Pam Fuehrer and Art Rublin Nominated for School Board by SBNC
- Category: Schools
- Published on 16 March 2015
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Scarsdale residents Pam Fuehrer and Art Rublin have been nominated by the 2015 School Board Nominating Committee (SBNC) for election to the Scarsdale Board of Education. If elected during the general school budget vote and school board election on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, these two nominees, both from Greenacres, will fill the seats held by current board president Mary Beth Gose and board member Lewis Leone, Jr., who will complete their second and final terms. New trustees assume their roles effective July 1.
Rublin is a Managing Director and Senior Counsel at BlackRock, the asset management firm. He and his wife Erika have lived in Scarsdale for over twelve years, and have three sons – one in fourth grade at Greenacres, one in second grade at Greenacres, and one that will be entering Kindergarten in September. Rublin has a BA from Harvard College and a law degree from Columbia Law School.
He was the original founder and chair of the Coalition for the Scarsdale Schools, a group that suppors funding for education and campaigned for a "yes" vote for the Scarsdale School budget in 2013 when the budget was defeated for the first time in over 40 years.
Reacting to the news, Art Rublin said, "I am truly honored to have received the SBNC's nomination. If elected, I look forward to serving a community that my wife Erika and I cherish being a part of."
Fuehrer is currently President of Scarsdale PT Council, having previously served as a PT Council officer over many different years as Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer, and was separately on the PT Council executive committee during her terms as President of the Edgewood PTA and President of the Middle School PTA. She has served on the board of directors for the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale, the Junior League of Central Westchester, the Drake Edgewood Neighborhood Association, the Scarsdale Task Force on Drugs and Alcohol, and the Scarsdale High School PTA Scholarship Fund for College. She holds a BA in political science from Wellesley College and an MBA with a nonprofit management concentration from Columbia Business School. Her prior work experience includes management consulting at KMPG and advisory services, health care sector at Ernst & Young. She has advocated against unfunded state mandates and for local control of testing and teacher evaluations. She lives on Eton Road with her husband Craig and their children.
She commented on the news, saying, "I am so pleased to have this opportunity and I look forward to working with next year's Board. After years of closely observing the Board, I have developed a strong desire to participate in that level of conversation on issues about which I am truly passionate. I am prepared to be open-minded, to listen, to learn, and to maintain and encourage community awareness and participation. Personally, I am quite excited because I enjoy learning about as many aspects of a topic as possible, I enjoy asking questions and hearing those of others, and I respect the discussion. Hopefully, we have a good match!"
Over the course of six meetings between January and March, this year's SBNC interviewed and conducted due diligence on all applicants. Through thoughtful discussion and careful consideration, and pursuant to the SBNC Resolution, the SBNC then judges and selects individuals "solely on their qualifications to serve the community." This practice has resulted in the nomination of Arthur Rublin and Pamela Fuehrer.
The SBNC is a committee comprised of 30 voting members and 4 non-voting members, all of whom are residents of the Scarsdale School District. The thirty voting members serve staggered 3-year terms and are elected directly by the residents of their election units, which correspond to the five elementary school neighborhoods. The 4 non-voting members consist of a Chair and Vice Chair who are selected from the previous year's graduating voting members, and one appointee each from the Town and Village Civic Club (TVCC) and the Confederation of Scarsdale Neighborhood Association Presidents (SNAP). Collectively, the SBNC undertakes the process of recruiting and vetting prospective candidates to serve as trustees on the Board of Education.
The SBNC congratulates the nominees and thanks all applicants who went through the process. The SBNC Chair Diane Baylor and SBNC Vice Chair Dana Matsushita also extend heartfelt appreciation to all the members of the 2015 SBNC who served with dedication and professionalism in furtherance of our nonpartisan system.
For more information on the SBNC, including the governing Resolution, information on the nonpartisan system, and a list of the current SBNC members, visit the SBNC website at http://scarsdalesbnc.com or contact the SBNC Chair and remember to vote on May 19, 2015."
Senior Cut Day: Is There a Better Way to Celebrate?
- Category: The Goods
- Published on 26 March 2015
- Written by Isabel Klein
For the past four years, high school seniors have stumbled into class at 8:05 AM, ready to learn whether they wanted to or not. On the morning of March 17, many seniors decided that they did not want to learn, and never did show up to class. It was senior cut day -- a rich tradition that usually falls on St. Patrick's Day when many seniors choose not to attend school.
Plans for the day vary. However, the most common activity is going to the St. Patrick's Day parade. Every year on St. Patrick's Day, seniors get dressed up in green and join the usual morning commuters at the Scarsdale train station.
Given the parade's reputation as being the epicenter of drunks and chaos, many parents, teachers, and administrators were concerned about students' safety. Scarsdale High School Principal Kenneth Bonamo sent out an email prior to the cut day in which he explained that the school doesn't condone the cutting. He encouraged students to steer away from the parade and wrote, "There is a widespread perception that St. Patrick's Day is 'senior cut day' and that seniors are excused from their academic and extra-curricular obligations. That is not the case ... We are concerned about the opportunity to engage in risky behavior, most notably underage drinking, that the parade presents."
In his email, Bonamo echoed many parents' concerns. However, the effect on student's choices may not have been as strong as he desired. "He was just doing his job. I don't think it changed anyone's mind or affected anyone's decision," shared senior Brian Leff.
Perhaps more potent than Bonamo's email in deterring students from cutting, however, were threats from teachers. Some teachers were more accepting towards cutting than others. Tough teachers chose to give heavily weighted quizzes on senior cut day. Students who decided to stay in school in order to take those quizzes were often disappointed to find the quizzes made up of basic questions like: "Write your name on the line" or "What book are we reading in class right now?" "The teachers shouldn't get offended and give 400 point tests on the day. It has nothing to do with respect -- it's just a tradition," expressed an anonymous senior. Many teachers refused to comment on senior cut day because they are not supposed to acknowledge its existence.
The consensus about the actual experience at the parade is exactly what most would expect: it was fun for the students to be with their friends, but the parade itself was overhyped. Drinking was definitely a component of the day for most who went to the parade. For many, alcohol consumption started at someone's house at around 9 AM. Drinking was a common theme among the senior class on senior cut day -- even for some of those who attended school.
The disciplinary measures that followed cutting were all part of the fun. Detentions were assigned -- so many, in fact, that dozens of seniors were taken to the large Little Theater in order to reflect on their wrongdoing on March 25. For many of the students present, it was their first and last detention. The energy during detention was lively, and it did not seem like many seniors regretted their cutting of classes.
The administration is so against cut day because they immediately associate the tradition with underage drinking. No one is denying that such activities do occur. Yet, not everyone went to the parade on cut day or even cut school at all. However, here's a thought: why can't senior cut day be a senior celebration day sanctioned by the school?
