Friday, Aug 18th

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Chocolate Tasting and World Languages Offered at the Scarsdale Adult School

Artisanal chocolatier and proprietor of Odyssey Chocolates Margaret Smith will be offering two chocolate tastings through the Scarsdale Adult School on Monday March 22nd.

Explore the many facets of chocolate flavor in a tasting of fine dark chocolates from around the world. Learn to distinguish the flavor characteristics of different cocoa origins and taste differences resulting from varied processing. Chocolate production and the science behind making fine chocolates will also be explored. Smith has studied with world-renowned chocolatier Jean-Pierre Wybauw, with the Ecole Chocolat and the Institute of Culinary Education

Section I will be held from 11 - 12:30 pm at a private residence in Scarsdale. Section II will be held from 7:30 - 9 pm at Scarsdale High School. The cost per section is $25.

In addition, Arabic and Mandarin Chinese courses are offered to students ages 16 and up:

The Arabic for Beginners class introduces students to basic phonetics, fundamental grammar, and cultural facts of the Arabic world. The course stresses the learning of essential phrases, adopts a communicative approach to the language, and focuses on helping students to develop abilities to use Arabic. By the end of the course, students will have mastered counting and numbers, as well as the sounds and writing systems of Arabic. It is taught by Habiba Boumlik, an adjunct professor of the social sciences and continuing education departments at SUNY Purchase. The class will be held ten Mondays, starting 3/1 (no class 3/29); 7 - 9 pm at Scarsdale High School. The cost is $200.

Mandarin Chinese is a major world language, spoken by one out of every five people in the world. Introduction to Mandarin Chinese, also available to students 16+ will focus on concise and practical verbal communication. Students will learn essential vocabulary, everyday expressions, and short sentences. They will practice conversation using real life situations. Our native Chinese instructor will also integrate Chinese culture, history, tradition and geography into the class. Hui Altman, a native of China, is currently teaching Chinese in the Croton School district. The class will be held for ten Thursdays, starting 3/4 (no class 4/1); 7 - 9 pm at Scarsdale High School. The cost is $200.

To register, or for information on all course offerings, visit Questions? Call 723-2325.

Scarsdale Teachers Association Approves Salary Concessions

In an unprecedented move, the ScarsdaleTeachers Association agreed to a 1 point percentage reduction in contractual salary increases for the school years 2010-2011 and 2011 -2012, a move that will save the district a total of $1,910,000 over the next two budget years. This means that a teacher entitled to a 3.25% increase would now receive a 2.25% increase instead.

Speaking for the group, Trudy Moses said that teachers “understand the difficulty of maintaining a quality education in these challenging times. She cited “a long history of collaboration and civility between teachers and the community” and said that teachers “do not wish to see people lose their jobs or class sizes go up.” In response to the budget crisis, teachers reopened their contract and the faculty voted to approve the reduction in salary increases.

The news, announced at the Board of Education Study Session on the evening of February 9th was met with a steady round of applause from the Board, the district administration and the audience. School Board President Barbara Kemp was visibly moved as she credited the Association with their “wonderful collaboration” with the Board.

The concessions will yield $624,000 in savings for the 2010-2011 budget, and $1,286,000 in 2011-2012, resulting in a total savings of $1,910,000.

The announcement put a positive spin on the balance of the meeting as the Board and the administration breathed a sign of relief that some painfully anticipated cuts might no longer be necessary. In fact, the agreement with the teacher stipulates that the district cannot lay off any teachers in the next two years except in response to shrinking enrollment.  In addition, the district has agreed to adhere to the current policy on class size.

Michael McGill then reviewed budget savings to provide the group with the current status of the proposed budget for 2010. Among the savings are:

  • Savings in teacher salaries                                              $624,000
  • Savings in the contribution to the retirement fund            $300,000
  • Reduction in the buildings and grounds budget               $220,000
  • 3% reduction in individual department budgets for
  •    texts, supplies and materials:                                        $252,000
  • Reduction in the budget for the Sustainability Program     $45,000
  • Decrease in one faculty position at the High School        $125,000
  • Elimination of elementary school trip to the Bronx Zoo      $20,000
  • Reduction to the Lincoln Center program                          $10,000
  • Reduction in fees for Consultants                                      $10,000

Depending on the Board’s decision on funding for the Teen Center and Scarsdale and Edgemont Family Counseling, he anticipated that the revised proposed budget would now mean a 2.93% budget and tax increase for Scarsdale residents. The proposed increase for residents of the Mamaroneck Strip was not estimated as the Board was providing a rough estimate.

