The votes for the Sag Harbor school board have been counted and the community has selected current school board president Walter Wilcoxen and newcomer Gregg Schiavoni to serve on the board, over challengers Elena Loreto and Ed Drohan.
In total, Schiavoni received the most votes, with 1,357. Wilcoxen earned 1,225 votes. Ballots in favor of Loreto and Drohan were significantly lower, with Loreto receiving 646 votes and Drohan receiving 394.
Schiavoni and Wilcoxen weren’t the only victors of the evening, the school board budget set at $29,569,472 passed with 1,221 yes votes. Only 599 Sag Harbor residents voted no.
Proposition two asked voters to approve $165,000 for the purchase of a bus and van which the district estimates will save around $700,000 in contracted transportation costs over the next six years. It passed with a tally of 1,333 to 469. Proposition three also passed 1,400 to 334. In this proposition, the district needed community support to use $71,185, from the capital reserve fund, to improve the ventilation system in the auditorium.
Both Wilcoxen and Schiavoni were present, milling around as they waited for votes to be tallied. But Drohan and Loreto were absent from the crowd. When the total votes were called, the gymnasium filled with resounding applause.
Overall, this year’s vote proved to have a remarkable turn out. Budget Advisory Committee member Sandy Kruel said that by 1 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, she heard voter turnout was up by 30 percent from last year. Daniel Hartnett, a current school board member, said he believed the number of voters increased by around 400 to 500 this year.
“It was a larger turnout than I expected,” commented school board member Theresa Samot.
One surprise of the evening was the record number of votes in support of Schiavoni. In 2007, Ed Haye received 1,006 votes, which Kruel believed was the highest number of votes for one candidate in district history.
“I didn’t expect this,” said Schiavoni. “I am relieved and happy. The group who supported me put a lot of work into it. I also can’t believe that the budget passed by so many votes.”
Wilcoxen, however, said he had few expectations of how the vote would turn out.
In the minutes before the polls officially closed and the counting began, Wilcoxen said he felt anxious and hoped that people would support his message.
“This isn’t about me. This is about the message. It’s about the message of the community, of our education and our future,” opined Wilcoxen.
In the past few weeks, Wilcoxen has focused his message on working out a fair contract with district teachers, sharing services with Bridgehampton and finding ways to improve programming without incurring additional costs, while Schiavoni has taken a keen interest in the advanced placement class program.
Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto was similarly floored by the large turnout and community support for the budget and propositions two and three.
“I was cautiously optimistic,” reported Gratto. “I think we struck a balanced budget … It seems pretty clear what the public wanted.”
Based on his own calculations, Gratto said 67 percent of voters voted in favor of the budget, with 33 percent of them voting against it.
Of the two newly-elected school board candidates, Gratto added “I think the vote shows the respect people have for both Walter and Gregg.”
Defeated candidate Ed Drohan said he was disappointed, but added that he represented senior citizens and second homeowners, many of whom cannot vote in the district.
“I feel I understand the community much better now than when I started,” said Drohan of his campaign. “I feel like I have gotten closer to a lot of people . . . I think it was a learning experience.”
Loreto declined to comment, except to say that she thanked those who supported her during the campaign.
Now that they’ve been elected (and re-elected) to the school board, the real work begins, but on Tuesday night, as Wilcoxen and Schiavoni shared congratulatory hugs with members of the public, it appeared they would spend this particular evening savoring their wins.
Above: Incumbent school board president Walter Wilcoxen receives congratulatory hug after votes were counted.