Bonamo should pick a day in April, when the weather is too beautiful to be sitting inside the classrooms, and organize a senior field day, picnic, or movie night. It may be true that high school students roll their eyes at school-organized events. Yet, an important concept to consider is that many students go to the parade not necessarily to pay respects to good ole St. Patrick. They instead go because everyone else is going, and it is fun to be in one place with a majority of the grade. It would likewise be fun to do anything (well, almost anything – no more SATs, please) as long as everyone is together. Of course there is prom and graduation, but a sort of "sanctioned cut day" can be special.
Seniors have less than fifty days left of high school. Given, cutting school should never be condoned, but teachers and administrators can approach the day and turn the tradition into a positive celebration, which everyone can safely enjoy. Classroom lectures are important, but in the last days of high school, spending time with those fellow classmates with whom one has trekked through the dark, awkward days of adolescence is perhaps more important. Seniors are almost there. They should finish together -- and the administration should be there with them.
Photos and quotes live from Senior Cut Day detention on 3/25:
Police Investigate Multiple Bomb Threats; SHS Principal Says School is Safe and Praises Spirit of Cooperation
- Category: Neighborhood News
- Published on 24 March 2015
- Written by Traci Dutton Ludwig
On the day following the bomb threats that caused the evacuation of Scarsdale High School, police revealed that there was not one, but multiple threats found at the school. They are actively investigating, but in the meantime, school is open and SHS Principal Kenneth Bonamo has assured the community that the building is secure.
According to student sources, on Monday morning, after students noticed what appeared to be a threat written on a wall in a girl's bathroom, they told a teacher who alerted administration and officials. According to these student sources, the reported threat stated something like "Scarsdale High School is going down at 10:30."
When asked, police confirmed the general accuracy of this account. But, apparently, that was not the only threatening message left in the school.
Police Captain Thomas Alitizio told Scarsdale10583, "The incident that we originally responded to was for a note written in a stall that was very close to what you've been hearing [i.e "Scarsdale High School is going down at 10:30."] While investigating the initial report and searching the school, some other writings were found in other locations."
Among these other writings was the phrase stating " My bomb is planted ar u ready to kill." This message, in particular, was photographed by a student at the school and shared with Scarsdale10583.com on Monday.
"All of the writings are being investigated," Atizio said. "It is not known at this time when the notes were written, and if they were all written by the same person. Because this is an evolving investigation, new information is being developed as we proceed. We are investigating this incident from several aspects, and the investigation is our primary concern at this stage."
On Monday evening, Principal Kenneth Bonamo sent out the following email to the high community, praising their cooperation but also warning that bomb threats are criminal offenses. He urged parents to discuss the events of the day with their children and to contact their deans if they had concerns. Here is his note:
At the end of a most unusual day that began with a false bomb threat discovered this morning, I am filled with a sense of gratitude for the cooperation displayed by all members of our community today. Our students were most cooperative despite a bit of a wait in the cold for the buses to take them to the middle school, and staff members at both schools were incredibly helpful and proactive in ensuring safe transport to and from the high school and the safety of our students overall. Members of the Scarsdale Police and Fire Departments, as well as the County Bomb Squad, were on site for a good part of the day and did a thorough and swift job in sweeping the building and returning us to safety.
The building is safe for occupancy tomorrow. Police have given us the "all clear" and are continuing their investigation. Making a bomb threat is a criminal offense that causes unease and anxiety and challenges our sense of security and community. Such actions have no place in our school and are unnecessarily unsettling and disruptive. Please discuss today's events with your child as he or she prepares to return to school tomorrow to help process any feelings he or she may be experiencing, and please reach out to your child's dean if you feel further attention is warranted.
In addition, today was the first day of quarterly testing. In most cases, any tests that were not administered today will be administered on Wednesday, April 1. Students should verify testing schedules with their teachers.
Again, I am grateful for the efforts of all involved today, and I ask for your partnership in helping our children process the day and move forward undaunted. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
Trustees and Community Laud Departing Board Members and Mayor Bob Steves
- Category: Village Voices
- Published on 26 March 2015
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
At their March 24 meeting, the Scarsdale Board of Trustees and the community paid tribute to the Mayor and two departing members of the Board who have completed their terms of service to the Village of Scarsdale. As serving on the Board of Trustees is almost a full-time, non-paid job, these tributes are the primary compensation received by the Mayor and Board of Trustees for time spent at countless meetings, in preparation for meetings, studying the issues, serving as liaisons to village organizations and answering residents' phone calls and emails.
Before the tributes began, Mayor Steves defended the non-partisan process, saying that he was "disheartened" by those who claim that things would be better if Scarsdale had elected officials." It appeared that he was referring to critics of the second tax revaluation when he said, "It is hard to invite and impossible to respect people who think that if decisions don't go their way it is a function of the process..... None of us bring a bias to the table or a point of view that can't be changed. I respect this form of government for that reason. Yes the community can differ on the decisions we make and I invite that difference."
Steves then turned over the meeting to his fellow trustees for comments, some of which are published verbatim and other who are summarized here.
Marc Samwick said, "Over this past year, I have sat with an extraordinary group of Trustees (and the Mayor). You have all contributed meaningfully to easing my acclimation to being a Trustee and have each lead by example. You are all dedicated, selfless and bring your own thoughtful perspective to the Board. Tonight, we are saying thank you to two Trustees and the Mayor. While I am sad to see each of you leave the dais, I know with certainty that our community is a better place because of your service.
Trustee Martin. Tom, you are a committed member of the Board and you care deeply about our community. You have overseen the Finance Committee and the budget process with a keen eye on details and thorough diligence. Through your stewardship, we had a very smooth budget process this year with a great outcome for the Village. Your long history in Scarsdale and your financial acumen have contributed meaningfully to the Board and the community. I wish you well with your work with Stepinac, they are lucky to have you, as we have been.
Trustee Brodsky. Stacey, you welcomed me to the Board over coffee and provided me with a great introduction to life as a Trustee. I have been learning from you ever since. Thank you. You have a thoughtful approach and keen insight into every issue. You have a remarkable ability to understand nuanced details and interrelationships as well as the big picture. You clearly and intelligently articulate your thought processes and conclusions, which are highly logical and yet creative. You care deeply and are truly committed to Scarsdale and its residents. Your presence, not only your physical presence, but your stature, thoughtfulness and poise truly benefitted our community and will be deeply missed.
