Elections Harbinger of Big Changes

East Hampton, Springs face major turnover; new faces, experienced hands vie

    Candidates for school boards made their intentions official this week. There will be contested races in Amagansett, Springs, East Hampton, and Sag Harbor, but with the departure of the incumbents on the East Hampton and Springs School Boards, those races are wide open.
    In East Hampton, John Ryan Sr., a board member since 1993, and James Amaden, the school board president and a board member since 2005, are stepping down. Looking to take their seats are Patricia Hope, Jacqueline Lowey, Marie Klarman, Paul Fiondella, Liz Pucci, and Bill Rosenthal. Regardless of the election results, come July all but two of the board members — Laura Anker Grossman and Stephen Talmage — will be in their first terms.
    Asked about his decision to leave the school board, Mr. Ryan said, “I did the dispensability test. You stick your hand in a bucket; if the hole stays in when you pull it out, you’re indispensable.”
    “I’ve enjoyed it, but 50 years is enough,” he said, referring to his time on the board and his 28 years as a math and computer teacher in the district. His 9 children attended East Hampton schools and 18 of his 22 grandchildren will, too. “I’m proud of our school system. We have great staff, great administrators, great parents.”
    There are some things he would do differently, he said, indicating his frustration over the district’s ongoing lawsuit with Victor Canseco and Sandpebble Builders. He wanted to remain on the school board through the building project, which is now nearly complete. “I think it’s been satisfactorily done. There are good people on the board and good people running.”
    Ms. Lowey, who has a son in first grade and a daughter in fourth grade at the John M. Marshall Elementary School, is a former deputy director of the National Parks Service and a former deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Transportation. She now works as a consultant to nonprofits and corporations. She served on the board of the Children’s Museum of the East End for years and was instrumental in raising the money to build it. At school, she said, she was a four-time class mother and is a frequent volunteer. This is her first run.
    Ms. Hope was a biology teacher at East Hampton High School for 33 years and head of the science department for 8. When she retired from teaching, she said, she knew that she wanted to run for school board eventually and has been attending board meetings regularly for the past year in preparation. “I want to be measured and civil, and I think there’s room for that,” she said Tuesday. “I think money should be spent wisely and in the interest of the students’ education,” she said. “Any money not spent wisely in the interest of the students needs to be questioned.”
    Ms. Pucci, a past president and vice president of the John Marshall PTA, serves on the East Hampton Middle School’s site-based committee and occasionally on the district’s committee for special education. The mother of four boys, two of whom are still in the school system, she works part time for the district as a lunch monitor at John Marshall. She has been involved in school affairs for 16 years. “It’s such a critical time. I’m really nervous about our school,” she said Tuesday.
    Paul Fiondella, long a board watchdog, had not returned calls by press time, and Ms. Klarman and Mr. Rosenthal also could not be reached.
    The nonpartisan East Hampton Group for Good Government will hold a candidates’ forum on April 30 at 1 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

    In Springs, Liz Mendelman, Tim Frazier, Phyllis Mallah, and Arthur Goldman are vying for the spots that will be vacated by Christopher Kelley, the board’s president and a board member for 12 years, and Thomas Talmage, elected in 2005.
    Ms. Mendelman, who has a professional background in medical technology and human resources, is president of the school’s PTA, an assistant Junior Girl Scout troop leader, and a member of the Springs Citizens Advisory Committee. She has two daughters at the school and is running for school board for the first time.
    Mr. Frazier, the principal of the Southampton Intermediate School, has worked in the education field since 1976, as a teacher first and as an administrator starting in the mid-1980s. His wife, Tracey Frazier, is a teacher at the Springs School.
    Ms. Mallah, who ran for school board last year, was a teacher and assistant principal in the Yonkers public school system before retiring to Springs. “Though I have many interests, I still consider myself a consummate educator,” she wrote in a brief biography provided to the district along with her petition to run.
    Mr. Goldman, a frequent board watcher who is running for the first time, is a social studies teacher and coordinator at East Hampton High School, where he has taught for 14 years. Both of his daughters graduated from the Springs School, and his wife, Eileen Goldman, is a teacher’s assistant there.

    In Amagansett, the three candidates for two spots include Vincent Vigorita and Patrick R. Bistrian, board members since 2005, and Phelan Wolf, a parent and attorney looking to win a spot on the board for the first time.
    Among other things, Dr. Vigorita is the medical director at Biomet Tissue Banks, a professor of pathology and orthopedic surgery at the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn, and director of research at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center and St. Vincent’s Medical Center’s department of orthopedics.
    Mr. Wolf and Mr. Bistrian could not be reached by press time.

Sag Harbor
    Four candidates are competing for three positions on the Sag Harbor School Board. The incumbents, Sandi Kruel and Theresa Samot, who have served two terms, and Mary Anne Miller, who has served one, are running to keep their seats, and Annette Bierfriend is making her first run.
    Ms. Bierfriend is a co-president of the Sag Harbor PTA and serves on the district’s long-range planning, professional development, and prekindergarten committees. She worked as a senior mortgage underwriter before becoming a stay-at-home mom eight years ago.
    Ms. Samot, the board’s vice president and a former president, has served on its audit, financial planning, budget, policy, and wellness committees and was chairwoman of the district’s Wall of Honor committee. She is also a director of the College of New Rochelle alumni board and a Girl Scout leader. Two of her daughters graduated from Pierson High School and a third is a student there now.
    Ms. Kruel and Ms. Miller could not be reached by press time.

Other Schools, Other Races
    At the Montauk School, Patti Leber, a past vice president of the board, is running unopposed to keep her seat.
    The Bridgehampton School District’s longtime clerk, Joyce Manigo, died on Saturday, and the district was unable to provide the names of candidates this week.
    The Wainscott School had not returned calls as of press time.
    Voters will go to the polls to cast ballots on candidates and school budgets on May 17.
With Reporting by Rocio Fidalgo