Scarsdale Teen Center and Scarsdale and Edgemont Family Counseling:

The conversation then turned to the Scarsdale Teen Center and Scarsdale and Edgemont Family Counseling (SFCS). The previous evening (2/8), the Board had listened to impassioned speeches from the community on the importance of both programs. In the discussion that followed, the Board agreed to put in a placeholder for $55,000 to the Teen Center, which is a 19% cut from their current budget of $67,500. This number could be reconsidered in the months between now and the budget vote.

At the February 8th meeting, the administration’s presented a proposal to eliminate funding for SFCS and replace the youth outreach workers with two social workers in the schools. Speaking for the administration, Joan Weber called for “continuity, consistency and better integration of services” and put forth the proposal to replace the five youth outreach workers in place at the Middle School and High School with one social worker at each school. The administration contended that the outreach workers were often out of the buildings running parent groups or attending community meetings, and were therefore not available to students or administrators. When discussing the current program, Weber cited high turn over rates, conflicts in allegiance, inconsistency in services, and lack of district control or evaluation procedures, contending that the success of the program was “ultimately controlled by the competence and charisma of the personnel.”

Mr. Klemme and Mr. McDermott spoke of the conflict between agency and school confidentiality policies and recommended that the district hire their own personnel who would be accountable to the school administration. McDermott stated that under the new program the current parenting groups run by the youth outreach workers could be replaced with topic-specific programming to avoid current discussions which he claimed were characterized by “gripes and rumors.”

A very interesting and lengthy discussion ensued and the Board posed insightful questions in an effort to ascertain what model would provide the best service to the community. Some questioned whether or not students would feel comfortable confiding in school social workers and doubted whether in-house personnel could provide the same outreach to the community. Others spoke to the value of the network of parents, students and the school, that is inherent in the current program that has become a model for other communities.

Robert November, the former President of SFCS and Peter Strauss spoke about the history of SFCS and told the group that it was intentionally independent of the school to facilitate confidential conversations with students and parents on sensitive issues.

However at the February 9th meeting the Board discussion leaned toward preserving the current structure of SFCS and considering a 10% budget cut of the district’s contribution.

Further Discussion:

At the close of the previous meeting on February 8th, in response to the Board’s request for a list of proposed cuts to meet a goal of a 0% budget increase, McGill provided a lengthy list of cuts that could be made to meet this goal, if it did become necessary. Presented after midnight, McGill listed the following budget adjustments to reach over $3 million in savings. He listed them in phases to show what could be done to reduce the budget by $1,000,000, followed by additional cuts to reach $2,000,000 in savings and last, detailed the deepest cuts to attain the $3,000,000 goal.

Presumably, now that the teacher’s union has agreed to salary reductions, most of this will not be necessary. In fact, the agreement with the teachers stipulated that there will be no increase in class size at the elementary schools, though the high school stands to lose 7 teaching positions. However it is interesting to see what would be in store if residents insisted on a 0% tax increase.

Among the recommendations for reductions were:

  • Two staff positions at the high school -$250,000
  • Consulting services - $10,000
  • One physical education teacher at the high school - $100,000
  • Intramurals budgets - $35,000
  • Reduction in Lincoln Center arts programs - $10,000
  • One nursing position - $75,000
  • One school psychologist - $100,000
  • Increase elementary school class size to 23 students in two sections - $200,000
  • Additional cuts in consulting (visiting Professors)- $20,000
  • Secretarial positions - $90,000
  • Kindergarten dance -$100,000
  • Elementary school aids (5 at $75,000) - $375,000
  • Extracurricular activities - $125,000
  • Three-four additional staff position at the high school - $350,000
  • Increase Middle School arts class sizes - $100,000
  • Band for third graders - $100,000
  • Two librarians - $200,000
  • Middle School math teacher for accelerated students - $100,000
  • Six custodians - $240,000
  • Arts leadership - $50,000
  • Two technology teachers $200,000
  • Lincoln Center Program - $80,000
  • Assistant Principal at the Middle School - $100,000
  • Foreign language in the elementary schools - $300,000
  • Athletic teams – football and hockey - $165,000
  • Public Information position – administration - $100,000
  • Increase Department Head teaching load - $100,000
  • Academic intervention service position - $75,000
  • Assistant Principal Middle School -$100,000
  • Choice Program – eliminate three positions - $300,000
  • High school course load increases - $800,000