Mayor Steves. Bob, you welcomed me to the Board over breakfast. Since that morning I met you, you have shown by example how to be an exemplary public servant. In fact, I think you may well have been born to be Mayor of Scarsdale. You listen remarkably well. You communicate very clearly and thoughtfully. In fact, you approach everything, from management of meetings to individual issues in a very open, inclusive and thoughtful manner. You let others voice their views and you build consensus. You presented a list of priorities for this past year and you worked hard to accomplish nearly all of what you set out to complete, which is a monumental achievement in the public sector. Bob, you have certainly left the Village a better place following your service.
Bill Stern: It's a big loss that we are going to lose Trustee Martin, Brodsky and Mayor Steves. I say that with a heavy heart. Trustee Martin assisted with the budget which is his professional expertise. He worked closely with the village staff to get the budget together to make Scarsdale a fiscally responsible town. Martin got input from Village residents on many issues and relayed this input to the board. We will miss Trustee Martin for his fiscal acumen and gathering of input on issues.
Stacey has an incredible legal acumen. She understands the nuances and consequences of all the issues and brings this to light with great sensitivity to village residents. She is an incredible resource that we will miss dearly.
Mayor Steves has shown enormous dedication to the job. During the hurricane he was at the public safety building night and day. Bob listens to those who come before the board with varying opinions. He listens and respects these opinions and gives every person a fair shake on their point of view. He is patient and respectful of differences of opinion. The Board is run in an a-political manner. We deal with the issues as we see them. We owe these three a tremendous debt of gratitude for serving the Village.
Deb Pekarek: Mayor Steves - he walks with purpose, head down, slightly bent at the waist, moving forward with determination and a very long list of things to do. His moral imperative statements make us sit up, take note and say yes...we can do better.
Even thought you might say "It's only Scarsdale, a Village in a Park", Bob has watched over us – we sleep better knowing he is our Mayor! Seemingly ever present, a big presence and we all know he cares in so many ways;
About the Village
About all of us
About the business of being Mayor and Trustees
About his family
About his faith
He can focus on the big picture without loosing the nuances and the important details that make the difference between an issue that is resolved completely at the highest standards and one that is less than completely considered.
As Mayor Bob has given, indeed he has sought out opportunities for the residents of the village to provide their expert knowledge, opinions of the board direction, council on the issues and encouraged input and feedback. And in fact demanded that we state our case...what do you think? Hummm another reval meeting? Let's finally, deeply understand the coefficient of dispersion. It really doesn't have anything to do with snow? And I thought we were going to leave the leaves alone and yet there will be more mulch for thought this Thursday at 7:30 pm...I've heard some say that they wouldn't miss it for all the leaves in Scarsdale!!
I have known Bob since 1992 when we moved to Greenacres. He was warm and welcoming way back then – at a cub scout camp out do I recall that all the kids were in your tent watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs that year?
Which brings me to a story at a recent board meeting Bob took us on a little surprising but sweet bypass – a bit off script.
He noticed a young boy sitting in the last row of Rutherford Hall and engaged him in conversation wondering if he was doing research for a school or scout project. Bob invited him to the podium and so disarmed this young man that he was quite comfortable speaking to the Mayor. And you could see the delight Bob took in encouraging this young boy to consider some future pursuit in service to community and government.
That delight in service – the ability to see what's in front of us but not yet in focus is one of Bob's gifts to our community - and of course, all the work of being Mayor- he gave and listened to speeches, marched in parades, presided at board meetings, attended so many committee, task force, liaison meetings, parties – cleverly disguised as fundraisers, dinners (never at home), meetings with village staff, demonstrations in parks, many, many, many weddings and let's not forget breakfasts at Parkway!!
Bob made it look easy, effortless and simply enjoyable. He has instilled in the Board of Trustees the importance of service and the responsibility that entails, that we remember that all we do is sincerely considered with head and heart and that we look carefully at the details while also focusing on the overriding issue.
It is a grand thing to lead but it is a truly wonderful accomplishment to lead with grace and distinction and to provide a sound footing for the future.
I applaud Bob's tenure as Mayor and Trustee for these last 6 years. We will miss his leadership and camaraderie but we are happy that we will see him around campus!
It has been my distinct pleasure and honor to have served as a trustee with you – Mayor Steves!
Trustee Stacey – Diminutive yet mighty – whip smart and takes pleasure in and understands the importance of small details – that they make a true difference.
Stacey takes delight in the seemingly mundane and dry business of running a municipal government. She loves budget season, is intoxicated by and participates in the banter between the Village manage and Treasurer about capitol funds, reserves, debt service, tax cap levy, enterprise funds and the sewer tax, rent.
She has advocated with grace and aplomb for her liaison groups- most notably this year the Library. Her council, her articulate discussion of the needs, strategies and planning have not only placed the Library on a course for the future but has guided this group to make this project one that is timely, complete, with community support and will be a true Scarsdale jewel. Thanks Stacey!
Stacey has the distinct ability to capture the essence of a vast array of Village policies and codes, new and old, carefully crafting, reviewing and revising language which is reasonable, balanced and enforceable.
I have been on the Board with Stacey for just one year and it has been grand to work with you for just a while. Thanks for helping me get up to speed...not Stacey speed but...
My mantra going forward will be How would Stacey approach this?
While we will miss you here in the 'dale – we understand that your dog wants to return – I think he is channeling all of us – we thank you deeply for your service and wish you many adventures in the wider world.
Trustee Tom – Tommy we hardly knew yee!! but it was a pleasure!
Your dedication as a Trustee was evident when you participated in a teleconference during a Board Meeting, publically weighing in on an issue that generated much community interest–live from the hallways of Madison Square Garden!
I got to know you as we worked on the Personnel Committee together. Your insight, suggestions, knowledge of the community have been of great assistance as we review Boards and Councils new appointments.
I thank you for your gracious service to our community and your heartfelt generosity to Scarsdale as a Trustee.
Thomas Martin: Before I became a trustee I was a member of Scarsdale's silent majority. I got involved with fundraising for many organizations. When I joined the board I focused on what I knew. I read the budget line by line. I got a feel for the town financially. I looked for the financial impact of every decision and was surprised by how good the manager and the staff are. They are not only capable – they are well-schooled in the budget process. Every expense is well-scrutinized.
The trustees are well-supported by the managers office and the employees care. I was exposed to all kinds of committees and found that the committee members are dedicated and focused and do an outstanding job for Scarsdale.
Albany has presented Scarsdale with a real challenge – the 2% cap. It has the potential to change the services Scarsdale can offer residents in the future. The Board will have to focus on the budget year-round. I am hoping it goes away but I don't think it is. I believe that we should be comfortable with a 5-year budget so that the trustees can see the 5-year impact of any decision.
If Albany decides to push down pension and medical costs while mandating the cap, it's scary. Even if the trustees decide not to comply with the cap, the five-year budget makes sense.
