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New District Architects Selected for the Scarsdale Schools

musicroomThe Scarsdale Schools has selected a new architectural firm to handle all the districts building needs. At the February 13 meeting of the Board of Education, the board voted unanimously to appoint BBS Architects and Engineers from Patchogue, praising their "ability to dream and think big and to handle the nuts and bolts of what we (the district) need on a daily basis."

In making the decision, the board and administration checked many references and said all were "outstanding." Board President Lee Maude and Board Member Scott Silberfein visited schools in Rockville Center and Garden City that BBS designed and said, "their architecture reflects their town and their way of thinking." Maude said they visited a school in Garden City where they saw a beautiful addition of a music room.

BBS will be charged with a district-wide facilities master plan and with assessing conditions at the Greenacres Elementary School and making recommendations for a renovation or a replacement. According to Board member Nina Cannon, the firm will "go above and beyond to meet our demands and involve all the stakeholders in the process to move it forward in a positive way." See more here:

Concluding the discussion, Board President Lee Maude said, "I hope as we go forward we're not scared of the facts. Let them bring us the facts – good, bad or ugly in terms of actual costs of new vs. renovation ... let them show it to us. Let the facts take us to the right decision."

Below find the press release from the Scarsdale School District about the appointment of BBS.

Scarsdale, February 14, 2017: The selection of BBS came after an intensive process which began in December 2016, when a Request for Proposals (with a due date of January 18) was sent to 48 school architects in the region and advertised in the New York Times. A total of 18 architectural firms submitted formal proposals.

The RFP encompassed architectural and engineering services for the planning, design, and construction phases for all upcoming capital projects, including the possible major renovation/replacement of Greenacres Elementary School. Specifically, the RFP sought the following services:

-Planning, design, and construction phases to address various renovations and improvements at the District's numerous facilities
-Developing creative and innovative approaches in the renovation of older buildings, while maintaining their historical character, when appropriate and as needed
-Developing creative and innovative solutions for 21st century educational facilities

The 18 proposals were then vetted by District administrators for adherence to qualifications listed in the RFP, as well as other desired qualities. Because all New York public school districts' major capital projects must be approved by the New York State Education Department, firms without experience in that process were excluded. Additional consideration was given to design aesthetic, renovation and new construction experience, collaboration and problem-solving skills, and time and resources available for the District's current and ongoing needs.

After multiple reference calls, a top tier of candidates emerged: BBS Architects & Engineers, KSQ Design, Peter Gisolfi Associates, CS Arch, and a partnership between Geddis Architects and Dattner Architects. These candidates were recommended to the Board of Education for interviews.

The interviews were held over the course of two evenings in Board Meetings open to the public. Interviews were slated for approximately 45 minutes a piece, and included an introductory presentation and follow-up questions by the Board of Education. After the last of these interviews, the Board of Education adjourned into Executive Session for discussion leading to the employment of a corporation.

On Friday, February 3rd a public notice went out to the community, stating that the Board of Education would be interviewing "finalists" the following week on Tuesday, February 7th. As a result of the interview sessions, overwhelmingly positive reference checks, and full consensus of the Board and District administration, BBS Architects & Engineers was invited back for a follow-up interview.

Dr. Thomas Hagerman, Superintendent of Schools, noted: "With over 60 professionals on staff, BBS set itself apart from most of the competition with its in-house engineering abilities, technical strengths, project approaches, and master planning experience. During their initial interview, BBS illustrated 12 different major projects that demonstrated their capacity to build new buildings and to renovate extensively, and explained the processes they used to actualize each of these projects."

Dr. Hagerman further noted that reference checks generated outstanding reviews of BBS, highlighting their ability to work with the district and community throughout project development, quality of design work, and budget adherence. In addition, Board Members and District administration had the opportunity to visit elementary, middle and high school projects which further illustrated the capabilities of this firm, including examples of complex renovations and new construction, additions of award-winning elementary spaces, and examples of collaborative learning design.