Missing from the list were any cuts to two large budget items – one for $272,000 for program improvement and another $185,202 for professional development. Professional development grants are in the contract and allow teachers to attend conferences and workshops. Program improvement funds support curriculum development. While both programs ultimately fuel the quality of a Scarsdale education, some cuts to these funds may not be felt as severely as losses of programs such as language instruction and athletics. As the Board continues to make choices it will be interesting to note whether they scrutinize these funds as well.

The Budget study meetings have been lengthy and informative. Board members and the administration should be commended for many hours of work and the extraordinary efforts they have made to analyze the budget and to explore how the School District can be most efficient in meeting the needs of the community.

Alternative School Recruitment Week

A-Schoolers will spread the word about the unique educational opportunity offered at their school during Alternative School recruitment week, this week at Scarsdale High School.

This year, A-school students are visiting freshman English classes on Tuesday February 2nd. The presentations will feature a video that was produced by A-school students and teachers last year. The video includes clips from community meetings, core groups, fairness committees, special A-School events, and our annual overnight trip. Following the video, the recruiters will talk about their personal experiences in the program and answer any questions the ninth graders may have about the school.

On Monday, February 8th at 8:00 pm, A-School students and teachers are hosting an information night for prospective students and parents. This meeting is the perfect opportunity to ask questions, become more familiar with the program, and clear up any misconceptions or skepticism parents might have about the program. Traditionally this meeting is held in the Alternative School building. However, after consecutive years of overflow crowds jammed onto the frigid A-School porch, the faculty decided to move the meeting to a larger room at the Girl Scout House. Last year, the A-School had more than twice as many applicants as spots in the sophomore class, and the final roster included twenty-six new sophomores and four new juniors.

The A-School selects students using a lottery system and applicant’s names are picked out of a hat. This allows the school to get a diverse group of students and eliminates the pressure on prospective students to “sell” themselves, as they could have to do if there was an essay or interview required for admission. For families who have had older children in the A-School it is difficult when younger siblings apply and do not get in, but no one gets priority treatment, not even the son of the A-School’s director, Howard Rodstein.

Everyone in the Alternative School is very excited about recruitment and is open to answering questions from the community. Students who want to apply can pick up an application form from the Dean’s office or Principal’s office. All forms must be handed in to the Principal’s office by February 12 in order to be included in the lottery.

Fitness, Zumba and Golf Offered at the Scarsdale Adult School

The Spring Catalogue from the Scarsdale Adult School is out and here are a few of their fun fitness offerings...Argentine Tango for Beginners; Jazzercise; Mountain Biking 101 and Introduction to XC Mountain Bike Racing; Walk Live Workout (the #1 walking workout in the world); Tai Chi; Stretch, Strengthen and Balance; and The Towel Workout (fusing yoga and Pilates while moving with isometric support of the towel).

Returning fitness favorites include a varied selection of yoga offerings, zumba, mat Pilates, exotic belly dancing, golf for both beginners and advanced beginners and the challenging Boot Camp. Get toned and stay fit—for your health, and for those who are serious about their summer shape.

The schedule for many of the fitness sessions has been extended into the summer months.  Most fitness classes begin the week of March 1st. Several begin later in the spring and summer. To register, or for a complete description of all the Adult School offerings, visit Questions? Call 723-2325.

Scarsdale School Board Seeks Four Candidates

The Scarsdale School Board Nominating Committee (SBNC) seeks candidates for four seats on the Board of Education this year. Two seats currently held by Jill Spieler and Elizabeth Guggenheimer, who will both be completing their first term, are eligible for renomination to serve a second three year term. The two additional seats, one held by Jeff Blatt and one held by Joel Gruin, who is resigning, need to be filled.

All interested residents are encouraged to run. Please note the application deadline is February 21, 2010.

To learn more about the application process please contact Chair SBNC, Ken Keats, at 6 Thornwood Place, Scarsdale, New York 10583, email: Visit the web site - where you can view an informative video about the Scarsdale Board of Education.