Smith, Melkonian look forward to working with newcomer Alvarez on BOE

Smith, Melkonian look forward to working with newcomer Alvarez on BOE
(From left to right) Port Washington Board of Education President Adam Smith and Trustee Nanette Melkonian were reelected alongside newly elected member Sandra Alvarez. (Photo courtesy of the candidates)

The Port Washington Board of Education will be changing in July with newcomer Sandra Alvarez set to replace Trustee Adam Block, who was not re-elected.

While disappointed in Block’s impending exit from the board, re-elected board members Adam Smith and Nanette Melkonian said they are looking forward to working with Alvarez and the unique perspective she will bring.

Alvarez and incumbents Smith and Melkonian were elected to the Port Washington Board of Education May 21, prevailing in a field of eight candidates.

While the field was crowded, Melkonian said greater participation strengthens the Board of Education.

“I believe that it’s a wonderful demonstration of people participating in the democratic process as candidates and as voters, and I believe that when there is great interest in representation, I believe that makes for a stronger board,” Melkonian said.

Block was ousted from his seat along with four newcomers, Michael Bitalvo, Teodora Choolfaian, Joseph Delerme, and Beth Weisburd, who also fell short.

Both Smith and Melkonian were initially elected to the board in 2021, alongside Block. This will be Smith and Melkonian’s second term.

Smith said he was disappointed Block was not re-elected and that the community did not see the value he brought to the Board of Education.

“He’s a voice on many issues where he’s the only voice and that is going to be lost,” Smith said. “I think that is sad and it’s going to be a detriment to the stakeholders.”

At the same time Smith said he was excited about Alvarez joining. He said she, too, brings a voice that is missing on the BOE and was looking forward to working with her.

Melkonian said she was grateful for Block’s service to the district as a trustee, but was also looking forward to working with Alvarez and believes she has life and community experiences that will be a valuable asset to the Board of Education.

Alvarez is a lifelong resident of Port Washington who runs a private youth athletics company on Long Island.

She is also the co-president of the school district’s Special Education Parent Teacher Association, treasurer for Parents Council and has served on various school committees.

She said she began attending Board of Education meetings three years ago after struggling to find adequate after-school programs for her child. In attending these meetings, she said she was introduced to a diverse array of concerns from other parents.

Alvarez said she ran for the Board of Education to increase community representation on the board and stress the importance of inclusivity.

Efforts to reach Alvarez were unavailing.

Smith, who has lived in Port for the past 12 years, works for a New York-based real estate investment and development firm. He also served on the board of Temple Beth Israel in Port Washington

He and his wife have three children who attend district schools.

Smith said his approach as a BOE member has been one in balancing the needs of all of the district’s stakeholders. He said the results of the election reflect that the community saw this and they appreciated it.

Melkonian and 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.

She attributed her re-election to her approachability and willingness to listen and learn. She said this is something the community has observed and has led her to being a member who represents the community.

“I think people felt respected and heard by me,” Melkonian said.

Looking forward, Melkonian said she will continue to focus on educational excellence, improve communications with the community and enhance the district’s school culture and climate. She said her values are aligned with the board’s goals as well.

Smith said with another three years he is looking to continue the board’s momentum since he joined.

Also passed in the election was the school district’s budget, which required a supermajority vote due to its exceeding the allowed tax cap.

The budget garnered more than a 70% approval vote. Smith said this was a testament to the work the district has been doing and the trust the community has in it.

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