BBS returned to Scarsdale last week for a second visit and more intensive Q & A with the Board of Education and Administrative Cabinet. Dr. Hagerman reported: "At this meeting BBS again demonstrated its knowledge of working with a variety of facility needs, including how to improve instructional spaces to meet a district's changing needs, and a strong competency in a host of infrastructure challenges. In addition, they provided a clear and impressive community-based approach to project development--from beginning to end.

"Finally, although not a primary consideration for this decision, BBS costs were the lowest among all interviewees. With the scope and scale of capital work in the District over the next many years, there is no doubt that the community, as it does in all areas, expects fiscally prudent stewardship in this area."

Architects Make Proposals to the Scarsdale Schools

Five architectural firms, selected from 18 respondents to an RFPSaratogaSpringsschools for a district architect for the Scarsdale Schools, made proposals before the School Board and administration at two meetings last week.

When Superintendent Thomas Hagerman announced that the district would not work with architect's KG&D on projects beyond those approved in the $18.2 million 2014 bond, observers wondered what the future would be for the renovation and design of Scarsdale's facilities. With $60 million in debt expiring this year, the community had been told that the district would move forward with addressing Greenacres Elementary School and other needs identified in a district-wide facilities plan. However plans for Greenacres were put on hold in the fall of 2016 when the community became polarized about renovating the existing school or constructing a new school on the field across the street.

Now the Superintendent has announced an ambitious timeline to retain new architects, assess district-wide needs, formulate plans for Greenacres and pass a bond referendum in December 2017 or January 2018.

Toward that goal the Board interviewed five firms with a variety of capabilities and strengths on February 1 and February 3, 2017. This week, they will invite back two finalists on February 7 and plan to make a decision and appoint the new architects at the February 13 meeting of the Board of Education.

Each firm was given an hour to present before the board and respond to questions. Some of the firms emphasized their engineering expertise while others promoted their design capabilities, knowledge of state regulations, sensitivity to sustainability and ability to build consensus in the community.

Burton Behrendt Smith

First up was Burton Behrendt Smith from Patchogue, NY who highlighted their engineering skills and promised to investigate leaks, water infiltration issues and asbestos. They called themselves experts in forensic architecture and problem solvers who could get to the source of a leaky building. They proposed the use of energy performance contracts to save district funds down the line and said they would be a "fresh set of eyes on existing facilities," to analyze district priorities.

In terms of helping the district decide between renovation or a new building they said they would investigate both options and even explore possibilities for community use of the existing school should a new school be built.

CS Arch

Tom Ritzenthaler of CS Arch was up next. The firm is based in Newburgh and Albany and is one of the largest firms in the state with 85 on staff. Ritzenthaler said their expertise with the NYS Education Department could help the district maximize state building aid and get the plans approved in a timely manner. Their focus is to improve the education of children. He also vowed to enhance building security. When asked how their firm would help evaluate a decision on Greenacres, Ritzenthaler said, "The building needs $27-$28 million of work in repairs. And that's without addressing the comprehensive improvement to educational delivery in that building. If you get to 50% of the building value you should look at a new building. Even the state education department would say that."

Asked about sustainability, he replied, "Our standard design practice is to be as sustainable and energy efficient as possible. We consider glass, HVAC, and fresh air. Air quality is very important to the educational process."

He conveyed the need to build trust with the community, recounting what happened when the roof of the school at Webster Avenue in New Rochelle collapsed. The firm was able to have the situation resolved quickly, while the children were relocated to another building and did not miss a day of school.

Geddis and Dattner ArchitectsBatteryParkCitySchool

Barbara Geddis of Geddis Architects of Southport CT partnered with Daniel Heuberger from Dattner Architects of NYC. They called themselves "out of the box thinkers, and noted that Dattner wrote the "Green Book on Sustainable Schools." Dattner was selected to design the renovation at the Scarsdale Library and is familiar with the stakeholders in the community. They both emphasized their experience with clients in the public domain, their focus on preservation and history and innovation in education.

