Three challengers were elected to the Port Washington Board of Education on Tuesday, defeating a slate of three incumbents.
Nanette Melkonian, Adam Block, and Adam Smith were elected to the board, defeating board President Nora Johnson, Vice President Elizabeth Weisburd, and Trustee Larry Greenstein.
Melkonian, who entered the race as an independent candidate, received 1,903 votes, Smith received 1,524 votes, and Block received 1,447. Greenstein received 1,362 votes, Johnson received 1,307 and Weisburd received 1,261. Justin Renna, who ran on the same slate as Smith and Block, received 953 votes.
Melkonian, along with her husband, Matt, moved to the area in 2000, with all three of their children passing through the Port Washington school district. She has spent time as an elementary, secondary and post-secondary special education teacher.
Since she moved to Port Washington, Melkonian said, she has kept herself informed on various programs in the school district. She touted the role that a Board of Education member plays in a school district and community and said she felt this year was the right time to run.
Support local journalism by subscribing to your Blank Slate Media community newspaper for just $35 a year.
“I have listened and learned that everyone in this community values educational excellence, strong communication and parent engagement with our school district,” Melkonian said in a statement to Blank Slate Media. “I’m proud of my 30 years of advocacy for the individual needs of all students, for educational excellence, for strong parent/school partnerships, and for public schools more broadly. I look forward to continuing this work as your Board of Education Trustee.”
She thanked the incumbents for their time serving the board and said she looks forward “to the privilege to serve” on the board.
“Thank you to Larry Greenstein, Nora Johnson, and Beth Weisburd for your many years of service to our schools and community,” she said. “Thank you to Justin Renna for your willingness to serve and congratulations to Adam Smith and Adam Block; I look forward to working with you for the benefit of our students and community. Thank you to my supporters who have written letters and emails, stood outside grocery stores and on ball fields, and offered advice, expertise and wisdom. I am humbled by this moment and could never repay you. And to the community, thank you for engaging in this process. You also served our schools by becoming informed voters. To those who voted for me, thank you for your trust and to those who didn’t, I hope to earn it.”
Smith runs strategic and financial planning, as well as day-to-day operations, of a New York-based real estate investment and development firm. He is also the emergency preparedness chair and serves on the board of trustees for a local religious institution and preschool. Smith and his wife, Jenny, live in Port Washington North and their three children go to district schools.
Block, a graduate of Schreiber High School, is a professor of public health at New York Medical College. He received a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Amherst College and a Ph.D. in health policy with a concentration in economics from Harvard University. Over the course of his career, he has worked as an economist for the U.S. Congress and wrote regulations for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Block also started the company, Port Skis, a ski equipment rental service based in the area, and is treasurer of Salem Elementary School’s Home School Association. Block, his wife, and their three children all reside in the area, with all three of his children being active students in the school district.
Smith and Block echoed Melkonian’s sentiments to the outgoing incumbents and thanked others on helping them be elected to the board.
“Thank you to the outgoing trustees for their many years of service, for their efforts during this difficult time and for a hard fought but cordial campaign,” Smith said in a statement to Blank Slate Media. “I want to personally thank Justin Renna for his unwavering support and his continued service to the community coaching youth athletics. Most importantly, I want to thank everyone in the community who came out and voted, it is so important to encourage civic engagement and to model it for our children. Finally, thank you Port Washington for putting your faith in me, I am ready to get to work.”
“I am incredibly humbled and honored to be elected to the Port Washington Board of Education,” Block said in a statement to Blank Slate Media. “Having come through these schools and now having three children attending Port schools I know what a special place they are. I am looking forward in the short term to building on the work from this year to get our kids back to normal as soon as possible, safely. And in the longer term I am looking forward to helping the Board provide excellence in academic opportunities for all. We have learned in the last 14 months just how important schools are in our community. And starting July 1st, working alongside new Board members Nanette Melkonian and Adam Smith, plus the current Board members, Emily Beys, Deborah Brooks, Julie Epstein and Rachel Gilliar, and the fantastic administrators, educators and other staff, I look forward to strengthening their role in Port Washington.”
The district also passed the $167 million budget with 2,580 votes in favor of it, compared with 1,009 opposed.