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Seven candidates running for five Hewlett-Woodmere board of education seats

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Hewlett-Woodmere School District residents can choose from seven candidates running to fill five seats on the Board of Education in next Tuesday’s election.

Current Board President Debra Sheinin, Trustee Judy Menashe, former Trustee Dr. Jon Altus, Shari Amitrano, Francois Tenenbaum, Dr. Tatyana Kopp and Ramsha Ansari are on the ballot.

Those with the three highest vote totals will gain full three-year terms that begin on July 1. The next two will serve a two-year term and a one-year term, to complete the terms of former Trustees Paul Critti and Daniella Simon, respectively. Both moved out of the district earlier in the school year.

Sheinin, 46, has been a trustee since 2018. She was named president last July, and she is running alongside Menashe, Altus, Amitrano and Tenenbaum as a bloc. “All five of us have something unique to offer to the district,” Sheinin said. “We’re five active members of the community only looking for the best for the district. It’s so important that’s how the board remains.”

She added that the way the district and board were able to come up with a reopening plan shows the efficiency of the board. “We were one of the first districts to have our elementary schools full-time,” Sheinin said. “I think a lot of that has to do with how our board works with our superintendent. Nothing is just one person; this is a team collaboration.”

Menashe, 49, a trustee also since 2018, is a lifelong Woodmere resident and a 1989 graduate of Hewlett High School. With five seats open, she said, it’s important to maintain consistency on the board.

“I feel that I’m a good candidate for re-election because of my knowledge and experience I’ve had with our district over the past 18 years,” Menashe said. “I am in constant communication with the parents of the district, and I understand what their desires are for the future of our district.”

Altus, 61, a pulmonary and critical care doctor at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital, served on the board from 2012 to 2018. He said that his previous experience as a trustee would be valuable to the board going forward. “I treated many patients in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Altus said. “I hope my experience in leading teams of professionals during the crisis will be of value to the school district as we navigate through dealing with the pandemic and its aftermath.”

Amitrano, 48, is a 1990 Hewlett High graduate and has two children attending district schools. She has worked in the financial services industry for over 25 years, and noted that the skills she has used in her career can help her be an effective board member.

“My career has allowed me to gain the knowledge and expertise needed to be able to serve this community,” Amitrano said. “I’m fiscally responsible, and my inquisitive line of thinking will help support the need to ask challenging and thought-provoking questions. As a business coach to those I serve, I’m also a great listener, which is another skill that’s imperative when understanding the needs of the community and allowing people to be heard.”

Tenenbaum, 47, an entrepreneur who has served in the PTA for nearly six years, said he believed he would bring a “fresh perspective” to the board. “When my kids started going to school, I started getting involved to help shape the school district my kids will grow up in,” Tenenbaum said. “I believe I can bring an outside-the-box mentality to the board by coming with different ideas and perspective.”

Kopp, 35, is a neonatologist — a doctor who treats newborns with birth defects, breathing disorders and infections — and an active PTA member. Serving on the board has been on her mind for “quite some time,” she said. “Although I may be younger than most who have run for the position or who have been elected, I have accomplished a lot throughout my years,” Kopp said. “I now would love the opportunity to bring my skills and experiences to District 14 as a board member, not to make everything ‘new,’ but to contribute to the continued growth both academically and socially/emotionally that our district has had so far.”

Ansari, 28, a 2011 Hewlett High graduate, is an attorney. “I will be able to review the budget and all proposals with fresh eyes and offer ideas and methods that may not have been considered before,” she said. “As a lawyer, it is my job to carefully listen to my client’s needs, listen to the other side’s arguments, read and analyze the law, and passionately advocate for my clients within the confines of the law.”

Ansari said she would focus on mental health and school safety. “If I were to be elected, I will take a look at how we allocate our resources towards mental health,” she said. “I think being vocal and having an open conversation about it will help take the stigma away from it. I would be more than happy to talk about my own experiences with mental health.”

Along with the school board, the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library has one trustee candidate. North Woodmere resident Ellen Vaknine is running unopposed for a five-year term, and would replace Trustee Frank Zaret, who is stepping down.

Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Woodmere Education Center, at 1 Johnson Place. For more on the election, go to https://bit.ly/3cyJsKH or contact the district clerk on school days between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., at (516) 792-4883.