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School Board Changes Course on Meetings with Architects

kgdentry(This article was updated on Tuesday January 31 at 5:29 pm)

The Scarsdale School Board has revised their plans and will permit community members to attend two meetings with prospective district architects on Wednesday February 1 at 6 pm and on Friday February 3 at 8:30 am. The Board had originally planned to hold these meetings in Executive Session, but has now opened them to the public.

A district wide email sent out on Tuesday says the following:

 "The Board of Education of the Scarsdale Union Free School District will hold two Special Meetings to review presentations by architectural firms on Wednesday, February 1, at 6 p.m., and Friday, February 3, at 8:30 a.m. in the Board Conference rooms in the Board of Education wing of Scarsdale High School, 2 Brewster Road, Scarsdale; the Board may enter into Executive Session at these meetings to discuss matters leading to the appointment of a corporation.

A special note from the Scarsdale Board of Education:

These meetings were originally scheduled as Executive Sessions. Upon further reflection, the Board of Education has decided that the interviews with the candidate firms for District Architect should be open to the public. They will be held in the Board Conference rooms of the High School. Members of the public will be permitted to hear the presentations and any Board members' and administrator's questions. Members of the public will not participate in the actual interview itself, and there will not be any public comment opportunities during these interview sessions. The Board will not be deliberating about the architect candidates at these meetings. Board of Education deliberations will occur at separately scheduled Executive Sessions.

The Board of Education values community engagement and participation. Recognizing that the selection of an architectural firm will have significant impact on issues of importance to the community, the Board agrees, in this particular circumstance, that it is important for the community to hear from the prospective candidates about their qualifications and experience. However, the ultimate decision concerning the appointment of a District architect remains entrusted to the Board of Education.

For additional information, contact the Public Information Officer, Victoria Presser, at vpresser@scarsdaleschools.org."

In response to questions from Scarsdale10583 as to why these meetings were not originally open to the public, we received this email from Board VP Bill Natbony on Monday January 31:

"The Board of Education will be interviewing a number of firms as part of its process resulting in the appointment of a new District Architect. Your e-mail requests that the public be invited to those interviews. Ultimately, the proposed contractual agreement requiring the expenditure of monies for a new District Architect will be discussed and voted upon at a public meeting of the Board.

Under Section 105 of New York's Open Meetings Law, however, the Board may hold Executive Sessions, which are not open to the general public, to address, among other things, "the...employment history of...a corporation" and "matters leading to the appointment, employment...of a particular person or corporation". The interview process for a new District Architect will involve these specified matters and the Board will be conducting interviews within its Executive Sessions. During these interviews, the Board will not be making any decisions about the plans for Green Acres or expressing any option preferences regarding alternatives for Green Acres.

The Board and Administration will keep the community informed as to the status and progress of the architect selection process through the District website, Board meeting reports and other direct communications from the Administration.

Conducting the interview process within the Board's Executive Sessions is consistent with how the Board has proceeded with respect to its appointment of other corporations, including the District's auditing firm and attorneys.

We appreciate your interest and communication regarding Board matters."

In the past, the Board of Education sought to build consensus for facilities plans by involving the community every step of the way. A building committee was formed to identify needs and the community was invited to listen to proposals. In this case, it appears that the administration and the Board were leaving the public in the dark about what they are hiring the architects to design and whom they will retain to do the work.

However, they apparently had a change of heart about their decision and have now invited the public to attend.

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