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School Board Gives Administration Approval to Move Forward with a Massive Addition to Greenacres School

GAJuly12Ending years of debate, the Scarsdale School administration won the support of the school board for their recommendation for an expansive renovation and addition at Greenacres School at their July 6 meeting. The proposal for a tax neutral $64.8 million bond offering targeted for a vote in December 2017 will include $34 million for a renovation and expansion at Greenacres and $29 million for district wide upgrades.

District architects presented revised floor plans for the Greenacres School which would extend right to the sidewalk on Sage Terrace and Huntington Avenue. The last iteration of the plans had included the addition of three classrooms on Putnam Road. However, this new plan calls for the addition of four classrooms beyond the gym on Huntington Avenue instead. A 3,000 square foot learning commons, an 1,800 square foot multipurpose room and a kitchen would be added on the corner of Huntington Avenue and Sage Terrace, engulfing and expanding the newer multi-purpose room. The estimated cost for the work at Greenacres is $34 million. Though no designs or elevations were shown, the architects said that the look of the building would reflect the architectural elements of the current building.

The new renovation schematic was posted on the district's website at the eleventh hour – on the night before the July 6 meeting. Residents had little time to evaluate it or debate the merits of this very large addition to the school before the meeting the following morning. It was highly unusual to consider a project of this size at a July meeting of the board when many are out to town. Several of the speakers as well as the League of Women Voters asked for more time to study the plans but in the end the Board opted to move forward without affording time for community input.

The July 6th proposal addressed parents concerns about safety by including $1.5 million for trailers to be used to house students where needed during the renovation. Roger Smith, principal of BBS said these trailers could be used to accommodate up to eight classrooms or for other activities like gym or lunch.

The balance of the bond, or about $29 million, will fund infrastructure work at the other schools, most rated priority 1 or 2 on a recent district-wide facilities survey done by BBS. Items to be included are air handlers in classrooms, boilers, roofs, upgrades for ADA compliance, removal of asbestos tile, electrical upgrades and more. The administration to did not provide a comprehensive list of which projects would be funded at each school

A new item is security vestibules at all district buildings – which cost only $708,000 – a negligible amount of the overall bond. This new proposal eliminates the addition of lunchrooms and kitchens at Edgewood, Fox Meadow and Heathcote which received little enthusiasm from the community.

Safety: Hagerman and Mattey sought to answer many of the objections raised by the community and the board about risk to the children during the proposed renovation. They assured parents that all NYS safety guidelines would be followed and that there would be regular testing of the building during lead and asbestos abatement. They said that both BBS and the construction management firm have managed billions of dollars of school construction.

New vs. Renovation: The two attempted to respond to residents who asked for a long term analysis of the costs of a new school vs. a renovation by providing several analyses of the net present value of scenarios at varying inflation and discount rates. The analysis assumed a cost of $800 a square foot for the new building, a number that some claim is far above the cost of current school construction projects. In addition, Greenacres resident David Schwartz who works in finance took a look at the analysis and found that it was wrong. Mattey admitted that he had graduated from business school 20 years ago and said he would need to correct the numbers which vastly overstated the differential between a new and renovated school. However, even without an accurate analysis of the cost of a new school vs. a renovation, the School Board voted to approve the renovation.

On the issue of tax neutrality, Dr. Hagerman concluded that the board did not favor a bond that would raise school taxes and therefore limited his proposal to a $64.8 million bond referendum that would not raise taxes. He argued that building a new school at Greenacres would preclude the district from taking care of a lengthy list of facilities items "that must be addressed to avoid code violations, provide safer and healthier building environments and upgrade aging building heating, electrical, plumbing and roofing systems." He continued, "To not include these items in a bond issue would jeopardize not the integrity of our buildings but also the future instructional initiatives which must be funded through the general budget."

Hagerman also downplayed the importance of the learning environment saying, "21st century learning is 99% about the teachers. Though the space supports it, we are talking about the teachers. This is a secondary concern."


