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Residents React to School Facilities Survey

taskvideoA survey about school facilities that was sent to district residents following a presentation by the new district architects has some recipients frustrated and perplexed. At the Board of Education meeting on May 22 school architects BBS proposed to build two large additions to Greenacres School, extending the school to Putnam Road and Huntington Avenue. No measurements and few details were provided, and it was not clear what would be done to the remaining portions of the building. The architects did project that the work would take two and a half years and said that the children would remain in the school during the renovation.

At the meeting, many community members and several members of the Board of Education asked why the possibility of a new school had been taken off the table

The survey confused many who were expecting to answer questions about the future of Greenacres School – but found that the survey did not single Greenacres out or offer a new school as a response to any of the questions. The survey questions treated all elementary schools as equals and failed to note that extensive work has already been done to upgrade and expand the other schools while leaving Greenacres for this next bond offering.

Instead of addressing the issues at Greenacres, it posed general questions about enhanced music spaces, cafeterias/learning spaces and security vestibules, features that were not previously on any list of district priorities as defined by past building committees. It also included a question about building a large cafeteria at the middle school but did not mention that the individual dining rooms in each of the four houses of the middle school would be closed.

Questions were asked about enhancing the Learning Resource Center at the high school and installing district-wide air conditioning. Again, these two items seemed to be ideas generated by the administration without consultation with the community.

At the May 8 meeting of the Board, Dr. Hagerman said that he had hired a "PR firm" to send out surveys to the community following each presentation from the architects. This might be key to why the surveys did not ask the questions people wanted to which residents wanted to provide feedback. Normally a research firm, not a public relations firm would be retained to assess public opinion. In this case, the survey might be more of a tool to sway public opinion then to discern the will of the community.

A new group called the Greenacres Elementary Task Force has produced a video about the proposed renovation that has already received 1,700 views. You can see it by clicking here. They are advocating for the district "to innovate not renovate" and have drafted a petition asking the administration to provide a cost analysis of a new school vs. a renovation including the cost to relocate the students off-site. 

It appears that many younger parents who were sitting on the sidelines and waiting for the school board and the administration to propose a solution for the aging school have now become alarmed because the proposed renovation will leave their children in the school during the 2.5-year construction project.

The school board meets next on the night of June 12 and many are expected to comment.

Seniors Step Out into the Work World

senioroptionsTo give students to real-world experience and avoid the "senior slump", Scarsdale High School has developed a program called Senior Options. This program has students select internships and occasionally independent projects for their final month of school. The program has only a few restrictions: the internship must be unpaid, you cannot work for a family member, and you must complete certain time requirements. This leaves students with the ability to select almost any job that they'd like, which opens up a bunch of new and interesting possibilities. The Senior Options page describes itself as a way to "Allow students to extend the skills and knowledge that they have developed in school by applying them in areas of personal interest."

The program has guidance every step of the way. Not only do students work closely with their "sponsors" (employers), but they also check in every week with a teacher they select who serves as their mentor. This teacher makes sure everything is running smoothly, that they have selected a worthy workplace, and that the student is actually working for the required hours. In the early stages of the process a "case manager", a teacher who doesn't necessarily know the student, also checks to make sure that the student is proposing a worthy internship.

I am working here at Scarsdale 10583 for my Senior Options, and have interviewed a few other seniors about their internships. Their responses are below:

plannedparenthoodMollie Kerr: Planned Parenthood

Where are you working for senior options and what are you doing there?

I am working at the administrative offices for Planned Parenthood of the Hudson Peconic. The Hudson Peconic is made up of four counties. Suffolk, Rockland, Putnam and Westchester. There are estimated 2.93 million people living in those four counties combined. I am working with the public affairs department. The Public Affairs Department is in charge of any rallies, events, or outreach that Planned Parenthood is doing.

How did you choose this place?

I chose Planned Parenthood for many reasons. These reasons include, my passion for women's rights, I might want to explore a career similar to this, and in our current political state it is more vital than ever to help Planned Parenthood.

Is it what you expected it to be? Were you surprised by anything?

I was surprised that there was a lot more computer work then I had thought. A lot of my day I am spent in my cubicle going through a huge box of petitions and entering them into the computer. It is mind-numbing tedious work. However I try to be more positive about it seeing how it's a good sign there are so many petition signatures and the more names I enter, the more proof of PP support there is.

What is your favorite part about working there?

My favorite part has been being able to talk to other students and seeing their own desire to help. Going out to events and meeting people who genuinely want to know what you're doing, and why you're so passionate about something has been very meaningful.

emilycakeEmily Schwartz: Provisions Bakery

Where are you working for senior options and what are you doing there?

