Incumbent Trustee Donna Peirez defeated challenger Emil Hakimi by more than 1,100 votes in the Great Neck School District’s Board of Education election on Tuesday that had been the subject of at times heated community debate.
The district’s adopted $261.4 million for the 2022-23 school year was also passed 4,773-2030. The Great Neck Library’s $9.6 million budget for 2022-23 was also passed 3,752-2,982.
Peirez, who was first elected to the board in 2016 to fill a vacant seat left by Monique Bloom, received 4,018 votes compared to Hakimi’s 2,895. Peirez, in a statement, said she understands “the value of the home-school connection” and stressed the importance of hearing parents’ voices.
“My long experience in our district as a parent, a teacher, and a Board member uniquely positions me to strike consensus whatever challenges we face,” Peirez said. “As current Vice President of the Board of Education, I understand that serving on the Board requires in-depth knowledge and understanding of the working of our district.”
Peirez, who previously served as a teacher at the Lakeville School for nearly three decades, said the school district’s “stellar reputation” was the driving force behind the decision of many families, including her own, to come to Great Neck.
Her tenure as a board member has included helping navigate the district through the coronavirus pandemic and protecting the safety and well-being of its students.
“These experiences have helped me to understand the special families of this community, my community, in a unique manner,” Peirez said in a letter to Blank Slate Media. “I am first and foremost an advocate for children. On their behalf, I am seeking another term on the Board of Education to continue championing public education.”
Hakimi’s campaign focused on politically charged concerns seen across the country about what was being taught in schools.
In a letter to Blank Slate Media, he said he heard from parents “about the introduction of socio-political indoctrination into our children’s curriculum and instruction.”
The challenger cited a slideshow allegedly part of an 11th-grade English class at North High School, which was circulated on social media, as one of the instances that motivated him to run. A handful of parents, students and teachers addressed the slides, which featured teachings of “white fragility” and racism, at a school board meeting.
The slides were included in an article on the website of Parents Defending Education, a conservative national organization that works to ensure schools do not promote “harmful agendas,” according to its site.
The school district’s 2022-23 budget, initially proposed at $262.2 million, was ultimately a 3.66 percent increase from the 2021-22 budget rather than the 4.14 percent increase it previously was. The proposed tax levy increase went from 3.08 percent in the previous proposal, to 2.57 percent, or $5.6 million, in the adopted budget. The proposed tax levy increase falls below the state-mandated cap.