Dear Port Washington community

Dear Port Washington community

As many of you know it’s that time of year when all residents are asked to vote on our school budget and trustees. This year there are eight people who are asking to be elected to one of the three seats up for election.

I am currently serving my third term on the Board Of Education (BOE) and I am always appreciative of all community members who are vested and interested in working on behalf of our students, staff and community at large. With so many voices in this election cycle, however, it can sometimes get a bit confusing and some facts may somehow become misconstrued. So as someone who is not up for re-election, I would like to help clarify some recent topics I have heard the candidates discuss and share some historical facts from my tenure on the Board:

1. The BOE had a Legislative Task Force that was revamped in 2016. In 2017, we began conversations with our elected representatives and community members asking for “Port’s Fair Share of the Pie.” We highlighted errors in the state aid formula, tax levy formula and reasons why Port Washington should not be grouped with our neighboring affluent North Shore school districts. In 2019, we were invited to the legislature’s round table discussion about the Foundation Aid formula. Along with Dr. Hynes and then BOE member, Larry Greenstein, I spoke once again about how the formula needed to be changed and what makes Port unique. Our big ask was to fully fund foundation aid despite its formula error. The legislature was making a concerted effort then to make changes but the world came to a halt in 2020 and our conversations with our elected officials shifted from budget to COVID protocols.

2. The 2021-2022 school budget cycle and vote took place in May of 2020 when we were all at home and did not know what tomorrow would bring. The BOE at that time made a decision to increase our tax levy at the bare minimum needed to continue our operation of the schools. Some criticized that by not increasing to the full tax levy cap, “we left money on the table.” Technically, we could have increased by more and thereby putting us in a better position today. That, however, would have been irresponsible and insensitive to our struggling community. I stand by that decision.

3. COVID did change our financial situation. We, along with all other school districts, received extra funds from our State and Federal governments. Subsequently, during the 2022-2023 budget cycle, the State finally committed to fully fund Foundation Aid. They did it in two parts: half of what was owed was awarded in the 2022-2023 budget and the remainder in the 2023-2024 budget cycle. This influx of funds allowed our District to add programming as well as make capital improvements in a responsible manner, balancing what our general fund could bear and how much we can keep in reserves. School districts cannot keep more than 4% in their reserves – that is dictated by law. So the statement that we did not plan appropriately and should have been prepared for the rise in inflation and contractual costs because of these funds is inaccurate.

4. As a rule of practice, neither a committee nor a task force of the Board of Education can act without the approval of the Board of Education. The benefits of a committee/task force; however, are that you can take time to work with others to do a deeper dive on topics and also educate more people to assist as you campaign out to the community. Since the state fully funded our Foundation Aid, I recommended to the BOE, that we disband the Legislative Task Force that had been working on that goal until it was needed to reconvene again with new goals or under the benefit of a committee. We did not stop advocating to our legislators about the uniqueness of Port compared to our neighbors, nor on other issues as they arose and the BOE appointed myself, Julie Epstein and Deborah Brooks as our legislative arm. The disbanding of the Legislative Task Force simply made the Board more efficient because the decisions of the Board were discussed and decided in real time. We did in fact meet with our legislators this year and as was reported at our BOE meetings, we have asked that we continue our seat at the table as new talks will begin on the reformulating of Foundation Aid and we were successful in getting aid for capital improvements. BOE members should always report to the community and to its fellow members their meetings in a public forum as is required by law.

5. Regarding the programming that we added, those additions were also not done in a vacuum. Despite the buildings operating remotely in 2020, the then 7 members of the BOE continued the work that started in 2019 with the hiring of a new Superintendent of Schools. The district created vision and mission, as well as DEI committees that met regularly to further our goals of moving the school district forward. The work of those committees which consisted of then Board members, staff and community members, developed a mission and a vision statement and a portrait of a graduate that the BOE adopted and still guides us today. All the enhancements to our educational model have been because of that work. Work that took place in 2020.

I hope by providing this history and timeline I am providing a deeper perspective on the workings of a School District and Board. Nothing happens overnight or in three years. Each School Board lays a foundation that future Boards learn from and build on.


Emily Beys

Port Washington BOE 2016-present

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here