Port ed board re-appoints Smith as president, appoints Epstein as vice president

Port ed board re-appoints Smith as president, appoints Epstein as vice president
Paul D. Schreiber High School. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Port Washington Board of Education re-appointed Adam Smith as its president and appointed Julie Epstein as its vice president for the 2023-2024 school year during the annual reorganization meeting Tuesday night.

“I want to thank the Board of Education for putting its trust in me again to be the president,” Smith said. “It’s a responsibility I take very seriously and I hope that this year we’ll do a great job.”

Smith said that, while he was accepting the nomination, he offered to hand over the position to Deborah Brooks, who has served as the board’s vice president. She declined to accept the offer.

His appointment passed with four board members voting affirmatively, and three members abstaining – Brooks, Rachel Gilliar and Nanette Melkonian.

While Julie Epstein was appointed as vice president, board members also re-nominated Deborah Brooks for the position. Epstein was granted the appointment, garnering four “yeses” and three “noes.”

Both Smith and Epstein were then sworn in for their board positions.

The board also swore in its newly re-elected Trustees Gilliar and Epstein, who were both re-elected for another term during the district’s May 16 election.

As part of the annual reorganization meeting, the Board of Education also appointed various district employees, including the district clerk, treasurer and deputy treasurer.

At the conclusion of the reorganizational meeting, the Port Washington Board of Education began its regular meeting.

Multiple Schreiber High School students spoke during the public comment period advocating for the continuation of student-ran clubs, which have been removed from the school.

“The most disheartening part about taking away student-run clubs, is that it is taking away our voices,” Schreiber rising senior Yasmeen Munoz said. “We are no longer empowered or encouraged to pursue our interested, we are silenced.”

A Change.org petition has been started by Schreiber High School students asking the district to reconsider its dissolution of student-run clubs. It has garnered 463 signatures, nearly reaching its goal of 500.

Smith said the Board of Education was not involved in the decision as it was made at the district level.

Superintendent Michael Hynes said he will be working over the summer with Schreiber High School principal Kathryn Behr to find a solution.

Smith said that regardless of the outcome, him and the board are appreciative of the students’ advocacy on the issue.

Assistant Superintendent Christopher Shields provided the district’s enrollment report at the meeting. He said the district has 372 children enrolled in kindergarten for the 2023-2024 school year. There are four kindergarten sections at each of the district’s elementary schools, with classes ranging from 17-20 students.

“We have room to continue to grow if need be,” Shields said.

The Board of Education includes a student liaison to offer insight to the board, but this year may be featured differently than in the past. Hynes said the district is looking at implementing a different senior student liaison each month to share what is happening at Schreiber High School.

Other suggestions, like a round table discussion, were presented by board members, but no decision was made yet. Hynes said he will meet with Behr to finalize the structure proposal, possibly including both a monthly student liaison for the meetings and a quarterly round table discussion of students separate from the public meetings.

The Port Washington Board of Education will convene again in Schreiber Library at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 6.

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