Write-Ins Shake Up School Votes

All budgets pass; board newcomers fare well
Patrick Brabant, left, won a write-in campaign for a seat on the Springs School Board, and Claudia Quintana, also a write-in, bested an incumbent to win a seat on the Amagansett School Board.

In local school board elections on Tuesday, five newcomers won seats, with a write-in candidate besting an incumbent in Amagansett and first-timers ousting incumbents in Sag Harbor. All school budgets passed decisively.

Claudia Quintana, who won a seat on the Amagansett School Board, and Patrick Brabant, who will take a spot in Springs, were both 11th-hour write-in candidates, but Ms. Quintana’s win may have been the biggest surprise.

Until a week ago, the race for the three seats in that district appeared uncontested. Only three people — the incumbents Patrick Bistrian III and Dawn Rana-Brophy and Anna Bernasek, a newcomer — had declared their candidacies.

Following a heated board meeting a week before the election, Mary Eames, a longtime Amagansett resident, said she was deeply dissatisfied with the lack of transparency by the school’s superintendent, Eleanor Tritt, and a school board she called “asleep on the job.”

Ms. Quintana followed suit, declaring herself a write-in candidate, as well, late last week. In a letter on Facebook she pledged to “work diligently to enhance current programs and maintain the level of excellence that currently exists in the district.”

Parent supporters launched a campaign to help spread the word about Ms. Quintana’s qualifications (she works as a teacher in the John M. Marshall Elementary School and is pursuing a degree in bilingual education). On election day, Ms. Quintana was seen chatting with voters outside the 100-foot line (electioneering is prohibited closer to polling places).

Mr. Bistrian was the top vote getter, with 122 votes. Ms. Quintana was a close second with 115 votes. They will each get three-year terms on the board. The next highest vote getter, Ms. Rana-Brophy, got 111 votes and will serve a one-year term. Ms. Bernasek got 107 votes and Ms. Eames got 90.

“The support and encouragement I received from all of you this past week invigorates me and bolsters my desire to serve you to make our community a place that is welcoming and understanding of the needs of our children,” Ms. Quintana said in a statement.

“We definitely needed some energy and curiosity on the board, so I’m delighted Claudia was elected,” Margaret Whelan, a parent at the school, said yesterday.

“Claudia’s victory is a win for all who share her vision of an understanding and welcoming community,” said Christine Sciulli, another parent. “Her perspective on community building in 11930 casts her as a role model for Latinos of all ages across the East End.”

In Sag Harbor, Alex Kriegsman, a lawyer and parent, was the high vote getter in the race for three seats on the board. Mr. Kriegsman, a first-time candidate, got 910 votes, followed by Diana Kolhoff, an incumbent, who had 884. January Kerr, a writer and lawyer who is also a newcomer, got 866 votes to win the third seat. The ousted incumbents were Sandi Kruel, with 452 votes, and Theresa Samot, with 366.

Mr. Kriegsman called Ms. Kolhoff and Ms. Kerr “two bright, dedicated parents, and consummate professionals,” and said, “I look forward to working with them to help the district realize its full potential.”

In Springs, Mr. Brabant was one of three write-in candidates vying with Tim Frazier for the two available seats on the board. Mr. Frazier, the board’s vice president and the principal of the Southampton Intermediate School, was the only one to have turned in his nominating petition by the deadline and his was the only name on the ballot. He got 209 votes to Mr. Brabant’s 176.

Also running write-in campaigns were Donna Sutton, who got 100 votes, and Ivonne Tovar-Morales, who had 89.

Mr. Brabant is a business owner and a parent of children in the school. He also serves on the Springs Citizens Advisory Committee and said he has not missed a school board meeting for 14 years.

“I’m looking forward to serving the community,” Mr. Brabant said yesterday. “I got votes from a really diverse number of people — parents, community members, business people — so that means a lot to me.”

In Bridgehampton, Markanthony Verzosa, an architect and contractor, who ran uncontested, was elected with 116 votes, and Kathleen McCleland, an incumbent, kept her seat with 136 votes.

There were no challengers there or in East Hampton, Sagaponack, Wainscott, or Montauk.

In East Hampton, Jacqueline Lowey and John J. Ryan Sr., kept their seats on the school board, with 278 and 302 votes, respectively.

In Montauk, Kelly White, an incumbent running for her third five-year term, won it with 112 votes.

Sagaponack voters re-elected Brian Villante, the school board president, with 19 votes.

In Wainscott, David Eagan, the incumbent school board president, was re-elected with 29 votes.

The East Hampton School District’s $68.3 million budget proposal, a slight increase over last year but still under the state’s cap on tax levy increases, was approved by a vote of 291 to 53. Voters also approved, by a vote of 241 to 96, a proposition allowing East Hampton to establish a capital reserve fund for future district-wide improvements related to growing enrollment, property acquisition, and the replacement of technology and telecommunications equipment, infrastructure, and software. Spending for specific projects will be subject to voter approval.

The Springs School’s $28.1 million budget for 2017-18 was approved 298 to 105. The budget is 2.15 percent higher than this year’s. Voters also approved a three-year installment purchase agreement for a 66-passenger bus for a total estimated cost of $99,788; 289 said yes, 114 voted no.

In Amagansett, voters approved the nearly $10.7 million budget for the 2017-18 school year, 146 to 59. Also approved was a proposition authorizing the expenditure of $400,000 from the 2015 renovations and upgrades capital reserve fund for a new gym ceiling. That vote was 179 to 25.

Voters approved a $39.9 million budget in Sag Harbor for next year, an increase of $1.13 million over this year, with 973 saying “yes” and 269 voting “no.” The tax levy will increase by 3.49 percent but remains under the state-mandated cap.

Sag Harbor voters also endorsed a new transportation fleet capital reserve fund, at no extra cost to the taxpayers, as it will be funded from a previously established reserve fund, in a 962-to-263 vote. Also approved was a proposition to allow the district to spend $1.2 million from its capital reserve fund to replace windows at Pierson Middle and High School and the Sag Harbor Elementary School. That vote was 1,042 to 190.

In Montauk, the $18.8 million budget for next year was approved by a vote of 115 to 8.

Bridgehampton’s $14.36 million budget passed with 102 voting for it and 74 voting no. The budget is up $578,024 over this year’s. Also on the ballot, and approved Tuesday, was a proposition allowing the district to redistribute the balance of a previously approved capital reserve fund to install and maintain a geothermal heating and cooling system as part of a planned school addition. Taxpayers will not incur any additional costs as a result. The vote was 84 to 41 in favor.

Sagaponack voters unanimously passe­d the school’s $1.7 million budget proposal, with 19 votes for and none against.

Voters in that district also approved a one-year contract with East Hampton and Sag Harbor School Districts for instruction services for fourth through sixth grades. The district already has a five-year contract with both of these districts for 7th through 12th grades.

The Wainscott School District’s $2.95 million budget for the 2017-18 school year was approved with 31 votes in favor and none against. It is lower than this year’s budget.