Public Comments:

During the public comments period, Tony Corrigio of Greenacres said, "I think there are two ways to avoid civil war here. If you pursue renovation get the kids out of the building. Three years in trailers? Are they safer there? It costs some money, maybe $4-5 million. And don't say there's not enough money when there was money for kitchens and cubbies in other schools to get everyone to vote for the bond." Turning to the evaluation of the cost of a new building he said, "You know what they say about financial analysis... garbage in garbage out. $60 million for a new building ... that $810 per square foot. It's unsubstantiated and bogus. Dr. Hagerman and BBS are compromised. Get another architect to do a proposal. Get real answers from real experts. It's a $45 million renovation with kids in the trailers. This is a 100 year decision to be made. Make sure that your priority is these kids."

Harriet Sobol said, "Those with and without children have the same position. I don't know anything about finance but I do know something about education: we are missing an opportunity to educate people about the difference between when our children went to school and today."

Mona Longman remarked, "My friend is a real estate broker and she tells me that suddenly all of the houses in Greenacres are coming on the market. Having meeting during July 4 when many are out of town and the next meeting in August is not right. The school is landlocked and now you are increasing the footprint even more. It was 8-10 feet from the road and it's even closer now. This is a neighborhood and there is no setback! What is this going to look like?"

Board Remarks:
When the Board was given a chance to pose questions, Natbony asked more questions about the cost differential of a new school vs. a renovation, saying, "Is it $5 million or $20 million, that's what I need to know."

Art Rublin asked why some of the classrooms in the proposed project would be far smaller than in the plan for Option B proposed by former district architects KG&D. Roger Smith replied saying that the minimum state requirements for a renovation are 900 square feet for a kindergarten classroom and 770 square feet for upper grades. He explained that the new classrooms would be 800 square feet.

Scott Silberfein asked how long the renovation would take and Smith estimated 26 months, spanning three summers. He said they moved the new classrooms to Huntington Avenue so that the existing classrooms on Putnam Road would not be affected during the construction.

Smith was also asked if the estimate of $800 a square foot for a new school could be high. He defended that figure saying there would be costs to demolish the old building and re-grade the site for fields.

Questioned about closing Huntington Avenue, Dr. Hagerman said he reviewed a legal opinion from the Village Attorney and said the matter would have to be presented to the state transportation committee and then be passed by both the state assembly and state senate. He said that these requests are not often approved.

Asked about drop off and pick up, parking and traffic, Smith said they had moved the construction off Putnam Road where he believed the children were dropped off and picked up. He said these issues needed further study.

Lee Maude asked for a better understanding of the energy performance contracts and it was explained that the district spends the funds on energy improvement initiatives like solar panels and achieves savings down the road from lower energy bills.

Nina Cannon asked if the Greenacres project would include the replacement of sanitary piping, steam heating and electric and was told that these would "not be touched in this renovation. They are not in the bond project." She also inquired about the status of a sustainability committee than had been formed in the spring. She also asked Dr. Hagerman, "Can we do a separate bond for air conditioning?"

At the conclusion of the discussion, Board members were asked to give their views on authorizing the district to move forward with the renovation plan. Six out of the seven gave Hagerman the green light.

Pam Fuehrer said that the plans met the district's objectives for educational excellence and adequacy and said she did not favor going above tax neutrality. She said , "Frankly I think It would be irresponsible not to support the recommendation to include all of the priorities for health and safety in this bond."

Nina Cannon said, "I support the administration's proposal. It has been proven from a financial standpoint and allows us to maintain all of our buildings. Of course I am concerned about safety, lighting and design but I support going down this path. "

Lee Maude emphasized that the Board has been listening and that she was "impressed by the change in design." She said, "I worked with KG&D and usually schools are built because of enrollment issues. I have not seen buildings torn down because of age. Teachers' relationships with our students are most important. It's no surprise that I accept your recommendation."

Art Rublin was the lone dissenter, saying "I am not there yet. I am not comfortable having this meeting during the day in July. I am concerned about rushing the process more than we need to. There are questions about classroom size, questions about drop off pick-up and parking ; these are important concerns. I think that the school building as proposed would be a better building than it is now – and I think that there are a lot of positives."

