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Tzelios Running for Edgemont School Board

Dear Friends and Neighbors: My name is Caroline Tzelios. Currently, I am the Co-President of the Edgemont High School PTSA and I am honored that I have been nominated to run for the Edgemont Board of Education. I think my extensive volunteering over the past 11 years at both the Greenville Elementary School and at the Junior-Senior High School has allowed me to develop a unique understanding of the outstanding Edgemont school system -- what its strengths are and where opportunities lie -- a perspective that would make me invaluable as a BOE member. I have been called a "PTA mom," and I view this as an asset for the BOE as I will bring a different point of view and different skill set to the table, enabling the Board to be a truer representation of the community and its opinions.

Being a stay-at-home PTA mom of three children has enabled me to learn about and experience our school district firsthand -- both its academics and extra-curricular activities -- and it is because of the passion I have for maintaining this school district's excellence that I am pursuing a position on the BOE. As PTSA Co-President and Chair of a variety of school committees, I have developed relationships with the school administrators, teachers, and staff. It has allowed me to become intimately familiar and have a true understanding of the academic curriculum, the extra-curricular programs at the schools, and the concerns and needs of the teachers, the administrators, the parents and most importantly, the students themselves. I have also served as a member of the district-wide Wellness Committee for the past four years and previously served as the President of the Longview Civic Association.

If I am elected to the BOE, the school board will be my top priority. Serving on the school board is not a part-time job. I believe that it requires a high level of day-to-day involvement to really be effective and to provide a constructive leadership role. I am available to speak with residents, parents, teachers, administrators, and even students throughout the day and attend all the various school events. In order to make the best decisions for the schools and the students, I believe you truly have to immerse yourself in the school system and that is what I have done for the past 11 years and what I intend to continue to do next year.

In these tough times, the Edgemont Board of Education faces exceptionally difficult financial decisions as they strive to keep the school tax increases as low as possible. I have demonstrated my financial astuteness by optimizing an increasingly limited PTSA budget. In tough times, we have had less to work with so I understand the challenge of doing more with less. However it is vital for the Board to evaluate each decision from the perspective of what is best for our students. Financial hard times will come and go (they always have) but what is imperative is that the school district does the best it can with the resources it has for each child every single year. I will bring that balance of financial astuteness and direct knowledge of our academic and extra-curricular programs to the Board of Education when making tough decisions over the next few years.

Additionally I am proud to be a Greenville Elementary School parent, and the current 6 members of the Edgemont Board of Education are all parents of current or former Seely Place Elementary School students. I strongly believe Edgemont should have a balanced Board with representation from all three schools, as diversity is essential to any effective board. In this era, diversity of representation on boards is viewed as an asset; studies have shown diverse boards to be more effective and corporations and non-profit organizations set policies to achieve such diversity.

Prior to staying home to raise my three children, I worked in marketing at Oxford University Press and as an Assistant Treasurer in the Mutual Funds Department at The Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A. I have an undergraduate degree in Business from the College of Mt. St. Vincent and a master’s degree in Publishing from Pace University. I have lived in Edgemont with my family since 1995 and look forward to many more years of volunteering for the Edgemont schools and community.

I give 110% to everything I do and I pledge that, if I am elected on May 18th to the Edgemont Board of Education, I will work hard, listen to all your concerns and issues, and be fair when making the tough decisions that will be necessary in the years to come while always keeping in mind what is best for all our children. I hope you will vote for me on May 18th. I would love to hear your thoughts about the schools, about the Board of Education, and my candidacy ... I am always available. Please feel free to email me at carolinetzelios@aol.com.

Thank you,
Caroline Tzelios

Bronx River Path Marred By Sewage

There is a terrible problem on the beautiful pathway alongside the Bronx river parkway in Scarsdale. I think it is important to let as many people know about this health hazard. There is raw sewage sitting in the field and running into the Bronx River. The white you see in the photos is used toilet paper.

Thank you for your assistance in spreading the word.

Audrey Castiglione

Seniors Deserve a Break

Spring Break trips have been a tradition for seniors here in Scarsdale. Some view it as a rite of passage and others see it as a time to let loose free from the pressure of homework or college admissions. Either way, all the seniors know that their time at Scarsdale High School is running out and many want to mark this milestone with a celebration.

