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District Opens Revised Bids for Approved Construction Projects for the Scarsdale Schools

sealedbidOn Tuesday morning October 25 the Scarsdale School Board and administration opened the much-awaited set of revised bids for a series of new construction and renovation projects approved by voters in December 2014 and originally estimated to cost $18.1 mm. When the initial bids were received in the spring of 2016, administrators rejected them as they were as high as 30% above the estimate. This summer Stuart Mattey, Assistant Superintendent for Business Stuart Mattey repackaged and regrouped the work and requested new estimates, which came in high, but closer to the targeted numbers.

The array of information the group reviewed and considered was formidable, so afterwards I asked Assistant Superintendent for Business Stuart Mattey to bring me up to speed on the bids received and the decision-making process underway.
(The following is lightly edited for clarity and length.)

Here are questions and answers from Stuart Mattey:

In the new set of bids received, can you share what the numbers were, and how they compare to the previous bids?

For this bid cycle we broke the projects up into three separate base bids along with nine different bid alternates that could be accepted if funding allows. Bid One included the Edgewood, Heathcote and Scarsdale Middle School projects, Bid Two was Scarsdale High School only and Bid Three was all four buildings. For each project there were four separate prime contracts that bids were accepted for: General, Plumbing, Mechanical and Electrical. The breakout of the bids also allows for a mix and match of low bidders for bid one and bid two if the District decides to proceed with work at all schools. The timing of this bid was ideal for contractors and their participation was evidence of this as the District received numerous bids for each contract. It is the feeling of the District and its consultants that the bids received will be best that we will see on these projects. Having said that, base bids (without alternates) still came in higher than original construction budgets called for. Bid one (the three schools) came in about 35% higher, Bid two (SHS) about 15% higher and the All Schools options came in at about 14% higher or about $1.75 million. The previous bids that were received in the spring were over $2 MM more than these bids and had very poor participation.

My impression was that the current bids would allow work to begin on the planned timeframe as long as the Scarsdale Foundation is able to step up to cover the Design Lab and Fitness Center. Do I have that right?

The Design Lab and the Fitness Center were bid as alternates and can be completed on the planned timeframe if funding is in place. The other base bid projects are not dependent on these alternates and could proceed with or without Foundation funding in place.

I also understood that there are questions pending about how the money would need to be transferred from the Foundation in order for the District to sign a contract allowing those portions to go forward.

Funds for the construction bids related to the Design Lab and Fitness Center must be in place in order for those alternates to be accepted by the Board.

Can you clarify which portions of the planned work are considered the "alternates"?

The nine alternates are: Edgewood Resource Room, Heathcote Multi-Purpose Room HVAC, Middle School band HVAC, Middle School music room, Middle School orchestra ceiling, High School greenhouse, High School auditorium, High School design lab, and the High School fitness center.

Are they in fact to be included in the work going forward, or possibly done by in-house workers instead?

Any or all alternates could be accepted, however, at the Board meeting I think you heard that the Middle School - Music Room, Design Lab and Fitness Center are the priorities and they all are funded outside of the bond authorization and therefore wouldn't impact the bond budget. Alternates not completed as part of this bond project could be completed in the future as part of regular budget plant improvement projects or included in future bond work.

I believe the target date November 14th was given as the day the Board would formally go ahead and accept bids, and that they would be parceled out to different sources. Is that an accurate recap of the current thinking?

Any decision to move ahead would happen no later than November 14th. If the Board decides to move ahead with work, the number of contracts awarded would depend on which projects receive the go ahead.

Looking Forward:

If the bids are indeed about $2 million higher than the bond approved by voters,
perhaps the board will consider using monies from the general fund to finance the shortfall. At the end of the 2015-16 school year, there was a surplus of funds in the budget so perhaps that can be used to supplement the construction budget.