Chris Morin was in Iceland but gave Bill Natbony a letter to read in support of the renovations. He said that the board had previously voted to explore renovations and the facts they received support that decision. He said, "The renovation will exceed the needs of the students."

Scott Silberfein, who was elected Vice President of the board prior to the meeting concurred with the others, and said, "Me too. We can work on traffic, safety and parking later on. I am confident that we need to continue to pursue the process. A renovated Greenacres building will be educationally exceptional."

Newly elected Board President Bill Natbony summed it up, saying, "The District has substantial needs. This gives priority to the needs of Greenacres and accounts for other needs. There has to be a pressing need to exceed tax neutrality. Our architects say we don't need a new building. There remain implementation issues. What construction will be done while kids are in the schools? Should we look into moving them? I don't see a December vote set in stone. We should move forward with a bond and as a community we should come together and support the decision."

Parents with children in the school were surprised at the speed of the process and pressed the Board for more time to resolve many issues. Paulina Schwartz said, "This is renovation plan number four and the size of the addition keeps growing. It is the worst plan so far. If you think it is charming you don't go out to the property line and cover the building. You end up with a 100 year-old building with old lead pipes, old air handlers and no place for drop off and pickup. This is monstrous and it will be ugly. I was offended by the FAQ's. This is the largest renovation project the district has ever undertaken with the youngest kids in the oldest building. The safest way is with the kids outside the building. Where is the parking? Drop off and pick up? Where is the plan? The parents of GA don't want this plan. This is no better than what we have now."

The Centennial Graduation at Scarsdale High School

hatsThreats of thundershowers brought the graduation for the SHS Class of 2017 indoors but did not dampen the spirits of the happy seniors and their family and friends. Almost 400 students graduated in the 100th commencement exercise at Scarsdale High School on Friday June 23, 2017. Due to the weather, each student was given two tickets for admission to the gym, with the overflow crowd watching the ceremonies on a large screen in the auditorium. In the end, the rain did not start until well after the ceremony, giving everyone a chance for family photos outside.

The class assembled for the last time for a group picture, DSC01127and SHS Senior Caroline Kaufman was presented with the Henry David Thoreau award for marching to the beat of a different drum. Sabeen Khan explained that the class would mark the centennial by burying a time capsule in the new courtyard to be built at the school. She had collected memorabilia including ten memes from the freshmen class, a Raiders jersey from the sophomores and the New York Times from the juniors. The seniors voted to include an iPhone. The time capsule will be unearthed one hundred years from now in the year 3017.

Lee Maude, who is just completing two years as President of the Scarsdale School Board welcomed the crowd and congratulated parents on the "extraordinary effort that that got (your) kids here today. She told students that they will take the Scarsdale High School experience with them and advised them to work collaboratively, to maintain lifelong relationships with friends, teachers, coaches and mentors and to use what they have learned to "engage in the world as a productive and informed citizen." She asked them to "listen, consider all views and engage in civil conversation" and to live the motto, "Non Sibi." Maude also encouraged the grads to wander off the beaten path, try new subjects, experience the unknowns and "all that life has to offer."

daisClass Treasurers Chloe Suzman and Zach Gelles introduced the class faculty advisor Eileen Cagner and Heather Waters, calling them the "dynamic duo" who led the class with patience and passion.

The advisors' enthusiasm for the class was clear. Waters exclaimed, "You did it, and you did it with style!" They complimented the students on their dance moves, their sense of community and service to others. They advised them to be kind to themselves and to others and to be nice and stay positive. Quoting from Willy Wonka, the senior class play, Cagner said:

"If you want to view paradiseprocessional
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Wanta change the world?
There's nothing to it"

Class President Alex Lane noted the inclusivity of the class, saying, "We found a way to come together. We went beyond our core group of friends and bonded with others." At the prom he noticed, "Crazy inclusivity and togetherness." He said, "I hope that wherever you end up you find a way to feel exactly as I do now. I hope your find a web of special people. I am grateful that you have been part of my web."

