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Scarsdale Forum Hosts Community Conversation on Scarsdale Schools

forumaudience(This article was submitted by Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, Co-Chair of the Scarsdale Forum's Education Committee.)
On September 7, 2017, the Scarsdale Forum's Education Committee hosted a community discussion, Scarsdale Schools: 2017 and Beyond, in Rutherford Hall at Scarsdale Village Hall. 135 people participated throughout the evening, and we were very pleased with the diversity of attendees who engaged actively in this important dialogue about the state of our schools now and where they'll be in the future. Attendees included professionals from the Scarsdale school administration, teachers, members of the Board of Education, Scarsdale Village officials, empty nesters, students, parents of current students and a few alumni." The event was broadcast live and was recorded, and is available for viewing by clicking here.

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The objective of the evening was to bring different segments of the Scarsdale community together to have a conversation about our schools. Education Committee Co-Chair Carlos Ramírez explained that "It is important to bring all community stakeholders together, whether in one room or via technology, to discuss our schools and their future. We need to know what the different members of the community are thinking."

The event agenda included a number of different elements: a live online social media component managed by Ramírez; an interactive live poll developed and administered by committee member Brice Kirkendall-Rodríguez; and, a question and answer session moderated by committee members Maggie Favretti, who is also a teacher at Scarsdale High School, and Liz Guggenheimer, a former Scarsdale Board of Education President.

Poll questions were derived from responses to the Scarsdale Forum's "School Topics Survey," distributed in May and June of this year. The poll questions touched upon a variety of topics, including the goals of long-term school financial plan, quality of teachers and school facilities, as well as parental involvement and preferences about curriculum, facilities and related topics.

Responses were recorded both from participants attending the event and those viewing it remotely. Highlights include the following:

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When asked the main reason for the school district to have a financial plan, respondents listed "providing the school district with sufficient funds to prepare kids with skills to live in the next decade," and "insuring fiscal responsibility and sustainability" as their number one and two priorities, respectively.

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When asked for what projects respondents would be willing to have their property taxes increased, they listed, in order of preference, add air conditioning in schools, expand STEM labs, increase room size, build new elementary schools, and build dining commons in elementary schools. Respondents were not willing to have their taxes rise to enlarge sports fields.

Respondents stated that the top two strengths of Scarsdale schools are English and college preparedness.
When asked if there should be parity in facilities planned for all five elementary schools, 62% responded yes, 22% said no, and 16% needed more information in order to respond.

Respondents stated they spend significant amounts annually on after school instruction in music, foreign languages, sports, test prep, and other subjects for their children during the academic year: 78% spend between $1,000 and $20,000, and 13% spend over $20,000 each year.

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When asked what changes they'd like to see in curriculum, facilities and other areas, if possible, 37% respondents listed adding additional STEAM classes to elementary and middle schools as their top priority; and, 27% want financial literary courses added to the district curriculum.

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With regard to facilities, 46% indicated that adding air conditioning would be their top priority. When asked about what else would make them happier with Scarsdale schools, 24% listed lower taxes as their top priority, while 17% listed increased transparency in decision making by the school administration as their top choice.

All live poll slides can be found by clicking here.

Education Committee members Maggie Favretti and Liz Guggenheimer also asked audience members a series of open-ended questions about education: what is the ideal environment for your child, what a world class education might look like, and whether any attendees who had studied at a private school or abroad share would share lessons with Scarsdale residents. Over a dozen participants discussed their perspectives, the consensus of which supported school efforts to teach complex problem-solving, innovation, and important skills such as reiteration, computer science, and thinking through practice and authentic assessment of issues. Engaging students of all levels directly in subject-matter experiences, encouraging them to challenge the status quo, instead of seeking the right answer, supporting them through the college process, and the high school tutorial model were singled out for specific praise.

One participant stated that the term "world class education" did not mean much unless the school district could provide metrics to measure outcomes. That same individual praised what is available at Scarsdale schools in terms of helping students when they apply to college. A female resident, who is a professional in technology, emphasized the need for Scarsdale schools to encourage and teach technology to children, especially to girls.

At the conclusion of the evening, Scarsdale Forum President ML Perlman reminded the audience that, "The Scarsdale Forum is open to all Scarsdale and Mamaroneck strip residents regardless of citizenship, and our committees remain open at all times for additional members to join on a rolling basis. So, please join the Forum and jump right in to the discussions happening right now."

The Forum's Education Committee would like to thank Scarsdale Schools Superintendent Thomas Hagerman, Mayor Dan Hochvert, members of the Scarsdale Boards of Education and Trustees, teachers, students and all Scarsdale residents for participating in Scarsdale Schools: 2017 and Beyond. The committee also extends its gratitude to Assistant Village Manager Robert Cole and Videographer Kelvin Guevara, who were instrumental in coordinating event logistics, and to Scarsdale Forum leadership and numerous Forum members who assisted with developing and marketing this special event.
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The Scarsdale Forum
The Scarsdale Forum is a 501(c)(3) civic organization dedicated to discussion and analysis of all issues relevant to Scarsdale residents. Since 1904, the Forum has contributed meaningfully to Village affairs through its written reports, public speaker events, and committee discussions. Membership is available to all Scarsdale and Mamaroneck Strip residents regardless of citizenship status.

