Readers Write: An independent candidate for the Port Washington Board of Education

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Last week an independent voice entered the race for the Port Washington Board of Education. Nanette Melkonian and her husband, Matt, moved their family to Port Washington in 2000.

Nanette and Matt grew up as neighbors in a diverse community on Long Island and easily fell in love with Port Washington’s own diversity, sense of community and, of course, waterfront.

Nanette and Matt have three children, all of whom attended the Port Washington schools. Through them, Nanette has had the pleasure of learning about the inclusion program (since cut), the ESTEAM (PEP) program, the orchestra program, the drama program, middle school sports and high school varsity sports, as well as the various Schreiber honors programs and research programs. Like all families with varied needs and interests, each of Nanette’s children found their way through the rich opportunities our schools offer.

Prior to raising her family, Nanette was an elementary educator in the public schools and a special educator at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary level.

Nanette’s teaching and classroom experience involved a range of diverse populations, needing a variety of services, including regular classroom, inclusion, secondary level resource room, and support services for students at the college level.

As a parent, Nanette’s experience and involvement in public education broadened to include volunteering as an educator in the Outreach Program at the Parent Resource Center, and then as a member of the Parent Education Committee with the Guggenheim HSA. Following that, Nanette served on the Compact Committees at Guggenheim and Weber.

In 2015, Nanette grew concerned with state and national policies that placed an undue emphasis on high-stakes testing rather than educational best practices. As these policies had a detrimental impact on students and teachers in the classroom, Nanette decided to join forces with three other parent leaders to establish Port Washington Advocates for Public Education (PWAPE), a grassroots community group dedicated to researching and providing information on education issues relevant to the Port Washington school district.

Nanette and her PWAPE colleagues worked to organize the community and educate district administrators and elected officials about a range of educational policy issues, including a harmful agenda to undermine and underfund our public schools. Nanette’s advocacy work was instrumental in influencing the district to adopt more child-centered, evidence-based educational policies while also achieving public policy change at the state level.

Nanette continues her public education advocacy today. She is currently in her third year as co-President of AGATE, and is a current member of Parents Council after having served as an AGATE executive board member and building liaison for many years. Nanette has served on a variety of district hiring committees and is currently a member of the District’s Vision and Mission Committee. Nanette believes that these many years of wonderful experiences of service and advocacy have connected her to the beautiful diversity and sense of community in Port Washington that she and her husband sought all those years ago.

In her 30-year career as a teacher, parent and advocate, Nanette has established a deep reach into the Port Washington school district’s many constituencies and built a reputation as a listener who is willing to challenge the status quo.

She has demonstrated an ability to build community and consensus through researching and understanding the issues facing our public schools. Her advocacy work has enhanced professional development, improved access to interpretation at parent meetings and strengthened parent participation and engagement with the school district on educational issues important to all children.

In addition, Nanette’s substantive work with the Board of Education committees has achieved progress; Nanette has worked to protect ESTEAM programming while engaging with the Budget and Facilities committee, introduced an analysis of homework on the Policy and Curriculum committees, and encouraged review of the Schreiber English and Social Studies Honors Projects, as well as the Weber Core Extension Program, via the Curriculum committee.

What Nanette is most proud of is that she didn’t do any of this alone. Following her teaching instincts, she asked questions, established trust, engaged with the community and the district, and through partnership and collaboration, was able to arrive at solutions and make change.

Nanette sees this as a pivotal moment for the district. The district’s work in the Vision and Mission and Equity and Inclusion committees is beginning to take shape even as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 crisis.

Now more than ever, the Board of Education needs trustees who possess a deep understanding of the district and public education, along with strong interpersonal and problem-solving skills.

The learning loss and social-emotional needs of our students are acute, and the federal monies designated to address these problems need to be allocated wisely with a thoughtful approach to programming and professional development.

Additionally, there needs to be renewed trust between the schools and the community through receptive and open engagement with school board members, clear district communications, and improved language access for non-English speaking families.

More broadly, the equity and inclusion analysis underway needs to create change in curriculum, hiring, access to programming and disciplinary policy. Nanette believes that, with strong and knowledgeable leadership on the Board of Education, shared goals, a commitment to child-centered educational practices and to our talented and inspiring staff, our district’s future will be bright.

Nanette believes that robust public schools are a pillar of our democracy that have the capacity to inspire life-long learners and citizens of the world.

As her last child prepares to be graduated from Schreiber High School, Nanette sees this as her time to serve on the Board of Education and give back. She is grateful to those who served while she was raising her children and believes that parents and the community can trust her to give the position of Board of Education Trustee all that it deserves.

She would like to use her experience and knowledge to nurture the next generation of students and families in the Port Washington Schools.
If you have questions about Nanette’s campaign, you are welcome to email her at nan4BOE@gmail.com.
To join Nanette’s campaign, like and follow her Facebook page @Nanette Melkonian for Port Washington BOE.

Nanette Melkonian

Port Washington

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