Many residents, especially those in Greenacres, may be eager to know whether the projects discussed Tuesday morning have any implications for the Greenacres School question. While Greenacres was never at any time considered a part of this work currently being bid, it was nonetheless illuminating to hear both Mr. Mattey and Superintendent Thomas Hagerman express dissatisfaction with various aspects of the relationship with KG&D, the architecture firm primarily concerned with allof the construction projects to date. Both identified concerns about errors, communication issues, and responsiveness. School Board Member Pam Fuehrer noted, "They were so off on their costs." Fellow Board Member Art Rublin suggested, "It would be a good idea to use independent estimators to verify numbers in the future," and Mr. Mattey agreed. Superintendent Hagerman summed up his view, saying "We need someone who understands how all projects fit into our larger plan.... We need to feel we are a priority." Board President Lee Maude brought the discussion back to the responsibility of the Board to the voting community: "We need to make sure we deliver on what voters approved."

So perhaps the future of Greenacres School will be guided by a fresh concept in due course? In any case, it seems that Scarsdale residents can look forward to the approved renovations beginning soon throughout the District.

From Scarsdale BOE: Greenacres and the World Language Survey

globeThe future of both Greenacres School and the World Language program were once again key topics at the School Board meeting which took place this past Monday evening.

Superintendent Dr. Hagerman alerted the community to expect his second "Facilities Update" email, which was in fact released later Monday evening. The full text of that email is re-printed below. This is one piece of the overall communication plan which has been recently developed to provide accurate information to the community regarding the status of Greenacres as well as the district-wide Facilities Plan. Additionally, Dr. Hagerman's email provides a link to a complete archive of all materials that have been generated throughout the Greenacres process.

Is this communication plan reaching throughout the community as intended? Robert McFarlane of 1247 Post Road, a 16 year resident and empty nester, had this to say on behalf of himself and his wife Carmella: "I don't know what others are experiencing...we sent one written communication to the board (on the subject of Greenacres) and received two responses of thanks for our comment, several weeks apart. So we must be in the email records. Yet we received nothing telling us where to look for further information, and no information has been sent to us. In our opinion, the communications we have received from outside the Board and many of the comments at public comment meetings have been highly prejudicial on one side or another, and at the moment we feel we have no solid or reliable information on which to really form an opinion."

Wendy Shi of 198 Brewster Road received the latest update, but points out that although the increased community outreach is welcome, the future of Greenacres School should be "a decision about what's best for children present and future" rather than which plan is the most popular. Similarly, Katharine Miao of 51 Walworth Avenue favors more decisive action: "I wish there had been more of a consensus but the board needs to make a decision one way or another."

Paulina Schwartz offered this comment on the email Dr. Hagerman sent out this week. She said, "To say that the space issues at Greenacres are minor is understating the degree of the problem. Note that the Greenacres Feasibility Study included the following five facts:

-The model program is used as a benchmark for the design options that were explored as well as a basis for comparison to other schools in the District. Perhaps the most meaningful statistic to emerge from this comparison is the amount of net usable square footage per student:

-Greenacres Existing: 78 square feet of net usable square feet per student
Average: Edgewood, Fox Meadow, Heathcote and Quaker Ridge: 105 square feet of net usable square feet per student

-Greenacres has 26% less overall useable net square footage per student than the average of the four elementary schools.

-Scarsdale's other four elementary schools have larger classrooms than exist at Greenacres in all categories.

-This highlights one the major issues with the Greenacres building - there is not adequate space for the full student program. Perhaps the most serious manifestation of this issue is the size of the core instructional classrooms themselves.

A further question is how the current decision-making process and timeline is perceived outside the Scarsdale community. Discussion around the neighborhood turns up stories of residents who know city families contemplating a Scarsdale move who have crossed Greenacres off their list due to the uncertainty surrounding the school.

