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New SHS Counseling Head Sees Role Beyond College Prep

IosepoviciIt's not lost on the new counseling department chair of Scarsdale High School that many if not most students see the key role of his team as helping them in the college admissions process. Oren Iosepovici, however, has a bigger vision for his deans.

His goal for the department is to reinforce the support available to students from when they enter as freshmen to their departure as college-bound graduates.

"I see that as all of our roles, to allow the students to see us as a person who's there for their journey every day in high school, whatever issues that might come up," Iosepovici said in an interview in his office at SHS, adding that the counseling department is ready to help students with more than college-related issues. "One of our biggest challenges has been and continues to be supporting students in every respect, and allowing them to see their high school experience as an opportunity for learning and growth, and yes, making mistakes, rather than simply as a stepping stone to college."

Iosepovici, a counselor at SHS for nine years, is taking over from previous department head Andrea O'Gorman, who has assumed the responsibility of an assistant principal.

He explains his role simply as manager of the department. "We run a number of programs throughout the year, so I coordinate that. I see my role also as one basically to support all the deans in their ongoing work with students, faculty, and parents." However, Iosepovici stresses that his work does not stray too far from that of the deans. "As department head, I have the same exact responsibilities that any other dean would, just a smaller case load," he says. Regular deans have between 180-200 students.

"This new role causes me to examine issues from a completely different perspective," Iosepovici explains, about taking on the position. "The difference is that as individual counselors, the nature of our job is to see things from the confines of our office. As director, I must have a slightly more global approach." Iosepovici believes that being both a department head and a dean is important to his relationships with the students. Were he only the department chair, he wouldn't very well be able to interact with, and talk to, students everyday. By experiencing the daily high school life and day-to-day school rhythms, he believes he is better able to engage and help his students.

College is the culmination, not the essence

Iosepovici said that a big goal of his term is diverting the counseling department's spotlight from college admissions to creating a rich high school experience. The counseling office becomes especially hectic by the time college admissions season comes around - usually starting in junior year. Iosepovici recognizes the need to help students as much as possible but he seeks to make the counseling department more than just an aid for applications. "The college process is not the essence of our work, but it is simply the culmination of it," he says. "I can tell you unequivocally that our reason for joining this profession was to be there for students in every respect. That includes personal and social issues that play a role in all our students' lives."

Iosepovici and the rest of the counseling department want to remain as clear, visible and helpful as possible, he said. They aim to be approachable, knowledgable, and easy to talk to. He wants graduating students to feel like they all can trust at least somebody in the SHS staff by the time they've left the building. "I think there's more to being a teenager," Iosepovici says. "I think there's more to high school. I really hope that students see the high school experience much like I did, much like many adults have, as a time to grow, make mistakes, have fun.

"We value education, right? Then let's value all of it, not simply education as a means to the college process."

Enrollment Steady at Scarsdale Schools with Increases at Greenacres and Edgewood

EnrollmentSchool district administrators, teachers and parents closely watch the number of students moving in and out of Scarsdale during the summer to gauge enrollment for the fall. Will classes split and will new teachers be required? We asked the new Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Drew Patrick what to expect in September, and here is what he shared:

What will be the total enrollment for the district in September – and how does that compare to the estimated figures from the end of the school year?

As of now, we believe the total enrollment will be 4,773. In June, my predecessor reported an expected enrollment of 4,802. My understanding is that variation- roughly 29 students- is well within an expected range of variation, given the unknown K enrollments at the time of the projection.

Have additional sections been added at any of the elementary schools? If so, which ones and which grades have split?

Yes, we added a grade 3 section at Greenacres, and a grade 1 section at Edgewood. (Note: Grade 5 at Greenacres already has four sections.)

Have any students been moved to other schools to accommodate enrollment at one school vs. another? How about faculty children?

It is not the district's practice to move students between elementary schools to adjust for enrollment. The BOE sets the attendance zones, and any family living within that zone attends that school. The only exceptions relate to families spending, say, 5 years in one school before moving. The district has allowed students to finish 5th grade in their original school when they move to another attendance zone within the district. Yes, we have had to move a couple of faculty children. Those are the only students we would move, based on the policy for attendance of non-resident faculty member children.

Are there any sections with the maximum number of students? If so, how many? Do you anticipate that these classrooms will receive more students during the year?

Yes, we are at max enrollment in grades K and 5 at Fox Meadow, grade 2 at Greenacres, and grade 2 at QR. We don't expect more students at this point, but families do come and go throughout the year.