I am convinced the non-partisan system works. I have enjoyed all the trustees I have worked with. I want to compliment them – they each bring something different to the board. They have Scarsdale in their heart of hearts. Bob Steves and Stacey Brodsky are an argument about why we should end term limits. Trustees come from all walks of life and a 5-year budget would be helpful to them. Bob and Stacey deserve some super whoopy praise. Jon Mark and David Lee will carry that on in the future.
David Lee: Stacey, this is hard for me ... to say farewell. You and I have known one another for more than fifteen years, seen our daughters play on sports teams together as young children, watched them advance through school and on to the beginnings of their post-college journeys, and shared the inevitable mourning of loved ones we've lost.
And so it was that when I first joined this Board three years ago, you reached out to me and generously gave me your time, helping me get my grounding in my first months on the board. Far from a sense of competitiveness, you nurtured our working together collaboratively and explained to me how you knew many of your fellow trustees' telephone numbers by heart since you would call one another so often.
Now, blink seemingly just a few times, and your four years on the board has come to an end, and your departure leaves us without one of our star players. Indeed, in your time on the Board, you have shown us how to be a stellar trustee.
You are incredibly well informed about how Village government works. That enables you to see how all the pieces fit together and to know which pieces to move to efficiently accomplish what we need to do.
An example (one of many): we knew that an important study on gravel surfaces was taking place that could well lead us to change how we treat gravel surfaces so as to help curb the development of houses that appear too large for their lot size. Yet, we were confronted with the frustrating fact that the study would take six months to complete. You came up with the idea of a moratorium where we would call time out on plans that used gravel surfaces to exceed lot coverage limits. It was a terrific idea, not one that initially met with favor by staff, yet one that, within short order, had everyone rallying behind it.
A creative problem solver – that's you.
Now add to your being well informed and creative, your keen, analytic mind and articulateness. These traits allow you not only to assess what is often a cloudy mixture of facts and policy decisions and connect the dots, but then, so often, to clearly and concisely connect the dots for the rest of us, leading us to good and sound decision-making.
So, your departure from the Board leaves a hole both deep and wide. We will miss your strength of mind and expression, and I personally will miss my friend. We wish you the very best.
Tom, you have truly been a pleasure to get to know and work with these past two years. It's not just your warmth and gregarious nature that has made it a pleasure to work with you, although that plays no small part. It's also that you brought to the role of trustee an earnest sense of wanting to do what's best for our residents. To that end, you consistently wanted to learn what our residents thought about the key issues affecting them and made a point to regularly reach out to them and ask them for their views. Your ear was to the ground, and your conveying that feedback to us and wanting to make sure we considered how our residents might feel about an issue added an important piece to our discussions.
In short, you were a terrific representative of our residents, keeping their interests in the forefront of your mind and ours in our deliberations.
Beside your focus on our residents' interests, you brought to our board from your deep financial background, an expertise that you used to the Village's advantage. Your business acumen, together with your great common-sense approach, led you to ask the right and sometimes tough questions during our budget discussions. You weren't afraid to challenge the accepted line of thinking, to raise some eyebrows -- all in the name of seeking that balance between applying our resources where needed but drawing the line so as to be watchful of our spending where possible.
In some ways, your work with the personnel committee was even a greater test of your trustee qualities. When you began as trustee, you did not know a lot of the members of our community seeking appointment to our Village boards and counsels. Yet, as Chair of the Personnel Committee in your first year as trustee, you dove right in, spent innumerable hours speaking to board and counsel heads to find out their committee's needs and to applicants to sound out their wants. By the end, you successfully lead our efforts to populate these important Village boards and committees that provide important input to the Village and help implement our land use laws and regulations for the good of our entire Village.
So, Tom, all of us on the Board will miss your great warmth, your deep caring for our residents and the Village, and the wisdom and financial expertise you brought to our decision-making. Happily for me, you still remain a Fox Meadow neighbor of mine, ensuring that our paths will cross in the future.
Bob, you have been an extraordinary mayor, providing leadership in so many ways.
On the macro level, at the beginning of your term, you identified six areas of central concern to our Village residents that you wanted the Board to address during your tenure. It was an ambitious agenda. Yet, as you promised, we have given central focus to each of those areas.
In tackling those subjects, you made sure that we got the input from our Village boards and councils, with whom you initiated informal meetings with our Board. This gave us and them a great opportunity to gain perspective from each other.
You also made sure to involve our residents, holding a considerable number of highly attended public hearings and information sessions on matters of great concern to those in attendance.
Some of those public sessions involved heated resident comments on opposing sides. But, you were mayoral in the finest sense of the word. You set a respectful tone at the beginning of each session, letting everyone know that their view was sought and appreciated. The result were meetings where I believe each resident felt his or her voice was heard and from which we as a Board got invaluable feedback.
On a micro level, at our board committee meetings where we dig into the issues at hand, you led in less formal ways. In many meetings, you asked the big picture questions, ones which your long experience in this community, not just on this Board but on the school board before this and other boards before that, gave you the broadest of contexts in which to view things. At other meetings, you remained silent during most of the meeting, taking in the comments of others, and then came in at the end to put the issues under discussion, which sometimes had grown tangled or messy during the course of our discussion, into clearer, more manageable focus.
And at whatever level you are operating, macro or micro, you have a most remarkable ability to know just what to say. And, the way you say it, your eloquence, your wit, your self-deprecating humor - always brings out the best in the discussion - making for clearer focus on the issues and inviting free and open exchange of opinions. You remind me at times of the rare basketball player whose play makes all of his teammates play better around him.
Bob, you will be deeply missed on this board, but we know that you will find other ways to give and give to this community.
Stacey Brodsky: It's surprisingly hard to say goodbye. This is a very special role, made all the more special by the professional staff that so ably handles the extraordinarily difficult job of managing of this village and by the people sitting at the dais who are wonderful volunteers and friends.
Tom – you are the consummate gentleman – you generously volunteered your time when you were already a busy man with your own financial services firm and a commitment as a board member at Stepinac. You have a calm demeanor, financial expertise and always make common sense in deliberations. You loved the opportunity to get involved with our firefighters. Thanks for your service and for sharing Cathy's amazing cookies.
Bob: My first experience with you was on the SBNC that nominated you to be a member of the School Board. You already had an impressive record of volunteerism back then, but you have lapped yourself many times over since then with respect to volunteerism. For all the positions you have held you are one of the most unpretentious people imaginable and you are as likely to be seen unpacking boxes at the book fair as you are to be chairing a dinner for our departing school superintendent . You have boundless respect for people and you are the soul of fairness. You have a wonderful sense of fairness for when the rules need to bend to the needs of the residents. You chose not to enforce the 5-minute speaking rule in the discussion about the revaluation. Though some might think we were wrong, no one could say that the board was wrong about the way they reached their conclusion. ..... I can't think of a person who cares more about Scarsdale who has worked harder for the Village than Bob Steves. He might be giving up the title but in my view Bob has a lock on the title, "Mr. Scarsdale."