Geddis said, "We start from the inside out and think about the learning environment." Rather than designing in terms of individual classrooms they design pods with multiple spaces by grade or multiple grades as well as small group instruction spaces, self-directed and individual learning spaces. They explained that they do their best to avoid designing long hallways which are a waste of space, and can instead be used for group learning, storage and have window seats with views.

They showed their work which included beautiful renovations and new construction. Dattner designed and eight story high rise school at Battery Park City which was one of the first green schools in New York City and includes photovoltaic panel arrays and an extensive energy and weather monitoring system. The self-guided energy use signs make the building itself a part of the learning environment.

Asked how they would approach Greenacres, Geddis said, "We are rooted in history and we start with a bias that anything can be transformed. If the site is extremely difficult then it's the perfect project for us. ... we have never taken anything down. – except where there is mold and air quality issues."

KSQ Design

More creative thinking came from KSQ Design. Mark McCarthy, formerly of Perkins Eastman joined the firm in 2016 and discussed their philosophy. He said, "We make vibrant communities possible." He said he had toured Greenacres and understood the challenges. He discussed the importance of collaborative learning spaces and called outdoor spaces an extension of the learning environment. When making design decisions they factor in comfort, natural light and fresh air and design spaces that will encourage students to make connections. He said, "A great school inspires one to dream," and said when making decisions they need to consider design for today and for 40-50 years from now.

At a project at West Patent Elementary School, they built in many sustainable features such as solar tubes, rainwater gardens and voltaic arrays for solar power. Solar radiation preheats the air before it goes into the ventilation system, using passive solar energy to reduce costs.

In terms of Greenacres he said, "We are not rooting for a new school. We are rooting for a long-term relationship." He added, "We will find an idea that will galvanize the community toward one particular solution."

He said that in Bedford the firm had "a community summit. ryecountrydayschoolWe engaged the community and had them break down into small study groups." He added, "We are available, we are close by and we try to communicate as much as possible."

Peter Gisolfi and Associates

Peter Gisolfi and Associates, the former architect of record for the Scarsdale Schools was invited back as well. They designed the large Fountain House addition to Scarsdale Middle School along with the new gym, the two-story library and the science wing at Scarsdale High School. They are both architects and landscape architects based in Hastings on Hudson.

They showed some dazzling work of a school and community center with a shared indoor pool overlooking the Hudson in Peekskill and an extension at Rye Country Day School. A project at the Hackley School involved extensive outdoor work including a freshwater pond and raised pathway through a marsh. At Cornell University, White Hall, one of the original historic buildings was totally redesigned on the inside, leaving the façade intact. They also showed the LEED certified Darien Library that was visited by the committee who looked into the redesign of Scarsdale Library.

They ended by offering to understand the needs of the district and to provide technical excellence and imaginative thinking.

The School Board will meet again at 7 pm on Tuesday February 7 to hear more from the two chosen finalists.

Technology Education Report: From BlueBots to "Life Hacks", What's New with STEAM in Scarsdale?

3DPrintingSome pretty amazing things are new, with much more to come, as revealed in Director of Instruction Technology and Innovation Gerald Crisci's "Technology Education Report" at the 1/23/17 School Board meeting. Assisting him with the presentation were three members of the "STEAM Team", SHS teachers Lisa Yokana (Art), Jeremy Szerlip (Science), and new hire Brian McDonald (STEAM).

With a windy nor'easter bearing down on the area, the School Board curtailed the scope of their agenda Monday evening to focus on the STEAM presentation. Due to weather, no doubt, community attendance was sparse, but it is well worth residents' time to view the presentation on video here and/or review the presentation document, as they reveal an exciting expansion of the education offered to all Scarsdale students.

