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Board Re-Elects Maude and Natbony and Ponders Decision-Making Process for Greenacres

BOE2016-17In an unusual move, the Scarsdale Board of Education re-elected Lee Maude and William Natbony to serve second terms as President and Vice President of the Scarsdale School Board for the 2016-17 school year. In nominating Maude, School Board member Art Rublin said she would "provide continuity" for the Board as they continue to implement the transition plan outlined by Superintendent Hagerman in 2015. Similarly, Board Member Scott Silberfein endorsed Natbony for Vice President saying he "has proven to be a valuable leader." Both were re-elected unanimously.

Lee Maude announced that the Board had signed a 4-year contract with Superintendent Hagerman, ensuring his continuity as well. She said, "We completed an annual assessment of Dr. Hagerman and gave him a "highly effective" rating. We are very excited and look forward to the next four years with Dr. Hagerman."

Though the discussions behind these decisions are not public, several factors may have contributed to the decision. By many counts, the board had a very successful year. In May, the proposed 2016-17 school budget, which required a very minimal tax increase, received resounding support from the community. In June, the Board announced that they had agreed on a 4-year contract with the Scarsdale Teacher's Association that provided for reasonable salary increases and more teaching time. Though there were many contentious discussions with residents during the school year about Mandarin and the Greenacres School, Maude managed the conversations and kept the community on track.

This coming year, the Board will face decisions about building projects approved in 2014 that have come in over budget, will evaluate a district-wide facilities master plan and come to a decision on whether to renovate the existing Greenacres School or build a new one on the field across the street.

Given that Maude and Natbony have the most seniority, perhaps the consensus was that the existing team was in the best position to manage another year.

The Board also made key appointments and welcomed new board member Nina Cannon and the newly hired Assistant for Personnel, Drew Patrick to the table. Treasurer Jeff Martin, who had been out for several months, was also back at the table.

Greenacres:GreenacresSchool

During a discussion about additional funds needed to renovate the central district office, it came to light that the funding request also included money to buy classroom furniture for Greenacres and Heathcote Schools where additional sections were needed to accommodate increased enrollment.

Though details were not provided, it sounds like the third grade at Greenacres will go to four sections, leaving the school short one classroom. Emily Cohen, who taught second grade at Fox Meadow will move to Greenacres in the fall to teach the additional third grade class. Mattey said that there are plans afoot to craft a classroom out of a portion of the library. The fifth grade already includes four sections, and two grades have inclusion classrooms to accommodate special needs students from all over the district. Undoubtedly Greenacres will be very crowded this fall. We are waiting to find out how much of the library will be lost, if the temporary classroom will have windows and if an additional section will pose challenges for scheduling lunch, gym, art and music. Stay tuned for more information.

Lee Maude said that prior to the meeting she "polled the board independently to ask if they wanted to have a discussion about Greenacres today." Since there was no new information, she said that this summer the Board would "look at Greenacres with respect to the rest of the district and the needs of all the buildings."

Stuart Mattey said they will put together a list of the level of need at each building and will prioritize some of them before handing it off to the district-wide building committee. About Greenacres, he said he got a list of the field conditions yesterday and is awaiting a third party analysis of the costs.

Both Bill Natbony and Chris Morin asked if there was a way to quantify the future savings from a new building vs. an old one. He wanted to have a better sense of cost savings there might be for Option C1. Mattey said the district's fiscal advisors might be able to help with this. Chris Morin said, "We need an analysis of the present value of both options so that we can do a comparison."

At the conclusion of the meeting, Lee Maude said, "We have sent questions to KG&D and are waiting for a response from them on the model program. We will follow up on the cost savings, terracing and other questions."

presserSeveral people spoke at the meeting, for and against various building options for Greenacres.

Madeline Hauptman of Brewster Road said, "My house backs onto the field.... I am an artist and I work from home. The trees in my yard are important to me. There is a line of trees separating my yard from the field. It will be a tremendous disservice to take down those trees." She continued, "If you implement this design there will be a tragedy. There is no sidewalk on Brewster Road. Kids will walk between the cars. There will be fumes. My daughter says that people who live near idling cars get ill from the fumes. There will be one drop off point where now there are three. Coming down Brewster without sidewalks is dangerous." Referring to the rendering of Option C1 presented by the architects, she said, "The artist rendering is fake. That rendering looks like the field is 12 acres – but it is in fact 2 acres. It's a third of what is there now. The drawing is deceptive. I think you need to look at what it will be like – not some artist's rendering."