I am working at Provisions Bakery in Pelham, NY. Everyday I am baking cakes, cupcakes, and other pastries for the bakery.

How did you choose this place?

I talked with my mentor (Natalie Farina), and I explained how I wanted to work in a bakery. Mrs. Farina has had students work at Provisions in the past, and I was so excited to find a bakery that I could work at.

Is it what you expected it to be? Were you surprised by anything?

Working in the bakery has been so much fun! I knew it would be long hours, and a lot of time on my feet. Frosting cakes and cupcakes requires a lot of concentration. It has defiantly taught me a lot about being patient, even when things don't work out. I was surprised how important it is to be precise when baking. 2 days ago I was making a cake but I wasn't as careful as I should have been making sure the top was leveled out. When it came time to frost the cake, it was uneven.

What is your favorite part about working there?

My favorite part has been being able to create beautiful cakes and cupcakes on my own! Even in just a little time, I have learned so much, and I am so excited to make my own cupcake flavors and frostings later on during Senior Options.

josiebwayJosie Blatt: Independent Musical Project

What are you doing for senior options?

I'm in the A-School and the Senior Options process is a little different here. We do internships every January and have that sort of experience already under our belts by the time we get to senior year. As a result, The teachers encourage A-School students to do independent projects. I'd say about half of us wind up doing independent projects and half do classic Senior Options. For my project, I decided to write a musical.

Why did you choose this project?

I love musical theater and have wanted to try and write a musical for a while, but I just haven't had the time. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to attempt this project. I don't expect to finish writing a musical in a month, but I'd definitely like to finish at least a few of the songs.

Is it what you expected? Were you surprised by anything?

To be honest, it's a lot harder than I expected. I have a pretty strong background in music, but I'm less experienced with lyrics, storyboarding, and dialogue, which are obviously important components in a musical.

What is your favorite part about the project?

It's amazing to able to express myself in this way. Like I said before, I wouldn't normally have the time to do this sort of thing and it's wonderful the project is so open-ended. There are guidelines, but for the most part I was let loose and told to be creative. It's such a unique setting and I'm so glad to have it.

museumofnaturalhistoryKaren Zaklama: Museum of Natural History

Where are you working for senior options and what are you doing there?

I am working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. I am working two different positions- in the mornings I work with teaching volunteers and speak in particular exhibits with tourists, students, and other visitors. In the afternoon, I work in the volunteer office on a variety of projects. I either help to organize files or give tours of our temporary exhibits.

How did you choose this place?

When looking for an internship, I knew I wanted something interesting, science related, and vibrant. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time at this particular museum, and decided that giving the job a shot would be fun.

Is it what you expected it to be? Were you surprised by anything?

I had few expectations about the whole thing, just because volunteering offices are so variant. I did expect, however, that it would take a very long time to grasp all of the information necessary to teaching museum exhibits. However, I found that I learned relatively quickly amongst the other volunteers. I was also surprised at how valued volunteers are at the museum, and the dependence visitors have on volunteers, whom the public perceive as "experts."

What is your favorite part about working there?

My favorite part about working at the museum is learning all of the secrets. I have learned about the various science labs, private hallways, nightly events, visitor incidents, and curating history that adds to the complete environment of the museum. I think having the opportunity to speak to a scientist devoted to artifact presentation or look at articles dating back to the 1800s on African taxidermy adds a richness to my understanding of how scientific and historical information is communicated.

Do you have a Senior Options experience? Please send a description and a photo to scarsdalecomments@gmail.com and we will include it in this article.

SHS Baseball Team Onto the Playoffs

benpitchThe Raiders baseball team finished their season with an 11-8 record and a celebration of Senior Day. They had an impressive 11-3 run after a 0-5 start. The team will be beginning playoffs Saturday May 20th against New Rochelle High School. 

Jon Thaler took photos of the event, a sample of which are below. If you would like to see the rest of the game images, check them out by clicking here.

raidersparent

halperindive

raiderseniors

Tips for a Successful Transition to Kindergarten

kindergartenAs spring turns into summer and the school year winds down, it's hard not to anticipate where your child will be next fall. When your child is beginning Kindergarten, the transition can be a big one for both parents and kids, as families leave behind the gentle classrooms of pre-school, and head to new, bigger buildings filled with older kids and eventually, real academic demands. Here are some tips to help ease the transition for you and your child:

Read books together about starting school.
Spend an afternoon at the new Barnes & Noble café or the public library and look for books such as Kindergarten Rocks! By Katie Davis, First Day Jitters, by Julie Dannenberg, The Night Before Kindergarten, by Natasha Wing, and many many others. Make this time about connecting and providing a space to talk with your child, not an academic activity.