SHS Principal Ken Bonamo looked back on Scarsdale history 100 years ago, explaining that women did not have the right to vote, less than a third of adolescents were in school and the word "teenager" had not yet been invented. He told the students that they would be called on to face the next big problems and said that commencement marked "the beginning of the phase when more will be asked of you to make the world a better place." He continued, "All of us gathered here today have the shared hope that you will have a life of intellectual engagement, a life filled with purpose, a life filled with love... Leave a legacy of love... Look at yourselves and love what you see. ... Infuse love in your work, in your relationships and in your self regard. Bonamo parting words were, "I wish you all a wonderful graduation day and health and happiness in the future."

DSC01141With that, Superintendent Thomas Hagerman asked, "Have these seniors met the requirements for high school graduation imposed by the Regents of the State University of New York, the Commissioner of Education and the Board of Education?" He certified them as graduates of Scarsdale High School, bid them to go forth and with that, each students was given his or her diploma.

Watch the ceremony online here:

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Architects Propose Facilities Projects for December Bond Referendum

images(Updated 6-15) How much of the proposed $60mm- $70 million bond will go to the Greenacres Elementary School? At the June 12 meeting of the Board of Education, Superintendent Thomas Hagerman invited newly selected architects BBS to present their findings and recommendations for district-wide upgrades and renovations, including additions to Greenacres. 

Hagerman explained where he thought the funds should go saying, "People feel like there was a promise that was made that all of this money would go to Greenacres and I'm not sure where that came from. Even with KG&D, (the former architects) this issue of life and safety was front and center at all of our board meetings and presentations ... we understand that Greenacres is the priority beyond that. But this is the one time that we have without inflating the annual budget , taxes, or other kinds of things to attend to these issues that really are "musts." We're talking about roofs and boilers; code issues. These are things that we simply cannot walk by at this moment." He continued, "While Greenacres is a major priority, it is important to look at this across the entire district" stated Hagerman, "What we are compelled to do as the school district, the stewards of both the buildings and the budgets and all of those things, is that we have to attend to this work, especially the safety and code work, at this time, along with Greenacres. It is just an absolute must."

As to why he decided to dismiss former architects KG&D, Hagerman explained that much of the concern about Greenacres came from a study that KG&D did that found that Greenacres had 25% less square footage per student than the other schools, a study which the board stated came from old building plans rather than actual measurements. When BBS took measurements of Greenacres, they did not find the situation to be nearly as critical. To those who complained that the administration instructed the architects not to pursue plans for a new building, Hagerman insisted that BBS did an independent evaluation of the hundred year-old school and found Greenacres to be "as sound as other buildings" and suitable for renovation, saying, "The district has never given any direction in terms of a renovation or a new building."

He turned over the floor to BBS who then provided details of the top priority items for each building in the district, explaining that ventilation, security systems and ADA compliance and accessibility were issues at almost all the schools. In addition, they recommended routine maintenance and repair of items such as piping, electrical systems, and roofs. In total they identified $101 million in projects including $45 million in facilities needs and another $56 million in spatial needs. The administration and Board of Education will need to decide what projects should be included in the bond and what can be funded from the general operating budget in upcoming years.

One of the administration's goals appears to be equity among all the elementary school facilities, so the proposal includes the addition of cafeterias, storage space, maker spaces and music rooms to provide each school with equivalent facilities. The plan is to build cafeterias at Edgewood, Fox Meadow, Greenacres and Heathcote Schools. The cost for new construction at the four elementary schools – not including Greenacres – is $4.9 million at Edgewood, $6 million at Fox Meadow. $6.6 million at Fox Meadow and $1.5 million at Quaker Ridge. Additional funds would be spent in each school to upgrade classrooms, hallways, bathrooms and more. The architects had originally proposed the addition of a large cafeteria/learning commons at the middle school but that is now on hold after discussions with the stakeholders.

At Greenacres, the architects are proposing $6.3 million in facilities work to the existing school and $23.3 million in new construction costs. The two additions would add 15,000 square feet to the building, with a one-story addition on Putnam Road and a two-story addition on Huntington Avenue. The proposed site diagram shows that a raised crosswalk would extend across Huntington Avenue from the school to the field. The existing blacktop would be used for 20-25 parking spaces.

