Calling for unity, Ilya Aronovich drops out of Great Neck school board race

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Jeff Shi embraces Ilya Aronovich, who was running against Rebecca Sassouni. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

The last public forum with the Great Neck Board of Education candidates ended with a stirring push for unity and healing amidst what many perceived as a divisive campaign.

Perhaps the strongest push came from Ilya Aronovich, who had been competing against Rebecca Sassouni for retiring Trustee Susan Healy’s seat, when he used his opening statement to call for people to come together for the good of the community and express faith in his opponent to do what’s right.

“We are neighbors, we are friends, we are Great Neck. No change on the board is worth the ill will and vitriol being slung,” Aronovich said. “A united community with a faulty board is preferable to a fractured community with a perfect board.”

“Consistent with this objective, and with the objective of healing our community, I am hearby announcing that I am stepping out of the race for trustee,” he said.

The audience, surprised by the announcement, applauded the move. Jeffrey Shi, another candidate, embraced Aronovich and then the other candidates rose to shake hands.

This leaves Rebecca Sassouni unopposed for Healy’s seat. Shi and Nikolas Kron are still competing for Trustee Lawrence Gross’s seat; Gross is also retiring from the board.

Rebecca Sassouni thanked Aronovich for “his graciousness” and faith in her, noting that making such a decision must have been difficult. But she also said she has been torn apart by what she has witnessed with the election campaigns.

“I think it’s incredibly ironic and sad that we hold children to higher standards than we do with each other, and it’s reprehensible and it has to stop,” Sassouni said.

Among the questions posed to candidates at the forum were how to define the best interest of the school, their current views on special education, if enough is being done for the private schools and what their role in the community should be, how a trustee could repair apparent mistrust of the Board of Education and whether or not they believe there is a divide.

Each candidate called for increased transparency and communication with the community. But they also expressed that, after this election, they hope that Great Neck can heal.

Moji Pourmoradi, who has three children attending Great Neck Public Schools, said that Aronovich’s recognition of the strife and decision to drop out might help in that objective. “I believe it can be the first step towards healing us,” Pourmoradi said.

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