BY BETH YOUNG AND JULIE LANE | STAFF WRITERS
Mattituck-Cutchogue will be the only North Fork school district with a race for a school board seat in next month’s elections. All candidates in the region’s other four districts are running unopposed.
Oysterponds board veteran Walter Strohmeyer, who is retiring after several years, called it “disheartening” that there aren’t more races in the various districts that would bring new ideas to bear on the issues boards face today.
At the same time, he said he has no concern about the quality of the candidates who are running in his district, even though both face no opposition.
Laura Jens-Smith and Joan Ferris are joining incumbents Jerry Diffley and Charles Anderson on the ballot in a race for three seats on the Mattituck-Cutchogue board.
Mr. Diffley is the current board president and Mr. Anderson is vice president. Another seat on the board has been vacant since last summer, when Debra Cahill resigned to devote more time to her family.
The May 17 election will be for two three-year terms beginning July 1 and the remaining one year of Ms. Cahill’s term. The winner with the fewest votes will get the one-year term, which will begin immediately after the election.
Ms. Jens-Smith, 48, is a former nurse and now a full-time mom. She has a daughter in eighth grade and a son in sixth grade in the district, and has been involved on the school’s shared decision-making committee. She is chair of the Elementary School Special Education PTA and has been involved with local Boy Scout and youth theater organizations.
“I’m running to help establish quality educational goals while providing good fiscal leadership,” she said.
Joan Ferris, 63, was a member of the Mattituck-Cutchogue school board for nine years in the 1990s.
“I see the financial issues becoming so concerning. I think that I have some good ideas,” Ms. Ferris said. “Maybe things can be made a little easier on the taxpayer,” she said. “I also know there’s one seat vacant right now. I’m of the opinion that you just don’t have people just walk into a position of such power. If nothing else, I’m in the race to make sure people have a choice as to who goes on the board.”
Mr. Diffley, a corporate director for Quest Diagnostics and a volunteer firefighter, is seeking his fifth term. Mr. Anderson, a facilities manager for Suffolk County National Bank, served on the board from 2001 to 2007 and again from 2008 to the present.
In Oysterponds, in addition to Mr. Strohmeyer, board member Kathy Syron has also chosen not to seek re-election. Jeff Demarest and Janice Caufield are running for three-year terms and, despite early rumors that others might jump in, no one else filed nominating petitions. Short of an unexpected write-in, Mr. Demarest and Ms. Caufield are guaranteed election.
Mr. Demarest, 49, owns a fuel oil company and has daughter in the third grade at Oysterponds.
“Somebody’s got to do it,” he said of his decision to run. His brother, Carl, served on the Oysterponds board for seven years and was defeated in his re-election bid last May.
Among the issues that concern Mr. Demarest are money and some of the decisions coming out of Albany, he said. He’s prepared to listen and suspects he might change his views on some issues once he’s aware of more information than he has been able to garner by attending board meetings, he said.
Janice Caufield, 55, has been there and done that before. She was on the West Hempstead Board of Education. Since returning to the North Fork, where she grew up, she has been “lonely,” missing the civic activities in which she had been involved, she said.
Although her four children are all now grown — the youngest graduates from college this year — Ms. Caufield is interested in working with the Oysterponds school board to develop a comprehensive five-year plan.
“The Greenport issues needs to be put to bed,” she said, referring to the decision about where Oysterponds secondary school students will be sent to continue their schooling. “It needs a solution, whatever that solution is,” she said.
Dr. Robert Walsh is passing on a third term on the Southold Board of Education. Scott Latham is running for a seat and incumbent Scott DeSimone is seeking re-election.
Mr. DeSimone, 51, is a Southold attorney who has served two terms on the school board. His two children, ages 8 and 12, attend school in the district, and he wants a chance to work on school curriculum. For much of his term, the board has been focused on “putting out fires,” Mr. DeSimone said. But with a the district’s “financial house in order” and a “strong administration,” he said, it’s time to work on curriculum.
As head of the district’s policy committee, Mr. DeSimone has been involved in a major rewrite of the policy manual, a job he said he looks forward to continuing.
And the district is exploring a change in its lunch program, considering a self-operated system rather than farming it out to Aramark. Mr. DeSimone believes the new system could provide students with healthier and fresher food options, and it could be implemented by September, he said.
Mr. Latham couldn’t be reached by presstime.
Incumbent Mike Mazzaferro is running unopposed in Greenport, having completed one three-year term. He couldn’t be reached by presstime.
New Suffolk voters are expected to send Tony Dill, 71, back to the board for another three years. He is running unopposed. Mr. Dill, an architect and current board president, has held his seat for nine years. He wants to continue working to solidify the gains made in the past two years in the district, where enrollment has risen from 8 to 22 students and there are now three teachers instead of two.
When the student population began to escalate, Mr. Dill said he feared the school’s program might have to be more structured than in the past. But with three teachers, all of whom have been creative in suggesting best uses for space and teaching methods, New Suffolk has been able to continue what amounts to individual education plans for each student, he said.