At that point Brodsky presented Steves with a wallet from the Board.
Mayor Steves: I was at the recycling center one day and one of the men said, "We need to feel proud of what we do. Scarsdale needs to be clean and we need to feel proud of what we do." One of the goals I had was to let people who work here know that they was not a big gap between the policy makers and those who carry it out.
I come away from this experience with a sense of the commitment and integrity of my colleagues on the board and the professional staff.
There is a cynicism about government. To me, local government creates an environment where people can solve problems – and that's what our goal should be.
I would like to thank my wife. I attended a concert in the park and found that Kathy is as well-known in the community as I am. I could not do what I do without our shared understanding of being a part of the community.
Deb Pekarek – everything we ask her to do she does.
Bill Stern – your enthusiasm has moved us forward on cable tv and sustainability.
Marc Samwick has been a voice on revaluation.
Tom Martin – you have brought fear and trepidation to everyone with the idea of financial planning but it's the right one.
David Lee – Dr. of Governmental thinkology – one of the most thoughtful people I know.
Stacey – I have admired her for a long time. This is one fine person who has been supportive and concerned about this community.
I am sorry to be going but I thank the community for the opportunity to serve. It is a community with a lot of blessings. To those who much is given, much is expected.
Gifts were given to Stacey Brodsky and Thomas Martin.
Stacey presented the Mayor with a gift, saying "No one could thank you enough for your service but here is a small token for everything you have done from the residents of Scarsdale."
Comments were then invited from the audience and the following remarks were made:
Kay Eisenman: It's time again to say farewell and thank you. I am sad that these three excellent, dedicated individuals are leaving the Board and want to add to their praises by saying that it comes all too quickly.
Tom Martin, your service is appreciated even though it was over too soon, and during your term you gave good advice and counsel. Yours was a calm and reasoned voice and your experience in the financial world brought a ring of truth and wisdom to all that you said.
Stacey, your grasp of the issues and ability to tease apart the salient points of any problem is something for which I always looked up to you. You are a consummate problem solver with keen skills, whose sharp observations managed to quickly get to the core of every decision. Losing you as a Trustee is bad enough, but as a fellow resident and friend even worse.
Bob Steves, our honored mayor, truly a man for all seasons, whose decency and dignity no one who knows him could overlook. A humble person, but with great skills, who recognizes that there is not an immediate answer to every problem but that some problems require evolving solutions that give us the time and the space to adjust. Bob had the patience to seek higher ground and therefore lasting results.
Thank you Bob, God Speed, and good luck in your next ventures. For all of us I would say "we shouldn't cry because it's over. We should smile because it happened."
Susie Rush: I am president of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale. On behalf of the League, I'd like to extend our sincerest appreciation to outgoing Trustees Stacey Brodsky and Thomas Martin, and Mayor Bob Steves.
Trustee Brodsky, we are so fortunate that service on the Village Board was something you were ready to take on following long and varied professional and volunteer careers. You have been an enormous asset to the Board, as you have brought a diverse skill set you honed as a prosecutor, defense attorney, middle school teacher and community leader. You are able to quickly distill and articulate the issues, paying meticulous attention to detail but without losing sight of the big picture. You are thoughtful, deliberative and incisive in your analysis and investigation, committed to listening to residents as well as to your colleagues, unafraid of tackling issues head on. You have shown remarkable patience and perseverance, particularly in connection with the years-long effort to craft a historic preservation law that makes sense in our community. As board liaison to the League, you have been forthright and generous with your time, always available to keep us informed on a variety of issues from the state of the Village following Hurricane Sandy, stormwater projects, to DAS and historic preservation. And underlying all that you do is your deep concern for the well-being of this community and its residents. You, and we have to mention David – your husband not Trustee Lee – have worked tirelessly to make Scarsdale a better place and we are the better for it. Although we will no longer share the same zip code, we wish you the best as you embrace your next adventure filled with world travels, life in the big city, more time in SC and of course new professional challenges.
Trustee Martin, during your tenure, among other things, you have chaired the Personnel Committee, which under your leadership settled collective bargaining agreements with the Teamsters and the firefighters, and adeptly chaired the finance committee. Your business background has served you well, informing your analyses and decisions. You ask thoughtful, practical questions which have clarified the issues and advanced meaningful discussion. And what always comes through is your genuine concern for the residents and their needs. You consistently recognize current economic challenges significantly impact the ability of the Village to deliver services that residents have come to expect. That you share the frustration of residents in obtaining services, such as road repairs, underscores your sensitivity and is greatly appreciated. While we won't have the opportunity to benefit from a second term, we wish you well in your next endeavor.
Mayor Steves, it is possible that the deep respect you have earned during your many years of service to the community as president of the school board and in other leadership positions in various community organizations may have actually grown during your term as Mayor, even as you faced some difficult issues such as reval and the homestead tax option. You are the consummate professional and we have been the beneficiaries of your practical, no-nonsense approach to governance. Communication, transparency and concern for process have been the hallmarks of your service. You have a keen ability to summarize with concision and do so eloquently, clearly and aptly, as we witnessed again tonight, and incredibly, without any notes. I still remember what you said when the board was considering the homestead tax option: "sometimes the law gives you a sledge hammer when a scalpel would be more appropriate." You are fair-minded and approachable, and we get the sense that you even like being approached if it means you will get feedback on an issue because you genuinely want to hear what residents think. We have appreciated your candor, more remarkable when you admit that maybe you could have done things better or differently, and admire your resolve to get things right, and to maintain - and build - good will with, and among, community members. You've said before that doing your job is all about the people. Well the people are grateful that you took the job and did it so skillfully.
We thank all three of you for your dedication and commitment to improving the quality of life of our community.
Michelle Lichtenberg: I am Michelle Lichtenberg, President of the Scarsdale Library Board of Trustees. It is a pleasure to speak on behalf of my fellow Library Trustees in honor of the distinguished community leaders who have so well served our community in their esteemed positions as Village Trustees and Mayor. We would also like to thank the entire Village Board and Village Manager's Office for the work and support of the past year. Congratulations to the newly-elected Mayor Jon Mark, and new and returning Village Trustees, Matt Callaghan, Carl Finger and Bill Stern.
Trustee Tom Martin ably served for the past two years as the Village Board's resident expert on matters financial, for which we are most grateful.
