Two seats on the Port Washington Board of Education are being contested by four candidates in Tuesday’s election after current Trustee Dave Kerpen announced he was not running for re-election.
“At this point in time, I truly don’t have the bandwidth to serve on the board again,” Kerpen said in an interview with Blank Slate Media. “My work in four companies I am building along with, most importantly, spending time with my family led me to this difficult decision to not run again.”
Kerpen was first elected to the board three years ago along with the lone incumbent in this year’s race, Rachel Gilliar.
Port Washington residents Adam Block, Julie Epstein and former Trustee Christina Nadolne are all running as well. The election is being held with absentee ballots, and the top two finishers will win seats.
Gilliar, a mother of four, received her undergraduate degree at Dartmouth before attending the University of Michigan law school. Gilliar’s work in the legal field led her to receive the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association, she said.
Nadolne, a mother of two, a dental claims manager and dental hygienist, said she did not seek re-election in 2017 after serving one three-year term followed by a one-year term to earn her master’s in public health from George Washington University.
Block is an assistant professor of health policy and management at the New York Medical College’s School of Health Science and Practice, and Epstein is a co-president of the Port Washington Parents Council who has also worked with the district’s Home School Associations.
Kerpen, in a letter to Blank Slate Media, said he is endorsing Gilliar and Epstein.
“Rachel and I care deeply for the community, and did our best to provide the best education possible for the children of Port Washington,” Kerpen wrote. “I know Rachel will continue to advocate strenuously for Port Washington to provide the best they can offer to our students, while thinking critically about our expenditures and creating a budget that’s fiscally sound.”
“Julie’s attendance at EVERY Board meeting has shown a true dedication to gain an understanding of the role of the board,” Kerpen wrote. “In committee meetings, I have witnessed her curious questioning and interjection of perspective from the parent community, presented in a manner of guidance and support.”
Gilliar said she is imploring residents to prioritize providing students with enrichment programs and a sufficient number of educators to instruct them.
“I’ve spent the past three years speaking to various parents, groups, stakeholders and educators, and tried to make them all realize that we are all on the same team here,” Gilliar said. “At the end of the day, we want to provide the best curriculum and education for our students. When all of the moving pieces come together, I am confident there is nothing we can’t accomplish.”
Nadolne touted her volunteer work and prior experience on the Board of Education.
“I know what the job entails, and I have the experience to know what my role will be if I am elected,” Nadolne said. “I also am a devil’s advocate in the sense that I will always provide a topic of discussion with potential benefits and hindrances.”
Nadolne said she also understands points of concern with parents from kindergarten through 12th grade and prides herself on being a receptive individual who will always take others’ input into consideration.
After working out of state for several years, Block, his wife and his three children returned to Port four years ago. His two oldest children, a pair of fraternal twins, began going to the public schools shortly thereafter.
It was his oldest son, then in kindergarten, who brought an issue to Block’s attention.
“[My son] started saying his teacher was absent a lot,” Block said. “I talked to some parents and found that the teacher had absent 36 [separate] days of the year. I gathered all the students, got signatures from parents, and present a letter to school board in June of 2017.”
But what made Block want to run for school board occurred more recently, with the onset of COVID-19. Once the schools closed, he said, his three children received 40 minutes a week of online schooling, with the rest being homework assignments.
Epstein, a mother of two, touted her experience volunteering in Port Washington as the co-president of both the Salem Elementary School Home School Association and the Parents’ Council, and a member of the Weber Middle School’s Executive Board.
“In each of these roles I consistently questioned, evaluated and implemented new ideas to streamline initiatives,” Epstein said. “Parents’ Council has given me the opportunity to gain an understanding of the scope of the board’s responsibilities and the limitations put on school districts by the state of New York. I know that it is not a curricular board but rather one of governance, policy, budget, and oversight.”
All four candidates said they were in favor of the district’s recently adopted $163 million budget for the 2020-21 school year, which is also up before voters for approval.
Absentee ballots for the election of two trustees and the budget vote must be received by the school district by Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Kerpen implored all district residents to submit their absentee ballots by Friday so the district can receive them on time.
“I urge everyone to make sure their votes are cast on time, vote for the budget, and two school board members,” Kerpen said. “It is essential to vote, especially this year.”