Barbara Wenglin said that after two years, the majority of residents still prefer option B1. She concurred that the renderings were misleading and complained that the "Pro C" group used "nasty rhetoric." She said, "We appreciate civil discourse." She said, "Yes I live near the field. Open green space is to be preserved ..... we must maintain it."

Gay Seuss of Kingston Road said, "My property abuts the field. I was outraged to see the plan to build a road on the field. The road is outrageous."

Meredith Gantcher of Brewster Road, said, "At the end of the day we all share similar goals for a first class education. We all know that it's teacher-student ratio, and quality of the teaching staff that matter. Infrastructure is critical but it is not the ultimate goal.... The latest C1 design demonstrates how awkward it is to build a school in our neighborhood. It squeezes the design and compromises gym and cafeteria spaces. There is only one entrance. Now you have budget convertible space. You will have kids smacking into a wall. If you believe that spending the money is worth it, then go design that school...you tried to come up with a compromise solution, but you can't have it. The highest and best use is as it exists."

Rachel Krisberg from Greenacres Avenue said she is a former teacher with a child going into kindergarten and a three-year-old. She said, "As a parent I think that C1 is the best option. I can't imagine teaching when a renovation is going on and being exposed to the noise, the construction and risk. If we are putting the children first, putting the kids in a building with a renovation going on is a risk."

Leslie Shearer of Brewster Road favored Option B1. She said it retains the green field and said, "If we spend $40 million renovating we'll get essentially a new building. The entire town benefits from the decision." About the construction she said, "Disruptions happen! Sometimes SHIT happens. In the end you will benefit from a reconstructed building."

Paulina Schwartz of Oakstwain told the board she had reviewed the architect's chart outlining how much of the model program is met by Option B1 and Option C and found that the calculations are off for classroom sizes in grades K, 1 and 2. She said these rooms are too small and there is no flex space. She also noted that Option C1 has an extra classroom for years where there is an additional section. She said, "I think C1 is a great compromise. There are things that can be tweaked. But we get everything that we deserve and meet the model program.

In additional business, the Board agreed to retain two consultants:

Assistant Superintendent Lynne Shain announced that the district had been unable to find a suitable replacement for World Language Chair Sarah Wittington who retired in June. In the interim, they have hired a teacher to assume her instructional duties (.6 position) and will retain Wittington as a consultant for the coming school year to manage the department, participate in discussions about changes to the foreign language program at the middle school and supervise and evaluate world language teachers at the elementary schools. She will work up to 4 days per month at $835 per day.

Stuart Mattey said that the district would retain security consultants to develop a district-wide safety and security plan to ensure uniformity across all schools. He said, "though each building works well on its own," the consultants would, "make sure we use best practices and meet all the mandates" and be the "go-to person for security issues." The consultants will meet with the building principals to do an assessment of where we are now and work on training for all situations. Mattey recommended the Altaris Group because they have "an understanding of school culture, are cognizant of how our buildings operate and don't come at this from a military perspective." The Board approved spending $41,800 to retain Altaris.

Architects Present Plan to Build a New School and Save Greenacres Field; Bids for District-Wide Construction Rejected

c1aerialviewThough scores of residents came to the Board of Education's last meeting of the year on June 20 with the intention of learning more about the Greenacres School, they waited hours before seeing new options for the school and were not able to comment on the plans until well after 11 pm.

The Board had pressing business to attend to and struggled to keep the audience at bay to allow the board to stick to their agenda. It wasn't easy, as there were several other factions in the audience who wanted to make their views known. A group of softball players and their parents wanted answers on why Coach Scagnelli's contract would not be renewed next year. Board President Lee Maude said that the Board could not discuss personnel issues but Jay Houseman of Thornwood Place persisted, saying, "We implore you to reconsider your decision to allow the people in the back of this room to speak .... We want an open line of communication with you and Ray Pappalardi. This is hurting my daughters chances of being recruited ..... He (Coach Scagnelli) doesn't play by the rules but he is an excellent coach."

Others saw the meeting as a platform to raise concerns about the village-wide property tax revaluation. Bob Berg and Brice Kirkendall-Rodriguez both addressed the board about the potential effects of the revaluation on raising funds to finance capitol projects for the schools. Berg went as far as to suggest that the School Board bring a lawsuit to void the revaluation. When his three minutes was up, he was repeatedly asked to sit down.

