At most other schools, posting a phalanx of security guards at the doors and bringing in a team of outside election observers for a Parent Teacher Association election might seem extreme. Not at New Explorations into Science Technology and Math, where the PTA ended its last meeting in a dark parking lot after police kicked parents out of the school building.
On Thursday night, as elections were held to replace the PTA officers who quit en masse last month to protest the principal's leadership of the Lower East Side gifted and talented school, the meeting went relatively smoothly.
The frequent whooping and shouting in the filled auditorium was mostly celebratory, and the security guards intervened only once, when one father lunged at another he accused of making a disparaging remark about his wife.
Corinnna Lindenberg, who was brought in from the Chancellor's Parents Advisory Council to preside over the vote, speculated that her German accent and no-nonsense demeanor kept the crowd from becoming too unruly. But the vote was also seen as a referendum on the war ó the one between the school's PTA and the Department of Education ó and the results showed that the majority of PTA members wanted peace.
Ms. Lindenberg declared Katy Stokes the winner of the PTA presidency at 9:30 p.m., when most of the nearly 300 parents that attended had already trickled out of the auditorium and headed home to relieve their babysitters.
As a nominee, Ms. Stokes had asked voters to ignore her career as a lawyer and promised to bring "a period of reconciliation for everybody at the school."
Still, the vote was close, with Ms. Stokes winning by only 27 votes.
Her opponent was Lou Gasco, a former PTA officer (prior to the recent crew that resigned) who represented the old guard of officers that sued the city last year to keep a charter school from being installed inside NEST+m's building. The conflict was revived this year after the education department installed an interim principal that the PTA officers who resigned accused of trying to dismantle the school.
Mr. Gasco's nominee speech, read by a friend because he was on a business trip, hinted that he would stay the old PTA's course. He promised to hold the principal "accountable for the effect of these changes on our children."
Yet even though the auditorium was nearly split down the middle, there were hugs and handshakes exchanged across the aisles after the results were announced. The one PTA officer who didn't resign, Elisabeth Diekman, the recording secretary, came over to plan lunch with Ms. Stokes to talk about next steps.
For some Gasco supporters who waited for the votes to be counted at a nearby bar, the immediate pain of the loss was perhaps dulled.
Yesterday, Karen Trott, who voted for Mr. Gasco, said she was "miserable" about the results. "Things are not cooling off," she said. "All that we can do is let the people who come into office see for themselves."
Other parents were more optimistic that peace was on the horizon.
"I like the message that Katy had," Eric Sorenson said. "We don't want to be in the papers anymore."