Traffic site plans have not been worked out as yet. Early in the meeting Dr. Hagerman said that parking and traffic were not the architects' issues but later at the meeting Roger Smith from BBS said that a traffic plan would be included.

Responding to concerns that the site was too small for further additions, Smith said that he had discussed the project with his contact at the State Education Department and believes this is a "doable" project. Smith said the work schedule would be up to the construction management firm, but estimated that it would span three summers. He believed the internal renovations could be done during the summers with construction of the additions during the school year.

The architects' presentation also included a preliminary estimate for the cost of a new school. The estimate shows that a new 74,000 square foot school at $500 a square foot would be $37 mm in "raw cost" and $52 mm in "project cost." It does not provide any details on the $15 million difference between raw and project cost in the estimate. It also adds another $7.1 million to demolish the old building and do site work to create filed, playgrounds and parking on the former site of the school for a total project cost of $59mm. To date, no detailed estimate for a new school that includes financing and energy savings have been provided. Many have asked the district to produce a detailed comparison of the long-term costs to repair and maintain the old school versus the expense to build a new school.

The members of the Board of Education were polled on the issue of tax neutrality .... Would they support a bond that exceeded $60 or $70 million to address more of the identified needs?

The consensus among the members was cautiously positive overall, with a sentiment that if the additional debt would further the community's mission they would consider taking on additional debt. Here are excerpts from their statements:

Art Rublin: I prefer that we not be locked into a bond that simply replaces existing debt service. These projects are good investments. I would like to know the numbers on an annual basis. Even if we pass a tax neutral bond, the budgets for the next 3-4 years will be high to meet all our needs.

Scott Silberfein: I would like to hear more public comment on that. I think we need to have more discussion about learning commons and food service at the four elementary schools. In principal if there is a justifiable reason I am not against going over it.

Bill Natbony: I need more debt service numbers. It depends how much we are talking about. I don't want to be locked into a number – but I have heard from people who are concerned about their taxes and we have heard from a fair number of people who support investing in education.

Nina Cannon: In general I would prefer tax neutrality but if a $70-$80 million bond embraces what we are trying to do as a whole I would consider a non tax-neutral bond.

Chris Morin: A tax neutral bond is somewhat like the tax cap as a boundary – but the scope of what we are trying to do is even more important. We should not let the big numbers be more scary than they should be. $20 million of extra spending would be a 1% tax increase – but it is well within what we do every year. The value of the projects and its impact is what we should consider.

Lee Maude: My taxes went up 9% for two years in a row when I moved here. I have always been afraid that if taxes go up too much, empty nesters will leave and we will have crowded schools. I am still trying to get my head around the bump outs at Fox Meadow and Edgewood. What do we need vs. what do we want? The food service idea is new – Greenacres is our priority ... it does not have enough bathrooms. I want to be sure that Greenacres gets the school that they really need.

Assistant Superintendent Mattey said that the administration will retain a financial advisor to do the analyses requested by the board, including financing options for renovations and new construction and to provide numbers on the impact of varying levels of debt service on tax rates.  It is unclear about when these analyses will be provided

At the end of the meeting, the board presented a schedule that will lead to a bond referendum in December. Two public forums will be held in on Tuesday June 20 from9 to 11am and 7 to 9 pmfor residents to ask further questions to the architects. You can watch the meeting online here

Here is a list of the larger projects proposed for the elementary schools – besides Greenacres:

Edgewood: A learning commons, a kitchen, new instrumental music and chorus rooms, added storage.

Fox Meadow: A learning commons and kitchen with storage and bathrooms.

Heathcote: A new dining commons and kitchen with storage, expansion of offices, new maker space, new main vestibule.

Quaker Ridge, Interior and space redesign of lower level rooms, creation of a maker space, entry vestibule and storage.

Proposal for the middle school and high school are in redevelopment after community feedback.