Mayra Kirkendall Rodriguez brought up another issue that was not on the agenda, urging the Board to reconvene the World Language Committee to consider adding more foreign language offerings to the curriculum. She made a long list of suggestions on how the Board should go about studying the issues and publicizing the program to district parents. She ended by referring to Dr. Hagerman's upcoming trip to Singapore, saying "Please have a Singapore sling on us – I think after tonight you may need one."

These comments, along with departing words for retiring Board Member Suzanne Seiden, the announcement of a new contract with the teachers, a discussion of the rejection of all of bids for approved building projects from the $18.2 mm bond (see detials below) and the introduction of new hires for the 2016-17 school year delayed any discussion of Greenacres until late in the evening.

When architect Russ Davidson of KG&D finally did make his presentation, he explained that he had renderings and site plans for option B1 – the renovation of the existing school, and an alternative plan for a new school across the street. The new option C1 would be a two-story school with a smaller footprint to preserve more green space and play area. The school would be on the West side of the field, parallel to Brewster Road. According to Davidson, the school would be a bit less expensive than Option C and have the least impact on adjacent homes.

C1SitePlanThe exterior of the school would look like a series of "linked houses," with covered porches facing the field. The entry would be a covered gazebo and the school would also include a large covered play area. A full service cafeteria would be adjacent to the gym. The two areas could be joined to make an even bigger assembly space and includes a large indoor stage. Classrooms surround a central courtyard to bring light into both sides of each room.

Another feature of the site is a long access driveway extending from Montrose Road to the rear of the new building. The paved lane would run parallel to Kingston Road and could be used for deliveries and service vehicles. The site of the current school would include a playing field with a 6-7 foot retaining wall to level off the area.

B1AerialViewDavidson's plans for B1, or the renovation, now includes $1.4 million for six temporary trailers to be used as classrooms during the construction. He said that kids could be in the existing building while the addition is under construction as it will be done on exterior space. However, there is work involved to renovate the heating and ventilation systems in the existing classrooms, and thus the need for the trailers. The design includes a stair tower extending from the second floor down to street level. Davidson said, "The addition fits naturally into the neighborhood." About the two plans, Davidson said, "These are your two best options."
costcomparison

Which of the two buildings would best meet the district's needs? Davidson presented a chart showing how the two options conformed to the "model program" or state education department targets. In the chart below, red boxes indicate a shortage of space, yellow for similar and green for an overage. Option B1 fails some of the criteria as some of the rooms are smaller than optimal standards. It is interesting to note that the new Option C1 offers 25,000 more square feet of green space than the prior Option C and addresses the concerns of those who valued the blacktop area with 34,204 square feet of blacktop to the current 35,540 square feet.
ProgramComparison

The new building is estimated to cost $12 million more than a renovation – with an estimate of $40.7 for B1 to $52.9 million for C1. Davidson did say that the new building would be heated and cooled by a geothermal system that uses 50% less energy than traditional buildings and would yield considerable savings in energy costs in the future. These cost savings could narrow the expense gap between the two options. In addition, the state permits 30 year financing for new construction vs. 15 years for renovations, which would again impact the annual debt costs for the two options.

Dr. Hagerman asked the audience to examine these two options with an open mind. He said, "We considered all factors ....including green space and a 21st century building." Referring to the many messages he was receiving he said, "Stop the robo texting and really consider the options. We went line by line addressing the issues that had been brought to our attention." In discussing robo texting, Hagerman was referencing a petition that was circulated before the meeting that asked the Board to take Option C off the table. The "Google Forms" doc was a widget that facilitated the easy submission of emails to the Board. Their inbox was flooded and they struggled to respond to each one for which there was an email address.

Board President Lee Maude sought answers to the safety questions raised by parents at the prior meeting., specifically about asbestos, lead and dust. Davidson assured the board that construction companies follow "section 155 regulations for occupied school buildings," that require a separate ventilation system for the construction area and the occupied building as well as a hard wall between the two. Furthermore asbestos abatement is prohibited while the children are in the building. Davidson says in all their years of practice they have not had a lawsuit concerning the health effects of school construction.

