Guest Column: It’s the right time to leave school board

05/15/2014 12:46 PM |
Southold school board member Scott DeSimone, left, with board vice president Judi Fouchet.

Southold school board member Scott DeSimone, left, with board vice president Judi Fouchet.

I would like to explain the reason for withdrawing my candidacy in what seemed to be the 11th hour. I have served for eight years on the Southold Board of Education.

Before the deadline for submitting candidate petitions, no one else had requested a petition beside myself and Scott Latham, the two incumbents. Notwithstanding that I have in recent years become a strong believer in term limits, I decided to run for one more term.

I only discovered when I submitted my petition on the last day for filing that Brian Tobin had submitted a petition. I know Brian well, having served with him on the Board of Directors of the North Fork Lacrosse Club. His candidacy did take me by surprise, as I thought he would have reached out. Nonetheless, Brian and I met and spoke for two hours on many issues and I am quite comfortable that we share many similar viewpoints.

I shared with Brian my strong belief in term limits, was comfortable with his candidacy, and advised him that I would withdraw.

It is time for new perspective and energy. I leave the Board of Education knowing that I was an integral part of affirmatively changing the entire administrative team, particularly hiring Superintendent David Gamberg.

The district now has a renewed energy, as well as direction and purpose where, while eight years ago, it was aimlessly adrift.

Where the district had been strictly reactive and constantly putting out fires, the district has strived to become more proactive, so as to not only head off potential problems but also to improve in all areas.

The district is currently in its strongest financial position than it has been over the last eight years — all while preserving existing programs and services. Buildings and grounds have been significantly improved through various capital projects, including but not limited to energy performance upgrades, reconstruction of athletic fields and replacement of the roof on the junior-senior high school. Labor contracts were reached with administrators, teachers and the CSEA, which struck a balance of fairness between district employees and taxpayers. We have completed significant upgrades in our technology infrastructure and continue to do so. Finally, the entire district policy manual is under review and revision.

I quickly came to learn of the many, many dedicated professionals in our district, which is reflected in the significant accomplishments of our students in all areas including but not limited to academics, music, theatrical arts, ROTC, robotics, and DECA. Most importantly, it is truly reflected in the character of the students of our district.

We are blessed to have such incredible kids.

In closing, I am grateful to have been a part of the governance team with such accomplishments under its belt. Although there are those who may not have always agreed with positions I have taken on important issues facing the district, I can say without reservation that you always knew where I stood, they were free of personal agendas, and always what I thought was in the best interests of our children.

Recently opposing the joint superintendency with Greenport is just one example. That being said, there remains plenty of work for the school board, as there are many serious issues to tackle that could significantly adversely affect our learning community.

I wish the new board the best of luck in their work ahead.

Scott DeSimone, an attorney with offices in Peconic, served on the Southold school board for eight years.