Comments   

+6 #12 B. Dirk 2017-09-24 11:09
Quoting Good point by B. Dirk:
So if the administration isn't listening to anyone, what do we do? I guess our only way to send a message is to vote down the upcoming bond. Otherwise what will make them listen to the community? Something needs to change.

People really need to be asking themselves if Scarsdale schools are as good as what the Administration claims. Many elementary and middle schools in Westchester, not to mention in NY, have better math, science, and foreign language programs. Think about what we pay in taxes! And we get a dismissive superintendent. What has he achieved, since getting here??
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+11 #11 Heres the truth 2017-09-22 14:51
The truth is that if people want the Administration to change (or if they are otherwise unhappy with major issues like the reval), then people need to band together and vote down the bond. You can always pass it a few months later once the powers that be actually take the community seriously.
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+17 #10 Good point by B. Dirk 2017-09-22 14:35
So if the administration isn't listening to anyone, what do we do? I guess our only way to send a message is to vote down the upcoming bond. Otherwise what will make them listen to the community? Something needs to change.
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0 #9 Former Forum member 2017-09-22 12:01
In the Scarsdale Inquirer, Dr. Hagerman appeared to be dismissive of this survey. I think that the survey needed to be better constucted for it to actually be useful to (and respected by) the administration. If they ignore it because they think it is flawed, then it unfortunately won't have much impact. I would rejoin the Forum and join the education committee if I thought that the administration valued its contributions. I do give credit to the committee for trying, though. My earlier comments were not meant to be disrespectful.
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+15 #8 B. Dirk 2017-09-22 11:16
I agree with one of your observations. Dr. Hagerman was dismissive, not just of the survey but also of the Education Committee's work. Is the issue really how the survey was constructed and by whom? The survey had contributions from the community and from a couple of people who design surveys. Do you think Dr. Hagerman is being responsive to the great questions presented by the League of Women Votes? Were there education professionals posing those questions? No. Were their questions valid? Absolutely as they were posed by concerned taxpayers. Is the superintendent listening to the PTC or PTAs? Have you seen the surveys that the administration has sent out lately? You want to talk about amateurish, look at those. Quoting Former Forum member:
In the Scarsdale Inquirer, Dr. Hagerman appeared to be dismissive of this survey. I think that the survey needed to be better constucted for it to actually be useful to (and respected by) the administration. If they ignore it because they think it is flawed, then it unfortunately won't have much impact. I would rejoin the Forum and join the education committee if I thought that the administration valued its contributions. I do give credit to the committee for trying, though. My earlier comments were not meant to be disrespectful.

Quoting Former Forum member:
In the Scarsdale Inquirer, Dr. Hagerman appeared to be dismissive of this survey. I think that the survey needed to be better constucted for it to actually be useful to (and respected by) the administration. If they ignore it because they think it is flawed, then it unfortunately won't have much impact. I would rejoin the Forum and join the education committee if I thought that the administration valued its contributions. I do give credit to the committee for trying, though. My earlier comments were not meant to be disrespectful.
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+10 #7 My issue 2017-09-22 08:09
If a survey falls in forest, and the administration is covering its ears, does it make a noise?

So for example, air conditioning was highly favored in the survey. Will it be considered for the bond? Or are we just going to do a giant Greenacres expansion and lots of items that would normally be covered from the operating budget?

But kudos to the education committee for trying.
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+10 #6 M. Smith 2017-09-22 07:09
Do commenters 2-4 even know who designed the survey and how? It is very easy to sit around and hide behind pseudonyms and tear down what hard working people do. Ask yourselves, what have you done for Scarsdale schools lately? What have you done to develop a sense of community? If you have a better idea on how to get over 100 people of diverse backgrounds to talk about our schools, join the Education Committee of the Forum and let's see what you come up with.
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-8 #5 Disappointed 2017-09-22 00:06
These amateurish surveys of small numbers of people really shouldn't drive policy at all. I participated online because a friend asked me to and I was really sorry I wasted the time.
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+8 #4 J. Schwartz 2017-09-21 23:15
As usual, anonymous whiners who do nothing to improve our town, but are all too ready to criticize the work that others do. What do you actually do to try to find out what is going on in our schools? Quoting Disappointed:
These amateurish surveys of small numbers of people really shouldn't drive policy at all. I participated online because a friend asked me to and I was really sorry I wasted the time.
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-6 #3 Former Forum member 2017-09-21 21:39
This survey was very amateurish. I too stopped participating half way through.

But it doesn't matter anyway. Literally everyone said that adding 2 minutes to every class was not the right idea. No one is listening. Especially if only 100 adults participate.
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