However, Meredith Gantcher of 164 Brewster Road sees the current pause for assessment and communication as highly valuable to the community and its reputation: "The latest update is a meaningful attempt by the Board to fulfill Dr. Hagerman's charge that the Board of Education must codify and disseminate the information gathered over the last two years by the GA Building committees and the Board while studying the current conditions and needs of the GA School....It's clear that Dr. Hagerman and the Board are making it a priority to dispel damaging myths and rumors that have circulated in the community that have grossly exaggerated problems at Greenacres and needlessly harm the reputation of the entire district. It's clear that Dr. Hagerman is making every effort to inject objectivity and fact-based analysis into the Greenacres discussion...."

Dr. Hagerman also announced an additional element of his communication plan which is to engage survey company Unicom Arc to poll residents on their views. He said, "It's a little more expensive than we had hoped initially so we're probably going to have to pare down from three surveys to something less than that, but we look forward to getting out and engaging the community in that way."

World Language

An already completed survey formed the core of Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Lynn Shain's update on World Language. Ms. Shain reported that since the survey closed on October 13 they have been evaluating the results. In something of a surprise, given the attention the issue has received of late, the survey received only a 32% response rate (856 families responding out of a potential 2,707.) In Ms. Shain's words: "Many said that they would not want to add a new language to elementary, middle, or high school programs. That is a significant piece of the pie here and we have to do some more analysis of all of this data."

Current 5th grade parents throughout Scarsdale should note the timeline for 6th grade World Language registration has been pushed back to allow further survey analysis. The first parent meeting was originally to take place on November 15. That will be rescheduled and a new timeline will be forthcoming. November 28 is set as the date when Ms. Shain will present all World Language data results to the Board.

As one of the founding members of the Mandarin in Middle School Initiative Team and Co-Chair of the Education Committee of the Scarsdale Forum, Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez offered her reaction to the survey's initial findings: "I am very grateful the Scarsdale School Administration created a language survey; it is important to get the response of the community. If the Administration is disappointed that more parents did not respond, I'm not sure that 32% should be considered a low response rate as it's above normal email survey response levels. The Administration should consider carefully how to encourage parents to answer surveys? Instead of concluding people don't want additional languages, perhaps reconsider the method of survey distribution and design. Perhaps by having the surveys distributed through class parents, for example, they would get more attention. Additionally, perhaps make it clear why the survey matters: what action is expected to be taken based on survey results."

Comments

When the Board invited comments from those present on Monday evening, Leanne Freda, PT Council President, stepped forward with warm thanks to the Board in observance of the Governor's proclaimed School Board Recognition week. Addressing those gathered, Ms. Freda noted, "They work extraordinarily long hours in service of out community to ensure that our schools remain on the cutting edge and deliver an excellent education....Throughout the many challenges facing our community they have remained calm, respectful and professional." Accompanied by applause from the room, she concluded: "On behalf of the Scarsdale PT Council, we express our sincere gratitude for your service, commitment and contribution to the students and families of Scarsdale."

Next, Dan Hochvert spoke as a Member of the Board of Friends of Scarsdale Parks, bringing positive news about the improvements made in the former Harwood Park area surrounding the brook between the high school gravel parking lot and the library. He describes its previous state as "terribly neglected...a snow and garbage dump." Yet through volunteers' efforts over the last 2 1/2 years invasive plants have been removed and 600 native plants restored to the area. As a result a mother and baby deer have been observed enjoying the habitat, and students have been observed enjoying a beautiful new pathway to the library.

Switching hats to his role as Co-Chair of the Scarsdale Forum Education Committee, Mr. Hochvert announced the completion of the Committee's draft report on Greenacres which they hope will be useful to the Board and serve to "narrow the gap between the B1's and the C1's."

(Here is the text of an email sent out by the Scarsdale Schools on Monday October 17th)

What is the current condition of the Greenacres School?
At the time that the District's successful 2014 bond was first being considered, the architectural firm KG&D conducted a feasibility study of Greenacres.

