Epstein, Gilliar run unopposed for re-election to Port’s BOE

Epstein, Gilliar run unopposed for re-election to Port’s BOE
Two Port Washington Board of Education members are running for re-election unopposed in the May 16 school election. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Port Washington Board of Education members Julie Epstein and Rachel Gilliar are running for re-election unopposed.

The Port Washington Union Free School District will be hosting an election May 16 for two seats on the Board of Education. Candidate filings for school board positions were due April 17.

School board member responsibilities include developing the school’s budget, creating strategic partnerships with community stakeholders, hiring and evaluating the superintendent, setting the direction of the school district and supporting a healthy school district culture, according to the New York State School Boards Association.

Candidates must have lived in the district for at least one year, ​​be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 years old. Candidates cannot be employed by the board or live in the same household with a family member who is also a member, according to the association.

The Port Washington Board of Education has seven members, including President Adam Smith and Vice President Deborah Brooks. Epstein and Gilliar are the only members whose terms end on June 30.

Board members serve three-year terms. The two terms for the offices up for re-election this year will start ​​July 1 and end June 30, 2026.

Epstein is currently completing her first term as a board member.

She began her work in the district by working on various Home School Associations, including serving as president of the association at South Salem Elementary. The association is responsible for building a partnership between parents, teachers and administration within the district.

Epstein said during her work on these associations, she learned a lot about the inner-workings of the district by attending various meetings and helped foster a connection with the district’s Board of Education.

“It seemed like a natural step for me to go into the Board of Education,” Epstein said.

She said while she felt comfortable stepping into her board member role three years ago, her responsibilities did change as she now is tasked with looking at the big picture of the school district.

Epstein said she is running again because she wants to continue helping move the school district forward.

Since she joined the board at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Epstein said that much of the work she was initially assigned was in response to the unprecedented pandemic restrictions. During that time, Epstein said the district wasn’t able to give as much time and devotion to educational manners as the board wanted due to the nature of the pandemic.

Now that the pandemic is fading away, Epstein said the board is now able to work more normally and address typical school board functions.

“I want to continue that trajectory and move forward,” Epstein said.

She added that if re-elected, her goal is to work with the board with the intent to serve the school district and its students to the highest degree, being proactive rather than reactive. She said she has no special interests but wants to work for the students and their district.

“I have enjoyed my time on the board and it has been one of the greater challenges I have had in my life and I appreciate how it challenges me to think and see things from new and different perspectives,” Epstein said. “I do look forward to continuing that and I look forward to having my colleagues challenge me, the community challenge us and we all move forward for great growth and achievement within our Port Washington School District.”

Gilliar, who has four children in the Port Washington School District, is running for her third term on the board, having joined in 2017. She said she was raised in a household that valued civic engagement and education, making it a matter of time before she joined the board of education.

“I really just wanted to contribute to making our education here in Port Washington as good as it could be,” Gilliar said.

She said she put a lot of thought into running for re-election as she is a strong advocate of having “fresh eyes,” or new members, on the board. She said this is valuable in order to prevent assumptions established by board members over time that no longer are applicable to a changing school district.

“I’m constantly thinking about this ‘fresh eyes’ idea and I’m constantly trying to challenge my own assumptions,” Gilliar said. “That’s part of the reason I decided to run again.”

She said her goals for a potential new term have been consistent throughout her tenure on the board, one of which is actively working on fostering a beneficial relationship between parents and the district.

“I don’t think that relationship should ever be adversarial,” Gilliar said. “I think parents have an absolute right to advocate for their kids as long as they do it in a way where it’s respectful of the professionals who are educating their children.”

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