Despite Dr. Hagerman's plea for residents to look at their options with an open mind, most who spoke echoed their prior positions, adapting their comments to incorporate the new information presented. Meredith Gantcher asked why trailers were necessary at Greenacres if none would be provided for students during construction at the other schools. She said the standards should be the same across all elementary school districts. She also wanted to know how drop off would be accommodated at the new building and asked for construction timing for the new options.

Ira Hasson, who lives next to the current school, said that now that Davidson had cleared up concerns about construction safety, there would be no reason for the district to spend $10 million more on a new school and lose two baseball fields when the old school could be safely renovated. Vivienne Braun told the Board that a renewed effort to gather signatures in support of Option B1 had yielded far more support than the campaign to build a new school. She said, "What is the difference between the renovations for Edgewood and similar work for Greenacres? Why is it safe there and not in Greenacres? I don't understand the need for temporary classrooms in Greenacres."

Madeline Hauptman of Brewster Road read a lengthy statement from architect Aaron Lamport who lives in Greenacres. He suggested a proactive outreach effort on the part of the Board to communicate safety procedures for the renovation. He supports Option B1.

Valerie Greenberg said she finds the school to be beautiful and said that all issues with the school will go away with the renovation. She does not believe that new was necessarily better.

Jon Singer of 8 Montrose Road said that classroom size is not tied to educational performance. He said that the classroom sizes in the other schools do not meet these targets and argued that applying the model program to the other schools would require massive changes and the demolition and rebuilding of the other schools. Mike Greenberg agreed that everyone would be demanding a new school.

Mark Lewis, an empty nester spoke in support of the new school, saying the children of Greenacres need a new school that meets the needs of today and tomorrow. He chided the board for doing their consent agenda before giving the audience the opportunity to speak. He said, "People have to go to work and have small children at home."

Tony Coriggio of Brite Avenue said "C1 is spot on. It takes the "save the field" argument off the table.... Take into account the energy and maintenance savings." Coriggio urged the board to get the facts out to the public and to not be swayed by a robo campaign.

Andy Taylor of 37 Walworth Avenue supported the new school, saying that C1 is the only option for Greenacres. He said a facelift of an old school was not optimal and posed questions about the safety and hidden costs of renovating an old building. He said in the long term, it would cost more to run and maintain the old building than to build a new one. He called B1 a "fatally flawed, stop gap measure."

John Krisbergh of Greenacres Avenue told the Board that all of Scarsdale would support "a great new school that we can all be proud of."

David Fenigstein pointed to the deficiencies in B1 in terms of the model program. He told the board to take a look at the energy savings and to consider the advantages of having the school on the same side as the playing fields.

Rona Muntner of Fairview Road questioned the parity issue. She said, "We are one community and can share in the resources. Each school comes up for renovation when needed."

Mitch Kahn of Brewster Road said, "The grounds are school property. I understand there is a baseball game that has been going on there for 50 years, but that's not for kids... To me the "Save the Field" people started with saving the field, so you got an option that saved the field. Then they went to Save Greenacres. Now they are being altruistic and worrying about other areas of Scarsdale and raising concerns about the cost. You guys see through this. You know where they live and you can see what their real concern is. The cost of a new building will not be that different in the end. Do what's right for the kids."

Though people debated the pros and cons for a new school, it was apparent that external factors could have a big impact on the decision. Earlier in the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey announced that the district had not received any acceptable bids for the work planned at the High School, Middle School, Edgewood and Heathcote Schools. This work was approved by voters in an $18.12 million bond in December 2014. However, the State Education Department delayed their approvals, forcing the district to put the projects out to bid in May. Due to the timing and an uptick in the economy, the bids that were received were 33% higher than estimated and the district did not receive any bids at all for general contractors for the $7 million project at the high school. At their final meeting of the year the Board passed a resolution rejecting all the bids as they exceeded the available budget. 

bids

As a result, Stuart Mattey and Russ Davidson said those projects would need to be streamlined and bundled together to get more favorable pricing. The increase in pricing for these projects could affect the district's ability to pay for the renovation or the construction of a new school at Greenacres. The work was scheduled to begin this summer, but will clearly not begin on time.

Furthermore, the reval has spurred dissent from taxpayers and some wonder whether this could impact residents' willingness to fund new construction projects down the line.

The meeting ended at 12:21 am and there was no timeline or proposed resolution to the issue of the Greenacres School.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Lee Maude thanked her fellow board members for a great year and thanked Board Vice President Bill Natbony for being her wingman.