KG&D began by giving Greenacres a survey of the entire structure from foundation to roof, and determined that the building had been well-maintained. Careful maintenance has extended the "useful life" (parameters set by experts in the field) of various components of the building, such as the slate roof, windows, and mechanical systems.

Next, a checklist was reviewed of building code compliance issues and expectations, including:

Classroom square footage
Ventilation and air quality
Fire safety
Toilet facilities and plumbing
ADA accessibility (including door widths, obstructions, counter heights, etc.)
Energy efficiency

Although the overall building was determined to be sound, the review did reveal some problematic areas, particularly in light of our goal to provide a 21st century educational environment for our students. One of the issues is the small size of classrooms. Teaching approaches have changed significantly in the last 100 years; for example, classroom desks are no longer set up in rows but in clusters; extra room is needed for science and other projects and use of technology; and special needs inclusion practice requires adequate space for children and their aides.

Moreover, the building has been divided and subdivided over time to accommodate changing programmatic and student needs. Computer labs, student service offices, Maker Spaces and the like are all staples of today's education; however, these additions have resulted in a reduction in traditional classroom space.

Greenacres Feasibility Study Archives

Why weren't these conditions addressed in the 2014 bond?

The original Greenacres Building Committee was convened during the course of Districtwide planning for the December 2014 Bond Referendum. At that time, the Committee reviewed the feasibility study and concluded that the scope of work was too great to be addressed within parameters of the 2014 bond. The Committee recommended that the future of Greenacres would require further study and should be addressed in a future bond.

Is overcrowding at Greenacres an issue?
Although some classrooms are smaller than those at the other elementary schools in Scarsdale, Greenacres students are satisfactorily accommodated. There have been reports that students are forced to sit on the floor due to lack of classroom space for desks/tables and chairs; however, this is not true. It's possible that this misconception arose from individuals seeing or hearing about students sitting on the floor (usually on special rugs), which is a normal part of the school day for younger grades throughout the District. This technique has been found to help focus student attention and, in many cases, allows students to access Smartboards and other technology.

What about moisture or mold in the building?
A major challenge facing Greenacres is moisture. The dirt crawl spaces and basement underneath the building generate significant humidity, which is controlled through the constant use of dehumidifiers. Without this continuous monitoring and mitigating, this moisture could result in serious issues affecting air quality, structural integrity, and maintenance.

It should be noted that repeated testing by both District staff and outside consultants has shown that there is no significant mold problem at this time. Concerns about mold throughout the District are addressed with inspections from outside experts.

To learn more about Scarsdale's facilities, bond updates, and Greenacres information, please visit our Facilities website pages here.

Students Look Beyond Scarsdale at Global Citizenship Day

karaSHS students were treated to an eye-opening day of presentations from visitors, teachers and peers at Fourth Annual Global Citizenship Day on September 28. It seemed as if the entire school was involved in over 40 sessions held throughout the day that addressed far-reaching issues such as global resources, refugees, ethics, education, criminal justice and the upcoming election.

Sessions were lead by special guests, returning alumni, the SHS faculty and students and offered food for thought and inspiration.

I was fortunate to attend three sessions – all of which were moving and resonated with me in the following days.

Kara Hunersen, a 2010 graduate of SHS shared her experiences during her five months as a volunteer in Morocco with the Amal Association for Culinary Art in Marrakesh that runs the Amal Restaurant and Women's Training Center. There, the association helps disenfranchised young woman, some who were victims of rape or slavery, to learn skills to assist them on the road to economic independence. The group now runs one of Marrakech's leading restaurants and offers cooking classes for tourists – all of which support the organization. The women learn cooking, reading, business and life skills to help them launch their own businesses or work for another enterprise and become self-supporting.

It was an eye opening experience for Kara who translated, helped to teach the cooking classes and learned how to live in and navigate Marrakech. She came to appreciate the generosity of the Moroccan people and to appreciate the virtues of patience, respect, trust and perseverance. As she was only a few years older than many of the students in the audience at SHS, she surely motivated some to follow their own dreams and see how they could make a difference in a troubled world.