Seniors often go to beach destinations – the Bahamas in particular. Part of the appeal of the Bahamas is that the legal drinking age there is 18, so seniors who are of age can drink. The seniors who are underage usually find a way around it because rules are more relaxed in the Bahamas. The Bahamas embrace the influx of seniors and has clubs to attract them, increasing the appeal of the Bahamas as a Spring Break destination. However, the relaxed nature of the Bahamas isn’t really safe. Some seniors get caught up in the excitement and get out of control, make mistakes, and get in trouble. School Administrators highlight these few cases in an attempt to dissuade parents from permitting their kids go on Spring Break.

While a few get out of control, the majority of seniors manage to make good decisions and still have fun. The quintessential senior Spring Break doesn’t necessarily have to include going to the Bahamas, tanning by day, and getting so drunk you make bad decisions at night. In fact, only a very small percentage of the nearly half the senior class who went on a Spring Break vacation got into trouble.

This April, when seniors grudgingly returned to school after vacation, people reacted to this year’s set of unfortunate events from Spring Break. The call for “alternative Spring Break” has emerged, where seniors would do a service project instead of hitting the clubs and the beach. Critics of Spring Break argue that the time and money spent on trips where bad behavior occurs would be better directed to a positive, fun, and rewarding community service experience. While I think that’s a great idea, I don’t think advocates of alternative Spring Break can expect that seniors will drop the idea of relaxing on the beach and enjoying piña coladas in favor of a community service alternative. It’s not likely that beach trips will be abandoned because underclassmen look forward to the day when it will be their turn to board the plane to the beach.

That being said, critics of the out-of-control Spring Break trips should start with a more subtle approach – encouraging those who decide on beach destinations to pick a safer area, perhaps Florida, and encourage kids to keep the focus on relaxing and enjoying the company of friends rather than drinking. There are so many seniors who went to the Bahamas or Florida and stayed in control that it is not fair for critics of Spring Break to say that all Spring Break trips end in trouble or mistakes.

Spring Break trips can really go two ways. Students can drink too much and get in trouble or, the break can be a time to relax, free of the pressure of college admission and the competition at Scarsdale High School. Most trips are the latter and only a few abuse the privilege and get out of control.

I believe that seniors deserve a break after four years of hard work, demanding teachers and schedules. Letting loose on Spring Break doesn’t have to mean abusing alcohol. Seniors can still go to the beach, get tan, enjoy the occasional strawberry daiquiri and enjoy some innocent fun.

Melissa Tucker is a sophomore at Scarsdale High School

Weinberg Nature Center Director Dismissed

Something dismaying was announced last week in Scarsdale. After twenty four years, Walter Terrell, Executive Director for the Weinberg is being let go. Why Walter? Why that position? The Weinberg Nature Center is a Scarsdale gem, an oasis of green space, a place of education and imagination. It is Walter's vision and dedication that have allowed the Weinberg Nature Center to thrive on a shoestring. Though there are other wonderful staff members, they all look to Walter for guidance and inspiration.

Now is the time to be investing in the environment and sustainability. The young people of today will renew our planet, and live and work in a world where theory and practice about conservation have to align. Walter teaches our community of children all about the natural world and sparks their curiosity.

My 6th grade son volunteers at the Nature Center. He was welcomed and treated with the greatest respect from the interview through his weekly experiences there. Walter sees children as people, and takes the time to share his vast knowledge about the natural world, and all that goes on in the Nature Center. He is patient and detailed, and has encouraged an interest of my son’s that might get squelched in an area that values other things so much. Walter validates my son’s love of nature every day and is teaching him to teach, too. Bottom line, is this really the right decision for our community? I don’t think so, and I hope many others agree.

Lauri Carey
Paddington Road

Take NYS Public School Education with a Grain of Salt

The cacophony over what to do about public school education and when to do it and how to do it… is deafening. The disconnects have run absolutely wild.

