An era of good feeling seems to be taking hold for the Port Washington Board of Education. An issues based, congenial, healthy and dignified campaign for school board trustees resulted in the election of Mark Marcellus and Rob Seiden to trustee positions for three-year terms. Marcellus garnered 2,102 votes, Seiden 1,508. The third candidate, Roger Lifson, came in close to Seiden, with 1,443 votes, and the fourth candidate, James Ansel, received 672 votes. Additionally, Frank Russo, a vocal critic of the BOE received six write-in votes; and, despite speculation and rumors that Richard Sussman was going to stage a write-in campaign, he received no write-ins.
Seiden and Marcellus will replace two highly controversial board members, Richard Sussman and Jon Zimmerman, following a tumultous few years for the school district. Both men started out as allies and ended up arch enemies, ultimately reporting to our local police allegations of physical harassment to each other.
And, while campaign issues included redistricting, budgeting, the implementation of the approved bond monies, safety and replacing administrators, the overriding message from voters was an impassioned plea for a return to civility.
The budget vote this year was also less contentious. In 2000, the budget was voted down on the first vote, 4,120 to 3,954. (It eventually passed on a revote, 2,840 to 1,654.) In 2001, 2,040 approved the budget, with no votes registering 1,730. This 310 vote gap between the yeas and nays was widened this year to 733 votes, the difference between 1,878 yes votes and 1,145 no votes. (However, it should be noted that last year's increase was approx. 13 percent, while this year's was about 5 percent; but, on the other hand that year, the budget had to overcome a major challenge because it was not approved by three school board members.)
There appears to be a lightness and sense of relief in the school community these days. As one critic of Zimmerman and Sussman quipped, "It's the end of an error."