With five seats open in this year’s Hewlett-Woodmere School District board of education election, a seventh candidate in Ramsha Ansari has thrown her hat into the ring.
Ansari, 28, joined current Board President Debra Sheinin, Trustee Judy Menashe, former Trustee Dr. Jon Altus, Shari Amitrano, Francois Tenenbaum and Dr. Tatyana Kopp on the ballot for the May 11 election.
The top three vote getters will gain full three-year terms that begin on July 1. The next two vote getters will serve a two and one-year term, to complete the terms of former Trustees Paul Critti and Daniella Simon respectively. Incumbent Trustee Melissa Gates’ term is expiring and she has decided to not run for re-election.
A 2011 graduate of Hewlett High School and lifelong Hewlett resident, Ansari currently works as an attorney practicing immigration, employment discrimination and criminal law. She said she decided to run in order to be a voice for students and families of all backgrounds. “In the last couple of years, I have seen how divisive and polarizing Hewlett-Woodmere has become,” Ansari said. “The things I’ve heard from some of the community members have really broken my heart.”
Ansari pointed to the heated Board of Education meetings in January 2018 when the Hewlett-Woodmere board voted to approve the 2018-2019 school year calendar that and not include a day off for Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.
“I went through the school right after 9/11 and I remember clear as day what that was like for me as a young Muslim student,” she said. “It seems like all of these years later, these issues have not been addressed and are still as prevalent as they were.”
Other topics Ansari said she would emphasize as trustee is 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.”
One thing Ansari clarified was that despite her emphasis on advocating for the minority community, she will advocate for all families if elected to the board.
“There’s this misconception that because I am promoting diversity and inclusion, that automatically means that I’m not listening to everybody else and that couldn't be more false, “Just because I’m advocating for one group or uplifting the voices that have been historically marginalized does not automatically mean I’m working against everybody else in the community.”