In Washington, President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan propose changes to No Child Left behind, some good some bad; National educational standards are proposed; Diane Ravitch (the former spouse of NY's Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch), once a major champion of choice and accountability recants: http://bit.ly/cxImQ3; business and thought leaders such as Bill Gates bemoan the quality of education in the US and the quality of output; and California pink slips 36,000 teachers; school budgets across the country are decimated; the charter school fight rages on and on in New York siphoning scarce tax dollars to create select public school enclaves that are free to ignore the state mandates and labor rules by which the rest of the public school system must abide. Teacher bashing ensues unabated on editorial pages and in Newsweek: http://bit.ly/9H6U3T. In New York if the Governor’s and New York State Senate's proposed budget is approved, over 15,000 teachers are slated to be laid off statewide -- with no plan or regard as to what impact that will have in the classroom. Many school budgets being devised by school boards and administrators throughout New York State appear by and large to be coming in at or below 2% over the previous years' budgets. Given the cost drivers school districts must deal with, that's pretty damn good. There is plenty to argue about regarding what ails our educational system -- but in New York, much of the blame lies in Albany -- and the legislature's symbiotic relationship with those who first and foremost put the blind protection of public employees over students.

Yet even in our own dysfunctional New York State -- a rare bit of thoughtfulness and sanity is peeking through -- courtesy of a 25 year veteran of the New York State Senate, Suzi Oppenheimer. It's taken her the better part of a year, but Sen. Oppenheimer is beginning to grow into her role as Chairperson of the Senate Education Committee. Just last week Sen. Oppenheimer sponsored and the senate actually passed legislation to begin to peel back the rampant growth of unfunded mandates on school districts. To be frank, the legislation barely scratches the surface of the need to eliminate reams of existing mandates on school districts. Mandates are among the primary cost drivers that have caused explosive growth in property taxes. The Mandate Relief bill prohibits the legislature from imposing future unfunded mandates on school districts after the start of a school year. This is woefully inadequate -- but like the national health reform legislation – at least it’s a start.

Yet the Mandate Relief bill will likely die in the State Assembly. The reason? A series of laughably ignorant editorials eviscerating a small portion of the bill -- a part of which would have school district contingency budget CPI cap formulations be based on a 5-year rolling average vs. whatever it is year to year: http://bit.ly/ad6Mj8; http://bit.ly/chgLk9. These editorials – blind diatribes without context - have rocked the Assembly sponsor, Amy Paulin to back off: http://bit.ly/9lwbS7. Remember, in New York, the school tax is the only tax New Yorkers actually get to vote on each year (outside of big cities). If the school budget vote fails, then school districts are mandated to adopt a budget that is no higher than the prior year's budget plus the lesser of 4% or the CPI. This year the CPI was less than zero – so school districts whose budgets that are defeated at the polls will be faced with budgets with zero increases – and in the wonderful world of public school mandates and contractual obligations – heads will roll and students will get screwed.

The rolling average proposal makes sense. Most federal, state and local government accounting use multi-year averages to manage their budgets. And yes, this year such a computation would mitigate catastrophic school budget cuts. But most districts are aiming at or below 2% anyway -- unlike many towns, villages and counties which are hoisting double-digit increases on the taxpayer without the need for a separate vote. In future years when the CPI will skyrocket due to hyper-inflation -- this rolling average will serve to tamp down the inflationary increases that are sure to come. This is nothing more or less than a proposal for sound budgetary management -- and giving school districts, which always have to operate with one hand (or two plus a foot)tied behind their backs some ability to implement sound budget planning.

But in Albany it looks like nothing will change, mandates will run amuck, employee entitlements will be untouched, legislators will run for cover in what is likely to be an anti-incumbent election year, and...oh yeah, kids still need to be educated so they can race to the top. You would think a crisis would finally knock some sense and responsibility into our legislators. But no. Exhibit A: While Rome burns, Brooklyn Assemblyman Felix Ortiz introduces legislation to ban the use of salt in restaurants -- no joke: http://bit.ly/aP7eaD.

David A. Singer is a former political consultant/campaign professional and political junkie currently toiling as a lawyer in Westchester and managing real estate and media investments.

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