You can watch the meeting and the presentation here. What do you think of the district's options? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

More Than a Test: NY State Regent Johnson envisions ‘a more just, engaging and child-centered’ state ed policy

johnson"Our schools have never been about passing standardized tests," said NY State Regent Judith Johnson this past Thursday, June 2nd at the Scarsdale Public Library. Calling that goal "too narrow," Johnson asserted, "The goal of schools is to prepare students to be effective citizens and caring adults."

Regent Johnson was the guest speaker at the Scarsdale Forum's annual meeting. The State Legislature elected her on April 1, 2015 to a five-year term representing Scarsdale and other Lower Hudson Valley school districts on the Board of Regents, the state's educational policy-making body. Johnson's prepared remarks, titled "More Than a Test," were her personal reflections on her first year in Albany.

In his introductory remarks, outgoing Forum president Howard Nadel refrained from reciting Johnson's complete resume of past positions and accomplishments, explaining that to do so would "take up the entire evening." He did note that Johnson had served as Peekskill school superintendent and as President Bill Clinton's Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education. Nadel added that Judith Johnson was known for "bringing diverse groups together" and for being someone who "gets things done." Regent Johnson's full bio can be read here. 

This was Regent Johnson's second time in town at the invitation of the Scarsdale Forum. Last year, just 30 days after assuming her new post, Johnson appeared at Scarsdale High School on a Forum panel to discuss the state's widely opposed education mandates, hastily implemented starting in 2010 in order to win federal Race to the Top funds. That evening, Johnson's candid critique of these policies and call for a pause in their implementation earned her a standing ovation from the entire audience of local and area residents. (Scarsdale10583 coverage of that event can be read here.) 

Johnson's address to members of the Forum and the Public this past week at the library began by focusing on what she called "quite a year" of changes at the state level. While she stated that "it's too early to take victory laps," she said that the "voices of communities have actually been heard" and that the "rising resistance" to New York's controversial student testing and teacher evaluation policies has resulted in "a new vision of education" at the state level.

Johnson said the voices of parents and educators had an effect, and that area politicians – including Amy Paulin, Steven Otis and Andrea Stewart-Cousins – helped because "they listened." New Regents were elected, nine out of the 17 Regents are now women, and they include five former superintendents – that is, "policy practitioners are now sitting at the table." As a result, the Board of Regents "has changed dramatically."

By way of example, Johnson noted that when she first joined the Board no one was asking questions, such as "what might be the unintended consequences of a policy decision?" She said that she and three other Regents came to be called a "gang" or "the dissidents." Now, however, with new leadership, "it is natural for people to raise questions as part of the conversation."

While saying that she "won't call them accomplishments, yet," Regent Johnson referred to "trends," as well as continued "serious challenges," in the following policy areas:

Student Testing – Johnson stated that this year's state-mandated tests were still those designed by Pearson, whose test questions have been the subject of critique and controversy; however, while the previous state policy was to release only a small fraction of sample test questions, prompting widespread parent and educator complaint, the Department of Education has now just released 75% of the questions and scoring rubrics from this spring's round of tests. Johnson proceeded to make clear her views on standardized tests in general. While a long-time supporter of common standards, she criticized New York's rushed implementation of the Common Core standards, saying that not enough was done to explain and to advocate for the standards. Johnson was also critical of the state's current tests: "What we know how to measure is not the same as what we need to improve teaching and learning." She noted that in the U.S. we have come to "equate standardized tests with achievement;" yet, "no other country tests students as frequently as we do." Johnson emphasized the need for "critical thinking" and "well-rounded learners," adding, "Learning is complex, and assessment should be as well." Finally, while asserting the need for students to demonstrate academic achievement, Johnson then asked: "What else needs to happen" in schools? Johnson stressed the need to create lifelong learners and "effective citizens" who are also "kind, caring and tolerant people."

