G.N. School District files appeal to change budget vote, election date

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The Great Neck School district filed an emergency appeal with the state to change the date of the annual budget vote and board of education election. (Photo courtesy of the Great Neck School District)

The Great Neck Public Schools District filed an emergency appeal with the state to change the date of the district’s annual budget vote and school board election due to holiday conflicts.

School district officials said the May 18 date of the budget and elections coincides 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 requested for the date to be changed to May 11.

“Our district values the voice of every voter and we strive to make the school budget process as transparent and accessible as possible,” School Superintendent Teresa Prendergast said in an email. “We will provide updates as soon as they are available.”

Prendergast said the district regretted not filing the appeal earlier as they did not know they were able to make the request to the state Department of Education.  Prendergast said the district has also reached out to state legislators to aid in getting the election date moved.

There is no timetable for how long the state’s education department will use to review the district’s request and come to a decision on it, Prendergast said.

The district has also not made a decision on how many board members will be voting on the budget after the death of longtime Board of Education Trustee Donald Ashkenase on Monday.

Ahskenase’s term was set to expire on June 30, but school officials did not provide any immediate information regarding what will happen in the interim.

Ashkenase, who moved to Great Neck in 1979, was first elected to the board in 1982 and was re-elected 12 times. His 39-year tenure as trustee was the longest in the school district’s history. He also chaired the board’s Financial Advisory Committee.

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.

Of those 86 trustees, only 20 have served 10 years or more and only four have served 20 or more years: John A. Laressy from 1916 to 1940, Barbara Berkowitz from 1992 to present, Lawrence Gross from 1981 to 2017, and Ashkenase from 1982 to 2021.

Berkowitz, the board president who announced she will be seeking re-election this year, said Ashkenase’s legacy will live on and touted his dedication to making the children in the school district a constant priority throughout his tenure on the board.

“The sudden passing of Don Ashkenase has left everyone terribly saddened,” Berkowitz said. “Don had an incredibly analytical mind and could speak about the budget in a way that was way over most people’s heads, but above all, he had the biggest heart of anyone I know, and his number one priority was always the children. His kindness and generosity were legendary and he will be missed more than words can express, but his legacy will continue as we strive to live ‘meaningful’ lives.”

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