Facilities upgrades were rated on a range of one to five, reflecting their priority. Here are the top five most expensive projects recommended for each elementary school and their priority:

1A Replace Abandoned Forced Air Systems (2) $2,500,000
3 Replace Boilers and Burners $400,000
2 Replace Roofing $377,076
3 Utility Transformer Enclosure $300,000
2 CCTV Cameras $225,000

Fox Meadow:
3&1A Improved Ventilation $2,500,000
2 Replace Boilers and Burners $400,000
2 CCTV Cameras $225,000)
1A H&V Unit Repair and Replacement $200,000
3 Replace Old Panelboards $150,000

Classroom Unit Ventilators $1,200,000
3 Athletic Field Work $1,000,000 (note this work is due to the construction)
3 Replace Roofing $568,000
2 Replace Boilers and Burners $400,000
3 Roof Insulation $343,000

3 Replace Roofing $2,412,384
3&1B Provide Air Handling Unit for Gym $450,000
2 Replace Boilers and Burners $400,000
2 CCTV Cameras $225,000
3 Old Panelboards $200,000

Quaker Ridge:
1B Provide Fresh Air for 15 Classrooms $715,000
3 Replace Roofing $660,812
2 Replace Old Steam UV's $360,000
2 CCTV Cameras $225,000
3 Replace Old Panelboards $150,000

School Board VP Bill Natbony Urges the Community to Reach Consensus

GreenacresAerialViesThe Scarsdale School District held a public forum on facilities planning on the morning of Tuesday June 20th. Bill Natbony, School Board Vice President, made the following comments at the opening of the session:

Before we begin this forum, I wanted to add a few additional comments on behalf of the Board. We appreciate your attendance and look forward to continuing to listen as our facilities review process continues.

The community and the Board continue to receive and review large amounts of data and analyses. The Board has asked that additional analyses take place regarding longer term cost comparisons of a new school vs. renovation, how to address construction in terms of where the students will be, and concerning traffic and drop off/pick up issues. These analyses are underway.

This Board prides itself in listening to community viewpoints as an important process of exercising its fiduciary and educational responsibilities. As such, you should assume correctly that if you have written the Board, your comments have been heard. In addition, while we took a pause, re-grouped with new architects and are considering new proposals, the Board is fully aware of past comments. We understand there are those who want to preserve the Green in a Greenacres. We understand there are those who believe a new Greenacres building is the better option both financially and educationally. We understand there are those that believe renovation is appropriate and financially prudent. We understand that any construction project must address the interim educational and safety issues as relate to our children. We understand that any renovation or new construction needs to be done safely. We have heard about the issues regarding traffic and drop off and pick up. We understand the need for a more detailed understanding of long term cost comparisons. We have heard your comments at numerous prior public hearings and meetings and through your previous letters and emails. These are not lost on us and are appreciated.

Each of you is welcome and entitled to your time to address questions to BBS today and to address the Board whether here or at our regular public meetings. We would, however, urge you to recognize that this Board has been listening for many months and is familiar with the comment history. We are and have been listening. We will listen to everything you have to say, and will read everything you send us, irrespective of whether we have heard it before. We do value your input. I would note, however, that what might be particularly helpful to the Board and BBS would be comments or thoughts that are new. Thank you for coming.

Finally, I feel the need to comment on what I personally continue to perceive as an "us" versus "them" philosophy within the community -- the "us" and "them" being those in favor of a new school versus these in favor of substantial renovation. As Board members, we have been elected to serve our entire community. To us there is no "us" and "them". We need to reach determinations that are fiscally and educationally prudent for our community as a whole. That's what we intend to do. The Greenacres determinations, however, are not binary in nature. At least to me, if the Board ultimately decides to build a new school, and the community does not support that decision, that does not automatically mean that a $20 million or $30 million renovation is prudent. Similarly, if the Board ultimately decides on a substantial renovation and the community does not support it, that does not necessarily mean that Greenacres will get a new school. The Board will gather the data believed necessary for its determinations and ultimately decide on various facilities issues, including the future of Greenacres, in a manner that recognizes its responsibilities to all of our students, staff and community members. On behalf of the Board, we urge our community, through the public forums scheduled, and through other forms of public comment, to engage in reasoned and respectful dialogue with the Board, Administration and BBS and ultimately come together, if possible, to support the Board's ultimate determinations that you have entrusted to us, whatever they may ultimately be. We strongly urge the community to stay informed through the detailed information contained on our website, including copies of the various presentations and handouts, and by subscribing to receive emails from the School District through our website.

