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May 9, 2019 11:18 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Four Candidates Compete For Two Seats On Southampton School Board

May 9, 2019 11:18 AM

The Southampton School District will ask voters on May 21 to decide on a proposed $71.9 million budget for the 2019-2020 school year that will increase the tax levy by 3.2 percent while staying under the state-mandated tax cap.

The district has forecast a decrease in the tax rate by 4 percent, from $2.17 to $2.08 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Four candidates—including one incumbent, one challenger who has run in the past, and two newcomers—are running for two seats on the school board. Current Board President Donald King is seeking reelection while board member Roberta Hunter is not.

Voters can cast their ballots from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Southampton Intermediate School Music Room.

Donald King

Mr. King, the board’s current president, is seeking to keep his seat.

Mr. King, 62, a lifelong resident of Southampton Village, has been on the board since 2005 and served earlier stints as president and vice president. Fourteen years later and he remains enthusiastic about wanting to continue to serve the district. The board is in the middle of working through a few important projects and topics, like the future of the district administration office and declining enrollment rates, and Mr. King said he is eager to remain a voice in those discussions.

“There’s still some things I’d like to accomplish,” he said. “The most important thing is addressing academic achievement, the gap, and I think we’re making some inroads. But I still think that there’s still a lot of work to be done in that regard.”

He and his three sons, Davis, Rory and Kivlan, have all graduated from Southampton High School, himself being a “proud graduate,” he said, of the class of 1975.

He has worked as the manager of the Bathing Corporation of Southampton, a members-only beach club, since 1971. In the community, he has volunteered for many years at the Southampton Fire Department, where he currently serves as it public information officer and treasurer.

Mr. King has previously served as board president from 2007 to 2010, then assumed the role of vice president from 2010 to 2015. The board elected him president again last year.

The Reverend Leslie Duroseau

Rev. Duroseau, 51, is one of the newcomers this election.

She is the pastor of the of the Hamptons United Methodist Church in Southampton Village, where she has served since moving to the village nine years ago, and is a member of Southampton Town’s Anti-Bias Task Force.

Her daughter, Jadah, is a senior at Southampton High School and her son, Jalai, works as a counselor at the Southampton Intermediate School.

She decided to run because people were telling her that she could be valuable to the Board of Education, she said.

“People thought I’d make a good person to sit on the board. They thought I could bring a wealth of good information,” she said, adding that she believes her leadership and community building skills would make her a good asset.

Rev. Duroseau wants to address issues of diversity and drug use within the district. She said she thinks there is a general lack of diversity both in the classroom and the administration. She wants to explore a holistic approach to drug use prevention that couples education and healing for the benefit of students, she explained.

Being a school board newcomer who lived most of her life in Queens, she believes she can offer a different perspective as someone who can look “at the outside in.”

Charles Styler

Mr. Styler, 79, a longtime North Sea resident, is giving it another go.

He had three unsuccessful runs in 2011, 2012 and 2018, but remains firm in his belief that his life experiences and ideas for the district would make him beneficial to the board. His priorities for the school district include security and safety of the students, a fully transparent administration and accessibility to trade-based education.

“School safety is a major issue that should be definitely taken into consideration when you’re looking at everything,” he said.

He said he was pleased to learn that the district is bringing back carpentry trade courses in the fall, recalling his frustration when the administration eliminated them in the past.

Mr. Styler moved to North Sea from Queens in 1949 when he was a child and attended the Southampton School District until enlisting in the Navy at 17 years old. While in the Navy, he received a General Educational Development, or GED, diploma, as well as a lifetime first-class radio telegraph license from the Federal Communications Commission.

He has done professional video work for over two decades, working at Cablevision in Riverhead and later for the Town of Southampton, where he is a part-time audio-visual technician for SEA-TV, the town’s public access television channel. He records Southampton Town and Village municipal board meetings, describing himself as a “very strong proponent of educational video presentations to the public.”

Prior to that, he worked in radio operations and communications for the military and later for Swiss Airlines at the John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Four of his children, Lisa, Katherine, Michael and John, now adults, went through the school district. His fifth child, Richard, died while attending school in the 1970s.

Meesha Johnson

Ms. Johnson, 42, is the other newcomer running for a seat on the Southampton School Board.

She is a lifelong resident of the Shinnecock Indian Nation and decided to pursue this role to replace board member Roberta Hunter, who is the current Shinnecock representative on the board and is not seeking reelection.

Ms. Johnson is a highly active member of the local community—within her tribe, town and county—working with committees that aim to improve the well-being of minority groups, she said. She is a member and former co-chair of Southampton Town’s Anti-Bias Task Force, a member of the Shinnecock Indian Health Committee and the legislator chairperson of the Suffolk County Disability Advisory Board.

She currently works for Blossom Sustainable Development, a nonprofit mental health service founded by members of the Shinnecock Nation, as the program director for its opioid treatment and recovery initiative. She is also a certified drug and substance abuse counselor and used that to work as a counselor at Phoenix House’s outpatient rehabilitation center in East Hampton before her present job.

“I am someone who is visually impaired, so I’m blind, and I’d like to be able to represent the interests of other disabled students,” she said, adding that she also wants to look into programs for students struggling with drug and substance abuse and preventative measures that can be implemented within the district.

Another initiative she wants to explore is creating courses that teach the indigenous history of Long Island. “I think it should be a yearlong curriculum where we’re always being told about the history, the true history, of Long Island,” she said.

Her daughter, Summersnow Stith, is a senior at Southampton High School, her alma mater.

While she runs for the board seat, she is pursuing a master’s degree in social work at Stony Brook University.

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