Those who follow educational topics in our district may recall that recent surveys indicated that "STEAM" headed the majority of parents' priority list in educational investment, and that World Language surveys even had some write-in requests for "Java, "C++" and "Python" rather than world languages. No question, this is a educational need on parents' minds. Scarsdale has been laying the groundwork for this expansion for some time, connecting with organizations such as Princeton Unversity, the New Media Consortium, and the Museum of Science Boston to gather information on cutting-edge STEAM education trends.

Dinner Table Topics?

Most are aware that the new Design Lab construction is in process at the high school, but what else is planned from Kindergarten on up? What are BlueBots and who's dreaming up Life Hacks? What might parents expect to start hearing about over the dinner table?

bluebotsKindergarteners and first graders ought to be bringing home tales of their explorations with BlueBots, adorable light-up "bug" robots that they can program to follow instructions. As they progress through the elementary years, their experiences with the BlueBots will help them transition onwards to more traditional programming with Kodable and then Tynker.

Middle schoolers consider coding everyday stuff, as they've had a coding quarterly in sixth grade for three years now, although expansion to seventh and eighth grades is under consideration. The Technology quarterly helps spark interest in various after-school offerings, and traditional engineering projects, such bridge building, foster design thinking that the high school offerings will expand upon.

In high school students' interest and options are exploding. bridgeprojectSTEAM teacher Brian McDonald noted that he's recently opened the current Design Lab space before and after school and he now has four 3D printers running constantly so that students can complete their projects.

Students already have concrete work to display - one clever "Life Hack" recently completed in the Intro to Design and Fabrication class was a flat shoe-sole meant to be velcro-attached over cleats to allow for safe driving without having to remove sports gear. (Ongoing work at the Design Lab can be viewed here. 

The 270 students who have completed the new introductory level engineering courses can consider choices among next year's second level courses: Design for Modern Production, Physical Computing/Wearables, Robotics, and Design/Build.

Another interesting development both middle and high schoolers may mention is the addition of an Engineer in Residence. SHS graduate Giancarlo Paternoster, who studied mechanical engineering at Lehigh University, is now sharing his knowledge of tools and materials science with interested students and reportedly they're excited by the connection with a young alumnus.

Queries from the Board

School Board members had questions once the presentation was complete.

hackshoeBoard President Leila Maude asked if the STEAM group was meeting with colleges to make sure Scarsdale is staying in line with colleges' goals for students. Lisa Yokana, who teaches Art, Architecture, Introduction to Engineering, and Introduction to Design and Fabrication, replied, "Yes, the collaboration with Princeton was especially useful," and mentioned that they keep in contact with other schools and alumni as well.

Board Vice President William Natbony asked how the Design Lab would tie in to the current initiatives as it comes to fruition. Ms. Yokana explained, "We have designed it as a flexible shell so it can easily change as our needs and technology shift and change. We're bursting at the seams in our current room and the new space will only get our kids even more excited."

Ms. Maude raised the issue of how things would change as the students engage with the STEAM curriculum earlier and earlier. Mr. Crisci explained, "That's why we're starting with BlueBots, starting with physical objects appropriate to the age....Every year we'll have to recalibrate our program, make sure that in the next two to three years it's ready for those moving up.... One goal is to have common language around design, just like the common language of the scientific method, incorporated as they go starting from early on."

Board Member Arthur Rublin expressed his appreciation for the plan keeping Scarsdale on the "cutting edge of education K-12" and Superintendent Dr. Thomas Hagerman concluded the evening by thanking Mr. Crisco and his team for their "dynamic and informative presentation."

Again, it is well worth the time to view the presentation in its entirety, available through the Scarsdale Board of Education website here

School Board Changes Course on Meetings with Architects

kgdentry(This article was updated on Tuesday January 31 at 5:29 pm)

The Scarsdale School Board has revised their plans and will permit community members to attend two meetings with prospective district architects on Wednesday February 1 at 6 pm and on Friday February 3 at 8:30 am. The Board had originally planned to hold these meetings in Executive Session, but has now opened them to the public.

