School Board Hires New Counsel

The June 3 East Hampton School Board meeting took on a celebratory note, with the district riding high on its recent budget vote victory. East Hampton was the only school district on Long Island to override the state-imposed tax cap after securing the support of 73 percent of its voters.

Later in the meeting, the board announced a decision to retain Frazer and Feldman, a Garden City law firm that works with several school districts, as East Hampton’s general, labor, and special education counsel for a one-year term beginning July 1. Kevin Seaman, the district’s outgoing counsel, has held the position for the last four years.

“I’m hoping they’ll steer us right,” Richard Burns, the district’s superintendent, said of the switch. “We’re still in a bit of litigation in certain areas,” he continued, presumably referring to the district’s ongoing lawsuit with Sandpebble Builders over a school expansion project. Over the past decade, Mr. Burns estimated, the district has spent nearly $3 million on legal fees. “And we’re hoping they can move things forward in an expedient manner.”

Jackie Lowey, a board member, updated those in attendance concerning the district’s lunch program. Called NutriKids, it is a swipe-card system that allows parents to prepay for lunches. Implemented earlier this year, NutriKids promotes equity by not distinguishing between students paying full and reduced prices for their meals. Recently, however, the district has discovered that some parents aren’t paying their bills in a timely manner — with East Hampton owed nearly $30,000 as a result.

“Our overarching policy should not be embarrassing children,” urged Ms. Lowey, adding that the district will ensure that all kids are fed and, when appropriate, help those families who qualify apply for free and reduced-price lunches.

Ms. Lowey proposed sending a letter home to the families still owing money, followed by a phone call stipulating a deadline to pay up. If the deadline is not met, students won’t receive their class assignments for next year, with report cards also withheld.

“Holding a child’s grades or promotion hurts the child, particularly one from a chaotic home,” said Patricia Hope, the board president. She suggested a social worker be tasked to intervene. “It’s not always an unwillingness to pay.”

In other news, the district granted tenure to six of its employees: Robert Tymann, Taryn Brennan, Joshua Odom, Jessica Zimmerman, Trevor Gregory, and Katelyn Pryal.

At the start of the meeting, Stephanie Tepan and Karla Cabrera, two East Hampton High School seniors, were each honored after receiving Angelo del Toro scholarships, which aim to foster leadership skills among Latino youth. Come September, Stephanie is headed to Hunter College. Karla will enroll at New York University.

Joe Vas, the district’s athletic director, acknowledged the Kendall Madison Foundation, a local nonprofit, after $15,000 worth of supplies and equipment were donated to help upgrade the high school’s fitness center earlier this year.

Also that night, the board voted to spend $8,000 to set up two classrooms as part of the district’s new career technology education program. Starting in September, East Hampton students can take courses in law enforcement and personal training. At present, such students take similar classes at the nearest Board of Cooperative Educational Services facility, in Riverhead.

During the final opportunity for public comments, Claude Beudert, who teaches at the East Hampton Middle School, thanked residents for their support during last month’s budget vote. “We have a nice product and people supported it,” said Mr. Beudert. “It’s takes a village, and it really was a positive thing that we got it through.”

“Thank you for being stewards with us as we did that very difficult task,” Ms. Hope said, before adjourning the meeting, after which slices of cake were served in honor of those faculty members receiving tenure and those retiring from the district.

The final meeting of the 2013-14 school year is planned for June 17 at 6:30 p.m.