We also spoke to Greenacres Principal Sharon Hill about total enrollment at the school, where a renovation or new construction is under consideration. She reports that the total number of classes has grown from 19 to 20. Third grade has split from three to four sections and Emily Cohen from Fox Meadow will be teaching one of the third grade classes at Greenacres. In order to accommodate the bump in students, the Spanish room will become the fourth third grade classroom. However, the Technology room, the Library, and LRC and ENL will remain intact.

Greenacres to Accomodate New Classroom Sections this Fall

GAMain FloorRendering
Last week we reported that additional sections at Greenacres School this fall could require the takeover of a portion of the library for classroom space. That proved to be wrong. Though enrollment will rise at the school, the library will not be used to accommodate the additional students. Instead, the Spanish room will be converted to an additional classroom, and if another grade requires an additional class, the space currently used for the Learning Resource Center will also become a classroom. Greenacres Principal Sharon Hill anticipates that one and possibly two more classes will be added in the fall.

We spoke to Ms. Hill and here is what she shared about the situation for next year:

How many classrooms do you anticipate having at the school next year?
We expect to have 20 or possibly 21 classes at the school.

Which grades will require a new section?
There will be a new section in Grade 3 and possibly in Grade 2.

How many total students are expected and how does that compare to prior years?
The current enrollment for 2016-17 is 395. At this time last year, the enrollment for 2015-16 was 383 and in 2014-15 it was 403.

You mentioned that both the Spanish and LRC rooms may need to be converted to classrooms. How big are these two rooms?
See Floor Plan: Room #10 (722 square feet) and LRC/ELA & Math Rooms. (not clear)

Where would Spanish be taught and what space will be used for the Learning Resource Center?
The Spanish teacher go directly to classrooms instead of students going to her.

How will the additional classes affect the scheduling of lunch periods, art and music – and other specials?
We don't anticipate any impact on lunch or other scheduling.

Were any other options considered?
Yes there have been many iterations which considered the re-purposing of other spaces. It was felt that the current plan is the best solution.

Grad Bag Outfits Hundreds of College Students for Dorm Room Life

gradbag4At Let's Get Ready's annual Transition Day workshop, Grad Bag distributed a record-setting amount of new and lightly-used dorm room essentials. In a single day, Grad Bag gave away over 200 comforters, 500 decorative and bed pillows, 150 rugs, 250 bunches of hangers, 230 blankets, 275 sheet sets, 150 desk and standing lamps to hundreds of incoming college students.

Founded in 2012, Grad Bag is a green initiative to reuse college dorm supplies. The organization collects and redistributes lightly-used items that too often end up in landfills and delivers them to first generation college freshmen from low-income households. Each year since its founding, Grad Bag has multiplied its reach. The organization now operates in both New York and Boston, collecting from 13 colleges in the Northeast.gradbag5

To distribute the goods it collects, Grad Bag works with Let's Get Ready (LGR) that was started by a Scarsdale High School graduate 15 years ago. LGR provides low-income high school students with free SAT preparation, admissions counseling and other support services needed to gain admission to and graduate from college. Services are provided by volunteer college students who also serve as role models and mentors.

This year, the LGR's New York Transition Day workshop was held at Barnard College. Early on the morning of August 2nd, many hands helped load 4 truckloads of goods. Upon arrival in Manhattan, the trucks we were met by an additional crowd of people to unload and set up the Grad Bag "store." Hundreds of happy students from LGR and other local inner city college prep organizations left the workshop with bags full of dorm room supplies.

gradbag3Grad Bag was founded by Tara Tyberg and Liz Gruber, both of Scarsdale, in 2012. When moving their children out of their college rooms, Tyberg and Gruber realized that there were a lot of dorm room items college kids have no use for once they've graduated but are in fine workable condition. The pair contacted their friends and neighbors—parents of recent college graduates—to gather items that would otherwise be thrown away.

Each May, Grad Bag works with local colleges to collect items that would otherwise be thrown away. In June and July, the items are cleaned and and packaged and in early August, they're distributed. At each of 2 two "community folds," 30 to 40 volunteers from Westchester Reform Temple (WRT), Scarsdale Synagogue and the greater community fold and package sheets, comforters, blankets and towels and more.gradbag1

Since 2013, WRT has been Grad Bag's partner and New York home. WRT graciously allows Grad Bag to use many empty classrooms over the summer months for the work of getting everything in close-to-new condition that's ready to distribute. The very generous donations of laundering and trucking make it possible for this grass-roots effort to exist. This year Stanley Steemer donated their services and cleaned over 150 rugs.

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.


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 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.