Student Graduation Standards – In order to graduate with a high school diploma, New York students, including those with special needs, must now pass each of five Regents exams aligned with the Common Core. Johnson stated that as a result many students who have never missed a day of school have been denied a high school diploma. She said that the Regents are now focused on redressing this situation. In March they enacted an emergency regulation allowing students who struggle passing their fifth Regents exam the ability to finish their diploma by gaining certain work-based experience credits. Johnson further stated that the Regents are also creating alternative pathways to graduation. For example, a new "arts pathway" requires that students only pass four of the five Regents exams. In addition, Johnson was emphatic about the need to change the current high school diploma to include a bilingual seal. "We should be teaching two languages from the start," asserted Johnson. Referring to how students abroad graduate knowing two and sometimes three languages, Johnson said, "It's really embarrassing that American kids can't do this." She said the Regents are now working toward introducing two languages to all children.

Teacher Evaluation – Johnson called the evaluation of teachers based on growth in student test scores "scientifically flawed" and "neither a valid nor reliable measure of teacher effectiveness." According to Johnson, state teacher evaluation policy has now been "modified." In December 2015 the Board of Regents voted to suspend until 2019 the use of state reading and math tests as the measure for student achievement growth in teacher ratings, allowing for the use of local achievement measures and goals instead. Johnson asserted that this is "not a victory" because "the entire law was not overturned." While she declined to name Governor Cuomo directly, Johnson referenced the "Executive Office's punitive approach" to teacher evaluation, which, she said, was based on a "flawed theory of action" that "student achievement improves if you fire teachers." Johnson asserted that this approach has already "done damage to the [teaching] profession." She said there are "far fewer applicants" to teacher training programs in New York and warned: "Even in Scarsdale, you may see a shortage of teachers."

Teacher Testing - Johnson also blamed the growing teacher shortage on the state's "one size fits all" approach to certifying new teachers. She explained that applicants who have never been exposed to any of the new Common Core standards must now pass each of three tests that have been aligned with those standards. She further noted that a federal district court judge has already determined one of these tests to have a disparate impact on minorities. Johnson called the resulting drop in the number of graduates from New York teaching colleges "a little unnerving," especially given the fact that a large cohort of teachers is "ready and eligible for retirement."

According to Johnson, the Regents latest efforts are constrained by a continued lack of state funding. She described a State Department that has been "decimated" by budget cuts. When she first arrived in Albany and asked about the research in support of state policy decisions, Johnson said she got "blank stares." When she asked about the State Education Department's research staff, she was told, "there is no staff." Due to continued lack of state funding, Johnson said that the Board of Regents is now in the process of "building a research agenda," including the design of an evidence-based teacher evaluation system, with the help of experts from universities across the country and the financial support of "external partners," such as private foundations.

Johnson then focused on the persistent achievement gap between students of more affluent means and those raised in poverty. She called it "a massive waste of human potential and talent," and asserted, "Ability is not fixed at birth." Johnson noted that historically our public schools have been "a great equalizer;" however, today, "they isolate kids by family income" and "for every ten kids born into poverty, six go into adulthood still poor." She explained that at the federal level the No Child Behind Law (NCLB) of 2001 has been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), with considerable power over educational decisions being returned to the states. Johnson then expressed concern that states would continue to use federal Title I funds as intended – that is, to "supplement, not supplant" state and local funds in support of low-income students.

According to Regent Johnson, New York's Board of Regents is now focused on addressing the achievement gap through a "community schools" approach. Such schools remain open for a longer day to address the full range of nutritional, medical, dental and other needs of low-income children that can interfere with their ability to learn. Johnson mentioned examples of community schools already in existence in New York and says she expects that number to rise to "100 in the next few years." She added that volunteers are welcome and are needed to help "honor the goal" of public schools, which is to create "effective citizens and caring adults."

To emphasize the critical importance of the work that lies ahead if state policymakers are to create a "more just, engaging and child-friendly" K-12 education system in New York, Johnson observed, "The children born in 2016 will be 83-84 years old at the turn of the next century." Between now and the year 2100, "change will be immense" and "we're all going to play a role in that change." Thus, what happens to these children "depends on what we decide to do with what has been given to us as a challenge."

As they did when she first visited Scarsdale last year, Regent Johnson's words drew a standing ovation from those in attendance at the Forum event last week.

In response to a subsequent audience question about how New Yorkers might be of help to the Board of Regents, Johnson encouraged residents to continue asking questions of state education policy leaders. She also specifically urged that residents communicate to state politicians their support of a number of proposed bills that would address key problems with current laws, such as Assembly bill A09461, sponsored by Amy Paulin, which would require an expert committee to develop a research-based teacher evaluation plan. (Click here to access one area group's electronic advocacy campaign in support of such bills.)

