Meet the Hewlett-Woodmere Board of Education candidates

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For the third time in two years, a seat on the Hewlett-Woodmere Board of Education is open because a trustee is moving out of the school district. Veteran Trustee Mitchell Greebel, 59, who has served for three terms and a total of nine years, is moving out of the district. In 2020, Paul Critti and Daniella Simon stepped down for the same reason.

Two seats are up this year in an at-large election, and five candidates are vying for them. The two candidates with the highest vote totals will win three-year terms. Trustee Debra Sheinin, 47, who currently serves as board president, is running for re-election. The four other candidates are Sarah Fried, 46, Chani Jeter, 37, Jack Shafran, 61, and Ella Zalkind, 48.

The vote for trustee, along with the school budget and other propositions, is on May 17.

Sheinin, a Hewlett resident and a former public school educator, has been a trustee since 2018. She was named board president in July 2020. During her tenure, she has received honors including the New York State School Boards Association’s Board of Excellence Award and Board Mastery Award.

“It was my priority to develop a budget that would continue to put the children of our community first and maintain the excellent programs and services we offer,” Sheinin wrote in a text message, “while not placing any undue hardship on our community.”

For at least a decade prior to serving on the board, Sheinin held leadership positions in the Central Council and Ogden PTAs and other PTA committees. She also volunteered for CYO, PAL and club sports.

Shafran, a Five Towns resident for 33 years, said he is running to give back to his community. Though his four daughters all graduated from the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaways, in Lawrence, Shafran said he has seen his nieces and nephews who attend Hewlett-Woodmere schools benefit from “the amazing amenities and quality education that the district offers.”

“In light of the upheavals wrought by Covid, changing demographics in the district, and a desire by all residents to maintain our stellar educational standards and ranking, I feel compelled to run for a seat on the District 14 Board of Education,” Shafran wrote on the district’s Facebook group page, adding that one of his main goals is to keep the education system successful while being fiscally responsible.

Fried, a longtime Five Towns resident and a 1993 graduate of Hewlett High School, is running, she said, to help the district continue to succeed with its programs and educational opportunities. Living in Gibson, Woodmere and now Hewlett, Fried said, “has given me a wonderful perspective on the different neighborhoods that make up our district.”
She has been involved in community activities and the PTA for as long as her two children — a daughter, a Hewlett High senior, and a son, a Woodmere Middle Schooler — have been in school.

Fried is a member of the task force that will determine whether the district should adopt a nine-period day. She has also sat on hiring and other committees at district schools. 
Fried said she planned to use her career experience working at corporate banks and insurance companies to help “make our district function efficiently and fiscally responsibly.

In addition,”she said, “I will always have an open ear and mind to any and all stakeholders, with the goal of bridging our community together and working toward continued success of our school district.”

Jeter, a Woodmere resident, has lived in the school district with her husband and four children for nearly a decade. One child is a Hewlett High School sophomore, another is in kindergarten at the Franklin Early Childhood Center, and the other two — a sixth- and second-grader — attend the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaways.

Her goal if she is elected, Jeter said, is to bring a balanced perspective to the community, keeping in mind the concerns of both public and private school parents. She also plans to advocate for students with special needs.

Jeter has held leadership roles in the PTA, and was named a Volunteer of the Year by the HAFTR PTA last year. She described herself, in addition to being open-minded, as a problem solver, a strong communicator, a financial manager and a leader.

“As a district, we face great challenges fiscally and academically,” she wrote on the Facebook group page. “My goal is simple: make Hewlett-Woodmere the leading school district in Long Island. I will continually push for excellence; ask the tough questions and deliver transparent answers.”

Zalkind, a Hewlett resident since 2016, has two children at Hewlett High School and one at Woodmere Middle School. She is running “at the urging of a few friends and neighbors,” she wrote on the Facebook group page.

Zalkind has served on the boards of the Shorefront Y, a Jewish Community Center in Brooklyn, and two Brooklyn charter school boards — as a member and president of both. 

“I am a big proponent of public schools and care very deeply about the community,” Zalkind wrote. “My platform is very simple: to do what is best for the children, the school, the district, and the community. No politics, no gimmicks and no hidden agenda.”

Have an opinion on the candidates or school issues? Send a letter to jbessen@liherald.com.