Mayor Bob Steves is a towering figure in volunteerism in Scarsdale. I first met Bob 24 years ago, when he was my son's Cub Scout leader, as well as a leader in the Greenacres Association. After that, Bob was a STEP host parent, STEP president, an unprecedented 7-year member of the Board of Education, and now after 4 years as a Village Trustee, a remarkable 2 years as Mayor. Citizen Bob has always been a friend to the Library – from personally carrying boxes of books at the annual sale to his role, as Mayor, in leading this Board to affirming a public-private partnership in the upcoming transformation of the Library's facilities -- and we look forward to continuing and strengthening that relationship in the years to come. Bob, you are an exemplary volunteer and leader, and we in Scarsdale, individually and collectively, have all been enriched by your generosity of spirit, steady reasonableness and consistent wisdom.
Over the past four years, Stacey Brodsky has been the Village Trustee liaison to the Library Board of Trustees. For this we count our lucky stars. There is no set profile on how the liaison relationships are handled in our town. Sometimes it's a connection in name only. Sometimes it's pro forma, meetings are attended, but without an immense benefit to the collaboration. To the benefit of all of us in Scarsdale, pro forma is just not Stacey's style. Every interaction is a value-added interaction. She took her Village Trustee responsibilities with the same tenacity and dedication that made her a top litigator for the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District. Stacey always recognized the importance of good and honest two-way communication, and has been proactive in making suggestions in both directions, to the benefit of both the Library Board and the Village Board.
At the Library, we benefited from her vision and insight on how to forge a path that did not previously exist, as we reimagine the Scarsdale Library of 2020 and beyond and begin a major transformation. She has clear vision and ability to communicate that vision, combining formidable problem solving skills, keen intelligence, highly developed interpersonal skills, savvy about planning and nuanced working relationships, deep knowledge of the community, and steady commitment to the Library. Stacey is also an incisive textual editor and that has been invaluable to us as we craft our Library vision statement.
Her sophisticated understanding of municipal affairs, library operations, fundraising practices and human nature has been invaluable. Let's face it, Stacey knows a lot about a lot.
She is also a wonderful reader herself. And I should add witty and clever.
Stacey will be sorely missed as our Library's campaign process continues. We hope she will continue to provide counsel from afar. We are also immensely grateful for the pledge she and her husband David made which is wind in our sails.
We wish you well in that far away country known as Manhattan, but look forward to seeing you in the 'Dale as now Scarsdale Golf Club Board of Directors will benefit from your super nova talents.
With appreciation and admiration, Thank you.
Tom Martin – we had breakfast before you were sitting where you were sitting. You picked up the mantle of the personnel committee and were the chair of the finance committee for the first year the budget came in under the tax cap. I appreciate your comments on long-term budget and wish you well.
Stacey: We spent a lot of time together. We worked on about 75 people. You deserve accolades for all the work you did on land use and historic preservation. I wish you the best.
Mayor Steves: Amazing – 7 years on the School Board and 6 years on the Village Board. You have treated people who came to this microphone with respect. You are a good listener. I wish you well.
Carolyn Stevens: Though I have not served with you, I have had the chance to watch and listen and want to thank Trustees Brodsky and Martin for their service. I know how much dedication you have brought to this job.
I am here to carry on a tradition that was started by Boine Johnson, a Mayor in the 1970's. After he left the job, he had a feeling of loss. He started the "toothless tiger club" and look forward to many discussions with you about what this village should or should not be doing. There is life after being Mayor and I know you will continue to volunteer and work hard for the village and I look forward to being a club member with you
Students Evacuated from Scarsdale High School Due to Bomb Threat
- Category: Neighborhood News
- Published on 23 March 2015
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
(Updated at 2:45 pm) Police and the Westchester County Bomb squad, assisted by explosive detecting dogs, completed a search of the school and found nothing today. School officials were notified and students were bussed back to the high school where they will be released. Police will continue to investigate the incident in cooperation with personnel at the school and there will be increased patrols in the area.
(Posted at noon on 3-23) Students were evacuated from Scarsdale High School on Monday morning, March 23rd after a bomb threat was found in a girls' bathroom at the school. Pictured here, the message said, "My bomb is planted ar u ready to kill."
According to a student at the school, the fire alarm went off around 10:20 and everyone went outside and waited for buses to transport them to the middle school. At 10:23 am, a mom asked about the bomb threat on the Scarsdale Moms website. Apparently mothers were hearing from their children long before an email went out or an automated call was made from the school. It is not known whether there was a failure in the notification system or if administrators were too busy protecting the students to notify parents.
However at 11:56 am, this email from Superintendent Hagerman was received by a mother with a child in the school.
"Dear Scarsdale Families, We had a bomb threat at the High School earlier this morning. We do not believe this is a credible threat; however, in an abundance of caution, we evacuated the High School, and students were taken to the Middle School.
At this point, the police are here in the High School with the County Bomb Squad doing a comprehensive sweep of the building. As soon as we get clearance, we will return the students to the High School for a normal release.
We ask for your cooperation in not coming to either the HS or MS until normal release time or further notice."
Dr. Thomas Hagerman
Scarsdale Police Captain Thomas Altizio said this about the incident, "The Scarsdale Police Department has responded to a bomb threat at the Scarsdale High School. As a precaution, students are be relocated to another school. The Scarsdale Police are conducting a search of the High School with the assistance of the Westchester County Police. The incident is being actively investigated by the Scarsdale Police Department's Investigations Section.
A high school student said, "During 3rd period everyone had to go outside, and people were waiting for about an hour when buses came and took everyone to the middle school. Everyone was at the middle school in the gyms and auditorium waiting for further notice. Apparently now they are being bussed back to the high school and dismissed from there. I don't have any pictures, but everyone was really scared!"
Another student gave this account of the events of the day: "After the fire alarm rang, we all went outside. We thought it was a drill or a false alarm. Then, the teachers told us to go to Dean Field and kept saying, "Move back! Move back!" At that point, when they kept pushing us father away from the school, we knew it wasn't a drill.We knew something must really be happening. We stayed with our classes and teachers took attendance. We waited for awhile, and then they told us we were being evacuated. We were hearing talk that there was a bomb scare. Buses pulled up and we began piling in. There was a news helicopter overhead, which made it seem serious. ... The buses were really crowded. We were sitting three and four kids to a seat, and many of the teachers rode the buses with us. In my case, we were sitting four friends in a seat together because we didn't want to be split up. Everyone was supposed to get on the buses, but when they said we were evacuating, some kids with their own cars drove home instead of getting on the bus. Some other kids sneaked through the cut-thorough to get to the library where they called for rides.