Next I heard the heart warming story of a angelsgroup of firefighters from Elizabeth New Jersey who were moved by their experiences as first responders at the World Trade Center on 9/11 to pay it forward to victims of other national tragedies. Founder of the Where Angels Play Foundation, Bill Lavin explained that the group's first work was to help families in Bay St. Louis Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina by building the state's first handicapped-accessible playground after the hurricane.

Seven years later when 20 children and 6 educators were killed in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT the group went to work on a much larger scale. They founded the Sandy Ground Project with the mission of building 26 playgrounds, one for each of the victims to be built in communities destroyed by the hurricane.

In just 18 months they raised $3 million and constructed 26 playgrounds in three states, each reflecting the personality of the teacher or child who died in the school shooting.

Speaking about the playground dedicated to her daughter Catherine Hubbard who died at the school, Jenny Hubbard said, "This is where we can learn to be happy again."

moskinLast I was privileged to see World War II veteran Alan Moskin, who now at age 90 is more than four times the age of many of the students who packed the auditorium to listen to Moskin's eye witness account of the liberation of a concentration camp in Austria in 1945. He described the stench, the starvation and the shock of coming upon a barbed wire compound in the forest filled with "human skeletons and emaciated zombies in filthy striped pajamas, "who were chanting prayers." He handed them cigarettes and they tried to eat the tobacco and choked. He cried when he realized that like him, they were Jews. Moskin told the room that his outfit of soldiers had no idea that camps like this existed and were overwhelmed by the horrific scene they encountered.

According to Moskin, this camp was one of 30,000 death and labor camps spread throughout Europe. The experience has a left a permanent mark on him and he continues to speak out in order to "bear witness for the poor souls that were murdered." To the deniers he says, "There was a holocaust. This is not a myth. Those who choose to forget are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past."

The ambitious day of events was organized by Social Studies teachers Heather Waters, Carlos Bedoya and Fallon Plunkett. Commenting on the day, Waters said, "As organizers we are most proud of how much it grows each year. The kids were most moved by the survivors and the WW2 vet and we, as history teachers, felt lucky to be able to bring history alive for them. We were able to record the presentations as several speakers are nearing 90. Students were also moved by the many individuals who have been moved to act and make their communities better like Where Angels Play. They also felt fulfilled being able to do something themselves through making the lunches for the Hope Soup Kitchen."

SHS Students to Examine the Refugee Crisis During Exchange Trip to Heidelberg

heidelbergSix Scarsdale High School students will travel to Heidelberg, Germany, to team up with six students from the Elisabeth von Thadden Schule in February 2017. Together, the German and American students will examine issues surrounding refugees in the past and present and develop ways to contribute positively to the effort to reduce the painful effects of relocation.

The exchange program is offered by the SHS Social Studies Department and led by Maggie Favretti, with the goal of bringing young people together to strategize about an important humanitarian issue.

The program has a unique historical context because during World WarII, the founder of the Heidelberg school refused to follow the Nazi program and was executed at Ravensbruck. After the war, the school was reopened in her name in the interest of humanitarian principles. By 1950, the school held a semester-long exchange with Israel (which they still do), and have since added several other exchanges to examine key social issues.

heidelbergstudents

Since Heidelberg is not only a spectacularly beautiful intact medieval city in a lovely and historic region but is also the center for refugee resettlement in southern Germany, it is a perfect place to visit and stay. Students on last year's exchange met a young Iraqi refugee who attends the school and this year, students will meet his brother, too. Their story compelled Scarsdale students to want to do much more. They furthered their efforts by conferring with Holocaust survivors and refugees from the USSR, visiting a synagogue and a mosque, and visiting with people who are in charge of humanitarian outreach in the resettlement camp in the old US Army base.