Together we can continue to make great things happen in Greenacres and in our District as a whole.

Thank you.

Scarsdale Values Excellence and Innovation

sustainableschoolAs the community struggles to come to consensus on the future of Scarsdale's school facilities, perhaps it would be helpful to remind ourselves of our shared values and frame the decision around these tenets. If we can agree on what we value most, we can evaluate our options and agree to a course that aligns with this vision.

As a 27-year resident of Scarsdale (with no children in the schools) here are the values that I believe we share:

Excellence in Education: Scarsdale's brand is our first rate school district. That's what draws the vast majority of people from all over the country and the world to town. They want the best in public education for their children and believe in the lifetime value of a Scarsdale education. Year after year students have record admittance rates to the most selective colleges and universities where they use their critical thinking skills to launch them into interesting and challenging careers.

Innovation: Scarsdale has a history of innovation in education at all levels. A few examples include:

The implementation of the Singapore Math program that has proven to be an effective way to teach math to elementary school students. Educators from all over the world have visited the district to see it in action.

The unique four-house system at Scarsdale Middle School, that provides tweens with the benefit of a small-school experience within a larger environment. It allows for stronger relationships between teachers and students, a more intimate and individualized learning experience and promotes a feeling of belonging at a time in life when some can feel alienated.

At the high school the Civ Ed program again provides entering freshmen with a community during their introduction to high school. The world language exchange programs and music trips give students the chance to meet students from faraway places. The new STEAM curriculum introduces students to coding, design thinking and engineering, before they will encounter these subjects in college.

District wide, the Center for Innovation incubates and fosters the development of new programs at all levels by awarding grants for research to faculty members.

Helping each child to achieve his or her personal best: Another value is providing each child with the opportunity to learn and grow in line with his or her own development. Our special education program allows many to be mainstreamed into regular classrooms while receiving extra support. At the high school, there are courses to accommodate all kinds of learners – from AT to skills classes and everything in between.

Collaboration: The District has a history of collaborative decision-making, calling on parents, teachers, community residents, board members and school administrators to work together to identify issues, analyze options and set priorities. Through the use of committees, task forces and public forums, issues are discussed, views are exchanged and eventually the community comes to consensus on the best course of action.

Non-Sibi, meaning "Not for Oneself Alone" continues to be the district's motto. Paramount is the district's goal to educate students to make a positive contribution to society and to serve others.

What does all of the above have to do with our facilities? Everything!

In order to continue our tradition of excellence school facilities should provide an ideal environment for learning, meeting current building and safety code and conforming to model program requirements as outlined by the state education department.

To continue to be leaders in innovation, the district should provide facilities that enable flexibility and inspire creativity. Current educational design thinking emphasizes the importance of light-filled rooms that bring the outside in, flexible spaces for both small and large group exercises, design labs and maker spaces, multi-purpose ergonomic furniture, ample space for recreation and imaginative play along with fresh air, safe water, accessibility and ease of entrance and exit to school buildings.

The district can do more than teach design thinking – we can live it by building sustainable facilities for the future, that utilize energy-saving systems like solar power and geothermal heating and cooling. These green buildings will demonstrate to students what it means to be an environmentally responsible citizen and safeguard resources and save money down the line.

In terms of collaboration and Non-Sibi, the community can come together and agree to do what's best for the children who are here now and those who will move here in the decades to come. That means providing them with a safe environment that enhances learning and will endure for the next 50-100 years.

We cannot risk their health by exposing them to a lengthy renovation of a one hundred year old building that could pose environmental dangers and will disrupt learning at a critical time in their lives. We must put the needs of young families before a shrinking group of self-interested homeowners who are concerned about a school in their backyards. These folks have tied the community in knots and shown that they can't see the forest for the trees. A green Greenacres School would be a boon to their home values as well as those of everyone else.

Scarsdale now has its chance to maintain its stellar reputation and set new standards for excellence. The funding is available and the community has demonstrated time and time again that they support progress, innovation and first-rate schools. All we need now is the commitment of the school board and administration to lead us into a bright future.