At the middle school, we got divided into two groups and went into the gym and the auditorium. We had nothing to do because we left our backpacks, with all of our work, in the classrooms at school. At some point we were all getting really hungry, but then one of the vice principals brought us food. Some people got sandwiches; others got chips or apples or granola bars. We all got something to drink."
At noon, parents did receive a call from Hagerman that said, "The threat is not believed to be credible. We evacuated kids as a precaution. The SPD is working with county bomb squad." He asked parents to "refrain from going to high school or middle school," and said we are "conducting a sweep of the school." They anticipate returning all students to the school after this is finished to conduct a normal school day with dismissal at regular times.
This report was compiled with help from Jeanette Warner Goldstein, Isabel Klein, Caroline Kristof and Traci Ludwig.
Second Revaluation Defended at Village Meeting
- Category: Village Voices
- Published on 18 March 2015
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
The Board of Trustees sought to explain the process for Scarsdale's second tax revaluation, to answer questions and to quell dissension at a meeting on March 17, St. Patrick's Day. The original meeting was rescheduled due to snow and this session was squeezed in just before the election of the new Mayor and trustees on Wednesday March 18th.
Following the first revaluation in 45 years that was implemented in 2014, the Village plans to do a second revaluation this year, to take effect in 2016. The fee of $245,000 will be paid for over three years using some funds remaining from the first revaluation.
John F. Ryan, the man who was hired to monitor the first revaluation done by Tyler Technologies has been given the contract to do this second round and some are questioning why. Critics reason that if the first revaluation was done right and approved by Ryan, why a second one would need to be done so quickly afterwards, and why was Ryan selected to carry it out.
However, the Mayor and trustees are unanimous in their resolve to hire Ryan to carry out this update and clearly laid out their case.
Mayor Steves said that this second round would "solidify our database" and make the process "fair and impartial." About Ryan he said, "I am confident in the staff choice of John Ryan Associates. Under Village law it is legal to select staff (rather than seek bids) where there are a limited number of vendors." He continued, the revaluation "is not mandated but it is the right thing to do. We are doing this because it is equitable."
Trustee Marc Samwick concurred saying "it was the right thing to do a revaluation after 45 years ..... while it appears that the pendulum has swung from one extreme to another, there are good reasons to do it (the second revaluation.)
Samwick enumerated those reasons saying:
- This second round will "correct some of the shortcomings of Tyler's revaluation.
- It will utilize market values rather than "automatic comparable sales."
- It will redefine the neighborhoods into more natural delineations to create more meaningful valuations.
- A new model will be developed.
- It will create a regular process and maximize equitability with reliability.
He concluded with, "Let's make sure we have a clear and open process. Meetings such as this one are important steps. Based on improvements in the reassessment process I am confident we will have a more equitable process moving forward."
John Ryan also defended the second revaluation, saying, "Industry practice recommends that assessments be updated as frequently as possible. New York State
recommends revaluations be done at a minimum of every four years. Taxable values should be updated and reflect market value.... the market changes so values should be adjusted accordingly and if not, those that are over valued subsidize those that are undervalued. Regular assessments reduce challenges and minimize the value of those challenges."
Explaining the process, Ryan said that it will involve three steps:
- The village staff will do sales verification, checking new construction, open permits and properties that have been sold.
- Using recent sales data, Ryan will develop a new Direct Market Model, which examines all sales, not only 3-5 comparable sales.
- An experienced appraiser will do a "windshield review" of each property and compare what can be viewed from the street to the data card for each property to assess overall condition and quality and to do a physical inventory. Unlike the prior revaluation, the appraiser will not enter homes unless conditions have changed. Ryan said, "The Village made a big investment in canvassing and doing an inventory of all homes. We don't have to do that again, we just need to maintain it."
Trustee David Lee asked how many comparables will be used to value each home and Ryan explained that variables such as "size, location, etc are compared to current sales. The Direct market model is informed by all sales in the model."
Trustee Thomas Martin said, "We just used an automated comparable sales and the state said it was valid – why not stick with it?" Ryan responded saying, "The Direct market model is better for a reassessment. If we continue to use the automated comparable sales method a few years down the road things shift and you have oscillation from year to year."
Trustee Stacey Brodsky asked about the time frame for the revaluation and Ryan said, "Sales verification will happen soon, modeling will be done over the summer and the field review will start in the fall."
Robert Berg, who was a proponent of the first revaluation said, "I would rather fix potholes than do a reval" and asked if the village planned to do this every two years. Village Manager Gatta told Berg, "We are doing this adjustment two years after a comprehensive revaluation to make sure that we have our base correct. Our base is as good as any I have seen. We didn't use one method – we used all three. Now we are adjusting. I think we will do it again in four years – but we don't have to. The elected officials can decide if we do it again sooner or later."
Berg continued, "I believe Tyler did a good job with good methodology. Ryan signed off on everything they did and was paid handsomely to do it. Now we are using a new method for no apparent reason. That's my problem here: the timing. The town could use the money for other infrastructure needs."
Mayor Steves assured Berg saying, "We are going to have to find money to fix the roads. We feel we need to tweak it (the revaluation). Berg also asked if there have been disproportionate changes in one neighborhood over another to justify a second revaluation. Village Assessor Nanette Albanese replied, saying, "No. This is to maintain values across the community. The justification is to maintain market value year over year."
Statistician Michael Levine came to the mike and said, "If I thought the first reval was good I would prefer to spend the money on potholes. But I think there are problems we need to fix." He continued, "I am endorsing this process – but the more confidence I have the more I will endorse it."
He then presented some data on the validity of the first revaluation, explaining, "I kept hearing this was a great revaluation because of the 4.39 coefficient of dispersion. I looked at how it was calculated and it is misleading to say that this proves anything. This coefficient compares sales values to assessed values for sold properties. This measure makes sense when the sale price was not known at the time of the assessment or was not used in developing the assessed value. But in this case, the coefficient was based on the sale of 340 properties whose sale prices were used in the model to develop values for the entire town. More importantly, in over 95% of these cases, the sold property was used as one of its own comparables in determining its own assessed value. So, the coefficient was based on properties where Tyler knew and used the sale price in developing the assessed value. It's like knowing the answer before you take the test. The IAAO (International Association of Assessing Officers) agrees with me, advising that the coefficient "will be biased" if it is based on sales that "are used as comparables for themselves". For the coming year, if future sales are in line with declared assessed values a low coefficient would be good and would prove the accuracy of the reval, but I don't think the 4.39 coefficient that keeps getting cited proves anything."
Mayor Steves responded to Levine, saying, "We are not resting on our laurels. Ryan was not hired to confirm what Tyler did or say it was 100% perfect. Ryan was hired because a second look is appropriate. Given the complexity it was necessary to take another step."