A video of Regent Johnson's entire speech will be posted on the Scarsdale Public TV website.

SHS Prepares For Peppers Departure

peppers grad

SHS is preparing to say farewell to Assistant Principal Ms. Peppers. Peppers is retiring from her job at Scarsdale High School after 28 eventful years serving the school. Peppers leaves a lasting legacy to Scarsdale community, including international programs, expanded service opportunities, and a global atmosphere at SHS.

Peppers has made lots of friends and bonded with lots of students over her time here. "My fondest memories are just of the really wonderful friendships I have made here with faculty and students," explained Peppers. Peppers has impacted all of the teachers at Scarsdale through her kindness and generosity. Principal Bonamo explained that when he first joined SHS, Peppers made a special effort to make him, "feel like a part of the community. She is a wonderful colleague and exemplar of what a school administrator can be". All of Ms. Pepper's colleagues echoed these sentiments about how encouraging and inclusive she can be. "I have just made wonderful friends while I have been here. I will certainly miss seeing them on a daily basis," shared Peppers.

Ms. Peppers has seen the school through changes and shifts during her 28 years of employment. "The biggest change [in SHS] has been the introduction of technology which has really impacted every aspect of how we do business here. The ability to communicate instantly with people through email has impacted students, along with their improved access to an incredible amount of information, homework assignments and materials from teachers online."

Pepper's biggest contribution to the school has been her many additions to the global programs. "The last few years one of the things I have provided are more global experiences for staff and students. We have greatly expanded our exchange program, we now have exchange programs with France, Spain, Singapore, Germany, China, and Australia", she shared. "Ms. Peppers has done so much work with our global initiatives" expanded Bonamo. "She really takes the time with these programs that are really difficult to manage because you are working with schools that are halfway across the world. She handles all the logistics and works with the exchange families very closely and understands that in the 21st century giving our students a global perspective is so important to their future success and development as human beings". While Peppers is retiring from her current position at SHS, she is not abandoning her role with the global programs. "I am not leaving Scarsdale completely. I will be working as a consultant for the district next year with all of the international programs so I will be doing that," explained Peppers. "I am hoping to see those programs sustain and hopefully grow".

Peppers will also leave behind her legacy through the "Peppers Award", which is awarded annually to one female andpeppers headshot one male Scarsdale High School student by Sue and her husband, Jerry Peppers. The award is given to the students who most exemplify leadership, spirit, and academic and athletic excellence. This year, Michael Rolfe and Sydney Bernstein were honored for their athletic talent, notable academic performance, and contributions to youth programs in their sports.

Peppers will miss the energy of the school the most. "There is such an energy in a school and I think [I will miss] not having the energy in my life every day that is generated by staff and students and general operations of a school", explained Peppers. While Peppers will miss the school atmosphere, the school will certainly also miss her presence. During her retirement, Peppers hopes to relax after a stressful 28 years at the school. "When you're an administrator the commitment is dawn to dusk everyday and so I hope she gets to enjoy her garden and her family with her four beautiful daughters. I hope she can enjoy the freedom of time and benefit of health", said Bonamo. Peppers plans to have days filled with her favorite hobbies, gardening and cooking. "I really hope to take classes at the Bronx Botanical Garden because that is one of my major interests. I also love to cook so I hope to do a couple boot camps at the Culinary Institute up in Hyde Park, and spend time with my own family and do some traveling as well" explained Peppers.

Ms. Pepper's spot as assistant principal will be filled by Dean O'Gorman next year.

Maroon and White Donates $100,000 For Fitness Center at SHS

colemanThanks to a donation to the Scarsdale Schools Education Foundation from Maroon and White, the campaign to build a new fitness center in Scarsdale High School is now $100,000 closer to its goal. The Scarsdale Schools Education Foundation's (SSEF) mission is to reach a goal of $2.6 million to build a Fitness Center and Design Lab at Scarsdale High School.

Since the foundation launched their fund raising campaign just over a year ago, they have raised more than $1.9 million. The SSEF continues to take steps to unite the community in their campaign and raise enough money for the project. We talked to Foundation President Mark Bezos, who provided his insights on the campaign. " We have taken some important new steps in the past few weeks. Most notably, we have invited the entire community to participate in our campaign through the purchase of pavers that will create a 'Bander-snatch Garden' in a courtyard at the high school. Information on how to buy pavers is available on the home page of our website scarsdaleschoolseducationfoundation.org".

