Michael Glickman, a philanthropic adviser, social entrepreneur and advocate for change, announced last week that he will run for a seat on the Great Neck Board of Education against longtime board member Barbara Berkowitz.
Glickman has spent the past 16 years living in Great Neck with his wife, Sumi, a former finance executive, and three children. Two of his children attend North Middle School and one attends Saddle Rock Elementary School.
Glickman is the founder and CEO of jMUSE, a venture in arts and culture philanthropy that joins institutions, experts and philanthropists to create innovative content throughout the United States and Europe.
Glickman has also served as president and CEO of the state’s Holocaust museum and has served as president of the board of directors for the Gold Coast Arts Center and its film festival.
In letters to Blank Slate Media in the past few months, Glickman criticized how the school district provided resources to students and teachers to learn throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Glickman said he wanted to see the board have more conversations with the community regarding decisions.
“When elected, I will continue to ask tough questions and work tirelessly to ensure that critical decisions are made in public view, with input from the community and clarity about where I stand on the issues,” Glickman said in an interview.
Glickman specifically called out the district’s lack of new technology for students as a reason to get fresh faces on the board. Glickman lauded Berkowitz, the board president, for her service but said she is out of touch with the needs of the district.
“Under Mrs. Berkowitz’s control, the Great Neck school district has become rudderless,” Glickman said. “Its decision-making is less than transparent and its ability to communicate with parents is inconsistent and ineffective.”
Berkowitz, in response to Glickman’s comments, touted the district’s academic and fiscal achievements, questioning what Glickman would specifically do differently if he were to be elected.
“I am proud that the Great Neck Public Schools continue to have an exceptional record of academic achievement with students of varying levels of proficiency,” Berkowitz said in a statement to Blank Slate Media. “I am also proud of the district’s fiscal accountability, as evidenced by our continued Triple-A Moody’s rating and the undesignated under comptroller’s Fiscal Stress Management System (FSMS) which simply means that there is no sign of fiscal stress.”
“It’s regrettable that Mr. Glickman has chosen to engage in such negative attacks on me, none of which are fact-based,” Berkowitz continued. “I’m interested in reading precisely what Mr. Glickman proposes to do differently, aside from attacking both me personally as well as the school district.”
Since 1894 there have been 86 trustees, with two serving nonconsecutive terms. Including the current Board of Education, the average time served has been just more than seven years.
Berkowitz has served on the board for nearly 30 years since first being elected in 1992.
Glickman said he had numerous conversations with parents, teachers and community members “long before” he decided to run for a spot on the board. He said there is “an overwhelming sense” that the district fails to communicate with its stakeholders.
“The children are the main stakeholders in the district,” he said. “We need to provide them with outstanding teachers in a functioning school district. We need to find out what parents are concerned about and get that dialogue going.”
Since the board has held its monthly public meetings solely on a virtual platform since the pandemic began, the public input portion of each meeting has slightly changed.
Before the pandemic, people were able to stand up and express their concerns or make statements to those present at the meetings. Now, district residents are able to submit questions to the board up until the Friday before the meeting and can submit questions into the chat during the meeting.
The submitted questions are read aloud and then addressed by certain members of the board or staff who could best answer them. While this allows members of the public to have their voices heard, Glickman said he does not see this as the most transparent way for the board to interact with its stakeholders.
The district’s Board of Education election and budget vote will occur on May 11, rather than May 18, due to a conflict with the final day of the Jewish holiday Shavuot, which is celebrated seven weeks after the second Passover seder.
State law requires school districts to hold their elections on the third Tuesday in May but due to the conflict, the board asked for the date to be changed to May 11. State officials approved the district’s request in March.