Mary Lownes, a 10-year member of the District Board of Education, and her challenger Rona Klopman have found themselves on the same ballot before, when Lownes was first elected.
Lownes has served on the board since July 2002 and is looking for another three-year term. A mother of three children who have graduated from the school, she said she is an experienced and compassionate member of the board.
Klopman, a retired teacher, has actually run for school board twice before, and made this past fall. She said she decided to toss her hat in the ring again because, "I feel nobody should go uncontested. You get very complacent if you have no one running against you," she said.
While she wonders if the 2012-13 budget is the most efficient it could be, Klopman said she supports . "I've truly never voted against a budget. To me, it's like voting against kids."
Lownes, who moved to Amagansett 19 years ago, said a great deal has changed in her 10 years on the board of education. Mandated state teacher evaluations, changes in testing, among other mandates have been imposed. "It is crucial to assure that we have knowledgeable board members with ongoing involvement in, and familiarity with, these matters . . .," Lownes said. She also serves as the board's audit chairperson.
Increasing unfunded mandates made it impossible to preserve the quality of the education offered in Amagansett without piercing the cap, she said. She believes the district's parents will come out in force to vote, as a 60 percent majority is necessary to pass the budget.
"Our students excel at the elementary level as consistently shown in the District's New York State report cards. Our graduates progress to middle and high school, they regularly perform at high levels, not only in academics but also in the arts and athletics," she said. "I believe an important component of the foundation for these achievements is our students' experience at the Amagansett School."
Klopman agrees the school is a wonderful place. She spent 30 years in the classroom, from teaching pre-kindergarten in Great Neck and Roslyn to teaching learning disabled children reading in the Jericho School District, where she helped write curriculum. She has an associate degree from Hunter College in math, an education degree from Queens College, a master's in reading from Adelphi and furthered her education later in life at CW Post, earning a computer certificate.
She grew up in the Bronx and settled in Nassau County, but she found her way to the South Fork in 1962. After years of renting here, she and her late husband bought a house in 1987. They retired there in 2001.
"I never gave up teaching," she said, noting that she still reads up on new education initiatives. In fact, she said she wasn't really ready for retirement and ended up teaching Sunday School and Hebrew School at the in East Hampton for five years, and later, adult classes at in Sag Harbor.
Both candidates are very active in the community. Klopman is a vice-president of the East Hampton Democratic Committee, an East Hampton Town Board-watcher, and a , among other areas of involvement around town.
Lownes, who also works in sales for ADT Security, is the fundraising chair of the Hamptons Life Saving Association Junior Lifeguard Program, works on the Amagansett Beach Safety Committee, has taught Sunday school at , and serves on the East Hampton High School Site Based team.
Klopman's biggest gripe with Amagansett School District is that she feels the board meetings are held at times that make it less likely the community will get involved. Once a month, meeting are held at 7:30 a.m. The other monthly meeting is held at 6 p.m. "It's totally inaccessible," she said.
However, Lownes said she prides herself on being accessible to the constituents. "I'm very approachable. I can't tell you how many times I get stopped in the grocery store aisle or get phone calls at home," she said. "I find Moms want to go to Moms with questions or issues."
Correction: Amagansett School Board's meetings are held once a month at 6 p.m., not 4 p.m., as originally stated.