The Maroon and White donation is a large contribution to a school that only recently began asking for funds from private donors. Bezos said, "Although many of our peer schools in Westchester have had similar foundations for many years, we recognize that seeking private donations for our schools is a new initiative here. That's why we have made it a point to work very closely with the Board of Education since the very beginning. It is important, for example, that the district's administrators and the elected Board of Education set policy and priorities for Scarsdale's schools. We see our role as providing essential financial support that will enable the schools to accomplish special initiatives that don't fit within the confines of their own budget." This close connection between the Board of Education and the foundation has facilitated strong progress.

Even though the goal for the foundation has not been met, the school plans to begin construction next month. Bezos explained this situation "We are working very hard to provide the needed funds as soon as possible. Construction will begin at the end of this month in any case as there is a good deal of initial work and infrastructure preparation that has already been funded through the bond the voters approved 18 months ago." He continued, "To be successful we will need the participation of as many residents as possible. I would encourage everyone in Scarsdale to speak to one of our board members or our Executive Director." In addition to reaching out to the community, Bezos thanked Maroon and White for their donation and noted that their donation and contributions from others have given the campaign the confidence it needs to be successful in reaching its goal.

In addition to learning about the foundation and funding, we also talked to the SHS Athletic Director Raymondo Pappalardi about the new fitness center. Pappalardi, who is just about to complete his first year in this position noted that students are under a lot of stress and they are looking for a way to manage their stress. He believes this new fitness center is a great solution to stress-relief for all students.

We asked Ray about the center design. "It will be approximately 6,000 square feet. There will be three main sections in the area. There will be an open space for stretching or free movement, a cardio section and then a space for power lifting or weight training. The interesting thing though is that it will be much more inviting and bright. The key features will be the technology that will support learning. We have not decided exactly what equipment will be there but when it gets closer to opening we will be able to decide as the technology keeps changing," Ray stated. These improvements and open space will allow for more students to use the facility comfortably. Ray noted that the current fitness center is very dated and does not provide enough space for students.

A major draw to the new fitness center is what it will allow the Physical Education program to do. Ray explained how the new fitness center will fit with the gym department. "The size of the new space will allow for there to be at least two gym classes in there at a time so it can facilitate a lot more students. We plan on having a gym class in the fitness center every period and possibly allowing drop-ins during school hours which will allow students to use the gym during their frees".

The new facility will not only benefit gym classes but will also benefit athletic teams. The open space in the gym will allow teams to train more easily together during season or during their off season. The center will also house a strength and conditioning coach who will be there to help students and athletes prepare and condition. Ray also pointed out that "Part of the purpose of the space it to help prevent and treat injuries. The space will allow athletic trainers to treat students". This improvement will help promote wellness by teaching athletes prevention exercises they can do to limit injuries or programs to work on improving their injuries.

Overall Ray noted that this fitness center will create an exciting social place for students and will promote fitness and wellness. Ray spoke about his first year at Scarsdale and told us "It has been pretty exciting. It has been busy. I think the most exciting part is when I get to talk to students and get their perspective. We have had some stellar seasons here too. So that has been exciting. I would like to take credit for it but I can't. I really have just been learning about everything that has happened here and how we made decisions. I have focused on looking at what programs we can implement to help all students. We want to look at how we support wellness k-12. No program should operate by itself without looking at the other aspects". Ray is hopeful this new fitness center will help the fitness and wellness program to flourish.

After talking to Ray we spoke with Maroon and White President Kathy Coleman. Kathy explained that the Maroon and White was able to make such a large donation because they have had many successful years of fund raising and were able to trim some of their costs. The Maroon and White raises money from membership dues and by selling Raider gear. Kathy explained how they decided to donate to this project. "One of the things we have been saving for is field lights, but they are a long way away in terms of where are we going to put them. So flash forward and this fitness center comes up and they needed the money to make this work. We had the money to give away and still had a good amount and we thought this gift is what Maroon and White's charter is because it touches every single kid in the High School immediately. There was really no argument or talking anybody into it. We were hoping it would also spur some more people to donate seeing that Maroon and White is behind this program". With the Maroon and White's backing, along with the SSEF's support, construction on the fitness center will begin next month with the goal of completion before school opens again in September.

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