Bill Ortner said, "Tyler weighed the land more heavily than the house. Some assessments had a higher weight for the land – but you spent much time scrutinizing the house. Fox Meadow was split up into three communities and valued as such. But little scrutiny was given to the land. On Olmstead Road one side was in one neighborhood and the other side of the road was in the other." Turning to Ryan he said, "Are you going to use the same formula that they did for land? Will you look if it is sloped? Does it flood? Is the property in the front or in the back? I urge you to scrutinize the map – it looks like a gerrymandered Congressional district."
Ryan said, "We will only do an exterior look – the study does not allow for looking at the land. If a property is subject to flooding, that should be captured and recorded. To the extent that it affects value it will be considered, as will traffic. However that changes year over year. Neighborhood land values will be re-evaluated – and neighborhoods will be defined by the sales."
Former Village Trustee Bob Harrison took the mike and spoke at length. He asked Albanese for counts on the settlement of the 750 challenges that were filed to the first revaluation. He asked if it was a priority to spend the $245,000 to tweak the reval. Saying that it costs $300,000 to repair a mile of road he said "we will never catch up." He said,"we value our tax dollars dearly. I don't think Scarsdale is ready for it now. I think we will be ready in two more years. Maybe we will have a petition (against it) with a thousand signatures."
Steves closed the meeting by telling Harrison that "We deal with priorities all the time and weigh those decisions. We made this a priority." Gatta then invited residents to let the Village know about potholes and promised to repair them.
My Trip to Angola
- Category: People
- Published on 26 March 2015
- Written by Caroline Kristof
I had never heard a noise quite like it. A sharp, blazing howl echoed around the room as it shook the cracked ceiling. All was motionless, and for a moment, the only thing that could be heard was an explosion of tears. I shivered. But then in an instant, there was movement again, a rapid shuffling around, murmurs of consolation, whimpers of pain, a few touches of empathy. The dead baby was then quickly carried away, and all was back to normal.
When I first told my teachers a few weeks ago that I was missing school for a week to go to Angola, they were less upset than just highly confused, because—let's be real—who misses a week of school to go to Angola? Nonetheless, I assured them it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But in reality I had no idea what Angola would be like. I imagined the capital, Luanda, to be filled with the usual developing world features—bustling streets, makeshift roads, overcrowded sidewalks, traditional music, and cheap goods. I consider myself fairly well-traveled, yet both the horrors and delights of Angola did not cease to leave a deep impression.
My dad and I arrived in Angola mid-afternoon, and the 80-degree weather was a nice shift from the spring snow showers of New York. As we bustled through the streets of downtown Luanda on the way to our hotel, the first thing I thought of was how guilty I felt about complaining about the potholes on Post Road, as the potholes here left me in a constant nauseating suspension above my seat. Yet our hotel was relatively close to the airport so nothing at first glance about the city really shocked me in any way, and I was just excited to get to the hotel to sleep, exhausted from over 20 hours of flying. When we got inside our hotel, I felt as though I had never left New York; the grand and immaculate lobby seemed all too upscale and out of place. When we got to the hotel dinner buffet, it was $75 per person; you could say I was just a tad shocked.
A local translator explained to us that Angola was rich in resources—in oil, diamonds, iron, yet the government was horrendously corrupt, meaning that the president's daughter was the continents youngest billionaire ever, yet the country had the highest child mortality rate. Over the week, we hopped from hospital to hospital, village to village, family to family, exposing ourselves to the culture and the horrors of poverty. It left me stunned, and shivering with horror, indignant for change. I used to be a bit squeamish, turning away at graphic Grey's Anatomy scenes and becoming lightheaded upon seeing my blood being taken. But seeing dozens of babies with life-threatening malnutrition, cobra-bitten feet, and gory skin diseases gradually made me accustomed in a way that I never wanted to be.
As we entered the first hospital we visited, just outside the city, I glimpsed a seemingly endless row of mothers cradling their sick babies, terrified, yet hopeful of what the next day may bring them. Some traveled hours to get there, scraping together their last savings, some even selling valuables in order to get transportation for this proper medical care. Unfortunately, these were the lucky ones as well—almost half of the population cannot access any kind of professional medical care their whole lives. Some mothers pointed me out to their children, as I waved, held out my hand, high fived, and laughed with them. One by one, a mother would be called up to see the doctor, so he could quickly stick in an IV, or hand over some pills, before moving on to the next child, possibly his hundredth in that day. I passed a young mother nursing her 11-month old baby boy, José, and enveloping him in blankets. She kept looking up, as if praying for a miracle. I smiled at her in an attempt to reassure her that José was strong, that he will fight through his deathly disease, and that she will one day be able to watch him grow up and become a man that she will be so proud to have raised. Across from José was a 2-year old girl, named Ana, who kept holding out her hand for me to hold. Whenever I turned away, she would call out to me so that we could continue laughing and high-fiving. Just as I was thinking about how adorable Ana was and how I wanted to take her home with me, I heard the shrill.
I instantly felt a dagger in my spine as I started physically shaking. I knew what had happened before we even rushed into the hospital room, where a baby boy was lying motionless on the bed as the doctor was compressing his chest with hopes of reviving him. I stood in the back, frozen with terror, as I watched a mother, wailing as she blurted out tribal prayers to bring her son back to life. And then I noticed that the lifeless boy on the bed was José, the boy I had seen just minutes before, cradled in his mothers arms in the waiting area. My maternal instincts kicked in and I felt the mother's pain, as the doctor simply shook his head, and left the room. I had never witnessed a baby die before my very eyes, and I hope in God's name that I never have to ever again.
The rest of the week brought more hospital visits, but also more optimism, as we journeyed across the country and tasted the unique culture and charm that the country had to offer. Though what I had witnessed earlier in the week still haunted me, it didn't define my trip, as there was another side to Angola. At one point we drove hours in our landmine-proof van on small side roads, through small rivers (this van endured a LOT), and up rocky slopes so we could try to visit some of the remote villages in the middle of nowhere. I met girls my age who were fun and bubbly, yet had never been to a day of school in their lives. Some of the villagers we came across had never heard of the United States, and had never been outside their village. One mother we met had had fifteen kids in total, and lost ten of them, yet could still have faith in God, and wanted to see her village thrive. I watched the young children run around, chasing their goats, and climbing their thatched roofs as a way to pass time, all giggling and getting along. It was a beautiful sight.
I had seen more in that week than I could have ever imagined, and my takeaway is easily indignation at the horrific corruption that is resulting in a horrific number of malnourished and diseased babies. But I will also always remember Ana, smiling as she reached out to hold my hand, and the village children laughing around in the midday African heat—both still able to find joy and purpose, in a life that has brought them too much misfortune and grief.