Visit your child's new school if possible.
Many children wind up going into their new school during a Kindergarten screening, and some are familiar with the building because an older sibling attends. Often also, the teachers open their classrooms up for a few hours the week before school starts for kids to come in. (You can call the school to ask if this is something they do.)

Take your child to play in the playground of the school over the summer. (This may have an added bonus of meeting kids in the neighborhood who are also starting Kindergarten there in the fall.)

Try to arrange play dates with other children you know will be attending that school. Many children will express that they are worried about missing their nursery school friends, or that they don't know anyone in their new school.

If your town does a summer "rec camp," consider signing your child up, at least for a few weeks. Often they will place children in groups together based on the elementary school they are zoned for, and these programs are usually on the less expensive end of summer day camps.

Validate their feelings. They are most likely feeling a combination of nerves and excitement which is perfectly normal. You don't have to "fix" it by telling them they will be fine, or that they will love it. You can tell them it's normal to feel nervous about going to kindergarten, and that most kids feel the same way. You can also share with them a story about a time you felt nervous before a big change.

Ask them if they have specific things they are worried about, and if they can name them. Sometimes it could be "who is picking me up and where?," or "how will I know which bus to take?," or "what will I eat for lunch?" You may be able to answer many of these questions concretely which will help alleviate some anxiety.

Expect some acting out and regressive behavior. This transition is a big deal and behavioral changes (that may seem out of character) are common. Your child may not settle down until deep into the fall.

Keep in mind that this is a transition for you as well, and you also may have some worries and concerns. The best way for you to begin to feel comfortable is to get involved to the extent that you can in their classroom and their school. Attend PTA meetings and sign up to work on an event, serve on a committee or become class mom. (They usually have many different options based on parents' available time and interests.) Becoming involved in your child's school will help you meet other parents, as well as get to know the teachers and the administration, which never hurts in terms of being able to best advocate for your child down the road.

MOST IMPORTANT:
Enjoy the summer. Allow less structure and relish relaxed family time as much as possible. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT ACADEMICS. The teachers know what they are doing and they know that kids are coming in at different levels. Enjoy this time with your child. In what will seem like a flash you will be worrying about the transition to Middle School!

Julie Stonberg is a clinical social worker with a private practice in Harstdale. She also serves as a social worker for the Towards Tomorrow pre-school program at the JCC and runs workshops during the year on different parenting topics.

Students Protest Schedule Changes

hsscheduleWhat seems like a small schedule change may have a deeper impact. At the May 8th Board of Education meeting, student Holly Rittmaster presented a petition started by another student, Lila Horwood, that protested the upcoming changes to the Scarsdale High School Schedule. The petition says the following: "Starting next year, in the 2017-18 school year, our schedules are being extended 75 minutes a week, and we will only have homeroom twice a week. As stressed and concerned members of the Scarsdale High School community, we want to show the Board of Education how many people are vehemently opposed to this change. If you are opposed to any part of the new schedule, please sign this petition!" 

It currently has 566 signatures and has gathered a lot of community buzz and comments, most of which seem to be saying the same thing. Students do not want this schedule change to be implemented. "The new schedule completely contradicts every goal of the wellness committee and is ridiculously confusing. Later dismissal times and earlier start times only make for less sleep and increased stress." Says a current High School Junior, "No students were included in any part of the process for creating the new schedule, or any sort of discussion regarding schedules at all, which is outrageous considering they are the most affected. The school and the Board of Education should return to the drawing board and make sure to include students in some manner."

This year the high school administration is focused on "student wellness", but this new schedule seems to contradict and undermine that message. Some students feel that it does not matter how many surveys students take on stress improvement if nothing is done with the results. A commenter suggests an alternative approach to time requirements which the administration has said are dictated by New York State in this press release. "I believe the additional instructional hours required by state could be met in ways that aren't detrimental to student wellness. Maybe we could have one additional special period per week, where students could choose a seminar or activity to attend in order to enrich the high school experience. Some other high schools employ this system or have study hall/group work time. The most important thing is to take into account the voices of students, not just on paper but in action."

Never has a room been more divided than when the schedule changes were announced to the juniors and seniors. Not divided in opinion, but in reaction. The seniors, who are leaving before the schedule changes, all high-fived and cheered because they were "leaving just in time". The juniors, however, were understandably furious. While the school is constantly asking students what can be done to improve wellness, some feel that this schedule revision misses the wellness mark by a mile. Many students felt their voices were ignored.

In the view of many of the petition signers, Scarsdale high school students aren't "well". They're stressed. This new schedule change only solidifies some students' fears that the measures they have been told will alleviate their stress are doing nothing at all. You can find the petition by clicking here.

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