They also travelled to historic cities, such as Speyer, home of the Shapiro (originally same word) family who now has descendants in Scarsdale. Following the trip, Scarsdale students will host their German friends in mid-March. Last year they toured New York City, met with humanitarian leaders in Bay Ridge, spoke with Holocaust refugees, visited a Harlem neighborhood and met with jazz drummer Phil Young for an "up-close and personal tour."

Together the two groups of students created Students for Refugees, a bi-continental club dedicated to helping to inform young people about the refugee crisis and effective ways to offer direct and indirect help. This year, the club is adding to its membership, and its repertoire of activities. The information meeting about the 2017 Germany/Heidelberg Exchange is Wednesday October 19th, 7th period in room 2N5. For more information, email Maggie Favretti at mfavretti@scarsdaleschools.org.
heidelberg2

Board Reviews Plans for Scarsdale Education for Tomorrow: Residents Continue to Call for Additional Language Instruction

tomorrowOn Monday evening 9/26 the Scarsdale School Board heard from the Administration about an array of initiatives getting under way this school year, culminating with the highlight of the evening, the Education Report. Entitled "Scarsdale Education for Tomorrow Report: The Road Ahead," it was presented by Superintendent Dr. Hagerman along with Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Lynn Shain and Director of Instructional Technology Jerry Crisci.

Dr. Hagerman announced that there would be several other similar presentations throughout the year which will be announced to the community in advance. He said, "We want to continually point out that we're here about teaching and learning and about students, and this is one way that we feature that and keep that at the forefront of our decision-making."

The Report contained a wealth of detail about the thinking that has taken place in multiple phases since 2009 to arrive at the most up-to-date educational plan that makes up SET 2.0 (Scarsdale Education for Tomorrow). A brief overview can be found here, and the full presentation is available for viewing on-demand on the Board of Education webpage.

Ms. Shain and Mr. Crisci outlined how SET 2.0 maintains the foundation of Scarsdale educational ideals such as "Non Sibi" and "A Classical Education Taught in the Progressive Tradition" and builds on it with a new emphasis on active learning. Active learning is being promoted through areas such as STEAM, Making, Design Thinking, and various collaborative projects. In the classroom, parents may see this taking place through 5th grade Capstone, the high school's City 2.0 class, online publishing, and many other classes and activities. Additionally, these goals are supported by the extensive new K-12 STEAM curriculum and the latest Scarsdale Teachers Institute courses for faculty. (Those who would like to review the new STEAM curriculum will find as link on the main District homepage.)

The very newest part of SET 2.0 to be implemented is a turn toward exploring Global Connections in the classroom in both large and small ways. This is a clear outgrowth of the Scarsdale-initiated GLA (Global Learning Alliance) which brings together educators from high-performing districts around the world, most recently with its 3rd Summit this past August. From the U.S., Columbia Teachers College and Edgemont School District joined with Scarsdale in traveling to Singapore, where select schools from Australia, Denmark, Hong Kong, Sweden, China, and Finland were also welcomed as partners.

Lynn Shain said that the GLA Summit exceeded all expectations of the power of coming together and sharing ideas across borders. Similarly, Dr. Hagerman reported that his first attendance at the Summit was incredibly enlightening both culturally and educationally. One immediate result is that Scarsdale, with Scarsdale students, is working with Singapore's National Institute of Education and the Hwa Chong Institution on an ongoing research project. This project studies intercultural collaborative problem-solving and the seeks the best ways to teach students positive communication strategies that move such collaboration forward.

At the conclusion of the Education Report, each Board member expressed thanks for the huge amount of work it represented, and followed up with questions to clarify their understanding. School Board member Chris Morin made a particularly pertinent observation: "The two biggest sets of decisions we have to make this year are probably about the language program and brick and mortar issues and those are both heavily implicit in both your observations about what you've learned there and what other people are thinking about around the world."

