my greatest problems in school, because I felt as if I didn’t wake up until around third or fourth period during the traditional nine-period day. It allows students to attend school when their brain capacity is running at its best, which is what students can do at a higher level, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be the same in high school.
    What I believe to be most important about the alternative school is that the application process maintains social organization and the social ties between the family support system and the school structure. This will help solidify the commitment to their schooling process and will help in the overall success rate of the alternative school.
    Over all, the alternative school benefits our community economically as well, by potentially bringing in new revenue from students who would have normally gone to another district, and the savings you have by keeping a child in the district rather than sending them to the Board of Cooperative Education Services, for example.
    The alternative school has already greatly benefited children in our school, and it is a true success story. I am happy to see the progress in educational opportunities within our community.

Up in Smoke
    East Hampton
    April 25, 2011
    Southfork Kitchen is not sustainable! The Web site for Southfork Kitchen in Bridgehampton touts “sustainable sea­food, local vegetables, fruits, cheeses, and wine,” but I guess its philosophy does not include local patrons.
    Friday night at 6:30 p.m. after being coaxed to return via Southfork Kitchen’s own e-mail mailing, three of us “locals,” all successful business owners, decided to sample its new $55 price-fix dinner. As two of us arrived, only two tables in the vast space were filled. Informed by both the hostess and manager that walk-ins were not accepted (its posting on Open Table boasts otherwise), that the restaurant was fully booked, and that our only option was to eat at the bar (also empty, except for the restaurant’s owner, Bruce Buschel, and his wife).
    We retreated to the bar to await our third party, ponder our dilemma, and have a cocktail. By 7 p.m., with only one new table of six in place and one other couple waiting for a table at the bar, the manager informed us she could seat us at 7:30 p.m. Gratefully, we accepted.
    Although we were not seated in the still-empty main dining room but relegated to a side section with three tables near the kitchen, our spirits were not dampened, after all, it was Earth Day, and we were looking forward to a great locally harvested meal, as our previous visits had left us salivating for more.
    Shortly, the evening began to go up in smoke — quite literally, as billows of thick smoke emerged from the kitchen and engulfed our table. Harried waitstaff descended on our lone corner table unfortunately situated in the direct line of the offending clouds.
    As the distinct smell of charred toast choked our palates, a side door two feet from our corner table and surrounding windows were swept open as the thick smoke circled. Apparently a bread machine had caught fire, but discerning no need for alarm, we settled back in as locals do, trusting our evening, off to a precarious start, could not get any worse.
    No one offered to move us into the now three-quarters-full main dining room, where other patrons had barely sustained a blip of the chaos we were swallowing. No management checked to see if we were all right (including Mr. Buschel, still comfortably seated at the bar, although well aware of the issue as we later learned).
    As the smoke cleared, we requested the door and windows be shut as the 45-degree night and our spirits were quite chilled. Appetizers arrived — an amazing clam chowder, superb sardines, and delicious grilled squid — all impressive but all grossly oversalted.
    We related the chef’s heavy-handedness to the waitstaff, requesting he taper off for our entrees. With tepid smiles we laughed off the mishaps, confident that “stuff’ indeed happens; after all, we are seasoned locals, not some entitled summer interlopers. The night was young, our hearts filled with joy. We should have asked for the check.
    Call the Bridgehampton Fire Department! Three additional bread machine malfunctions followed during our dinner with repeated drills of smoke, fumes, opening and closing of windows and doors as our lungs filled with more and more smoke and our appetites were doused. Were we being punked?
    Entrees followed, a tasty trout, an adequate duck, but nothing really to cheer about and once again — all oversalted. Was no one hearing us, seeing us, caring about us? Before our prix fixe desserts arrived (if they hadn’t been we would have certainly been out the door by now), Mr. Buschel headed our way for what we assumed would be a major mea culpa — after all, we had read plenty of his rants about taking care of customers on his New York Times blog. A complimentary round of after-dinner drinks? Our tab adjusted? Surely some sort of major rectification was heading our way.
    Mr. Buschel was not heading toward us but to the aforementioned side door; it was we who had to garner his attention. We reiterated our concerns of repeated smoke outbreaks, only to have him not address our discomfort, but to tell us that he had just fired the waitress he deemed responsible. He spun a tale of her three-month training on the bread machine and his intolerance of three mistakes in one evening.
    Now, even more uncomfortable learning someone had been fired, we began to pine for the exit door ourselves. We shared our observations that the restaurant seemed a little shortstaffed and “green” and that we had seen said now jobless waitress juggling as she assisted others, perhaps justifying her repeated misfire?
    Mr. Buschel, after discerning that I was the owner of a public relations agency, responded, “Wasn’t it typical that a publicist would make up stories and position something in a more favorable light?” It was indeed time for the check! Injury? Insult? What would come next?
    We again relayed our concerns to both the manager and the hostess, receiving nothing more than obligatory apologies as we exited.
    I remember reading one of Mr. Buschel’s blog posts for The Times, “100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do.” In it he states: “Never blame the chef or the busboy or the hostess or the weather for anything that goes wrong — just make it right, show a good table your appreciation with a free glass of port, a plate of biscotti,” and, “your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Mr. Buschel, when you start to get hungry, eat your own words.
    Sustainable? Not Southfork Kitchen.