Student Reports:

In other news from the meeting, a key event fast-approaching for District parents is the release of the Individual Student Reports from the spring 2016 state testing, set to arrive through the Parent Portal on October 5. Ms. Shain walked the Board and meeting attendees carefully through the new reports' format. This format was sought by the state PTA, however it may surprise or confuse those accustomed to the previous layout. Although the new format has the benefit of being larger and easier to read, it will also include a percentile giving a comparison of each student to other students, first within the District and then within New York State. Ms. Shain emphasized that Scarsdale itself does not rank students even in the high school graduating class since in a high-performing district like Scarsdale this kind of rank-ordering is misleading. Students who do very well on the state tests may nonetheless find that their percentile within the District is not what they would expect given their performance. However, as the point of the test is to measure their proficiency against a set of standards and not their relative rank, parents and students should focus on the main result and not on these new, prominently displayed percentiles.

Scarsdale TagBoard:

Another item of immediate interest is the launch of the new Scarsdale TagBoard, announced by Jerry Crisci. A TagBoard displays aggregated social media posts and will give our community a deeper look at daily activity in all of the Scarsdale schools. Ms. Crisci encourages the community to check it frequently as the display is constantly changing. Click here and bookmark it: You might see what your child is up to today!

Comments on World Language:globe

During the two public comment periods provided, the World Language program seemed to be the topic of the day.

Coming to the microphone first, Julie Zhu of 11 Harcourt Road first thanked the District for reopening the World Language question, and then had two main suggestions regarding World Language. First she urged the District to "offer beginning level Mandarin to next year's 7th graders (current 6th grade students)" in order to increase opportunity and also meet enrollment targets. Her second suggestion: "Consider Croton School District's approach to introducing language instruction for next year's grade 5 students. As described at a Board Meeting last year by Mrs. Harriet Sobol, 5th grade students in Croton spend 1/3 of the year getting acquainted with Spanish, 1/3 with French, and 1/3 with Mandarin which allows them to make a much more thorough, informed choice of language for 6th grade."

From Heather Kolb of 5 Wheelock Road: "I want to second what Ms. Zhu said; I also want to thank you for bringing... the World Language Committee back. I'm hoping we can get updates about how you're researching, what you are researching and what kind of steps you want to take and how you came to those decisions. I would also urge if it was possible to put some parents qua parents on the committee, I think that would be really helpful – parents of school age children...My son's a 5th grader and he does want to sign up for Mandarin if it's available."

Co-Chair of the Scarsdale Forum Education Committee Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez (19 Fox Meadow Road) addressed several points. First, she invited the community at large to attend Education Committee meetings and provide input on topics such as Greenacres, long-term planning, and World Language. Regarding World Language she stated, "We also would like to know when we might get a little bit of disclosure or discussion on what's going to happen with Spanish. Spanish currently in the elementary school -- I've been here for five years and I repeatedly am meeting non-native Spanish speakers in the 4th grade and 5th grade who cannot speak even the simplest of Spanish. I have neighbors who've just come back recently from Spain and their children are already correcting the teachers. I know that the Hispanics in this community, we are only 5%, but our children are definitely at a disservice because our children will have to take Spanish and...it's not suitable for them. I encourage you also to be thinking about what to do about Spanish."

The final speaker, Paulina Schwartz of 17 Oakstwain Road, presented a fresh perspective on the Mandarin question: "I'm not passionate about language, no one in my family is; we're not going to Chinese school. But I think it's really important that kids who have parents like me get a chance to learn these languages. If my kid were going into the high school in 9th grade – and I'd like them to go to a good college - I'd be really nervous to let them take Mandarin...and I'd probably discourage it. It's unfortunate but I would. I think that in 6th grade I'd encourage them....It's really important to give the kids a chance before everything becomes so high stakes. We're missing a huge group of kids with this Mandarin by offering it only in 9th grade."

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