A district wide email sent out on Tuesday says the following:

 "The Board of Education of the Scarsdale Union Free School District will hold two Special Meetings to review presentations by architectural firms on Wednesday, February 1, at 6 p.m., and Friday, February 3, at 8:30 a.m. in the Board Conference rooms in the Board of Education wing of Scarsdale High School, 2 Brewster Road, Scarsdale; the Board may enter into Executive Session at these meetings to discuss matters leading to the appointment of a corporation.

A special note from the Scarsdale Board of Education:

These meetings were originally scheduled as Executive Sessions. Upon further reflection, the Board of Education has decided that the interviews with the candidate firms for District Architect should be open to the public. They will be held in the Board Conference rooms of the High School. Members of the public will be permitted to hear the presentations and any Board members' and administrator's questions. Members of the public will not participate in the actual interview itself, and there will not be any public comment opportunities during these interview sessions. The Board will not be deliberating about the architect candidates at these meetings. Board of Education deliberations will occur at separately scheduled Executive Sessions.

The Board of Education values community engagement and participation. Recognizing that the selection of an architectural firm will have significant impact on issues of importance to the community, the Board agrees, in this particular circumstance, that it is important for the community to hear from the prospective candidates about their qualifications and experience. However, the ultimate decision concerning the appointment of a District architect remains entrusted to the Board of Education.

For additional information, contact the Public Information Officer, Victoria Presser, at vpresser@scarsdaleschools.org."

In response to questions from Scarsdale10583 as to why these meetings were not originally open to the public, we received this email from Board VP Bill Natbony on Monday January 31:

"The Board of Education will be interviewing a number of firms as part of its process resulting in the appointment of a new District Architect. Your e-mail requests that the public be invited to those interviews. Ultimately, the proposed contractual agreement requiring the expenditure of monies for a new District Architect will be discussed and voted upon at a public meeting of the Board.

Under Section 105 of New York's Open Meetings Law, however, the Board may hold Executive Sessions, which are not open to the general public, to address, among other things, "the...employment history of...a corporation" and "matters leading to the appointment, employment...of a particular person or corporation". The interview process for a new District Architect will involve these specified matters and the Board will be conducting interviews within its Executive Sessions. During these interviews, the Board will not be making any decisions about the plans for Green Acres or expressing any option preferences regarding alternatives for Green Acres.

The Board and Administration will keep the community informed as to the status and progress of the architect selection process through the District website, Board meeting reports and other direct communications from the Administration.

Conducting the interview process within the Board's Executive Sessions is consistent with how the Board has proceeded with respect to its appointment of other corporations, including the District's auditing firm and attorneys.

We appreciate your interest and communication regarding Board matters."

In the past, the Board of Education sought to build consensus for facilities plans by involving the community every step of the way. A building committee was formed to identify needs and the community was invited to listen to proposals. In this case, it appears that the administration and the Board were leaving the public in the dark about what they are hiring the architects to design and whom they will retain to do the work.

However, they apparently had a change of heart about their decision and have now invited the public to attend.

Middle Schoolers Learn to Stand Up and Be the Change

change6The entire student body of the Scarsdale Middle School was involved and engaged in exploring how they could "Stand Up and Be the Change," at the 13th annual Human Rights Conference on January 12. Teachers Meghan Lahey and Jane Strobel and the faculty of SMS organized a full day of speakers and activities for the students, demonstrating how they could be instrumental in making the world a better place.

Representatives from local organizations along with those from organizations that reach all the way to Africa participated. The great hall of the school was filled with cans of food that students had been donated to the Food Bank for Westchester and students assisted with evaluating the cans and sorting them so that they could be distributed to those in need.

I stopped by a music class where there was an African drumming demonstration and then visited Ms. Cassano's art class where the children were making symbolic paper hands for the Youth Uplift Challenge for Students Rebuild, Save the Children and Global Nomads Groups. For each hand created, the Bezos Family Foundation donates $1.90 to Save the Children's youth empowerment programs in Nicaragua and Indonesia.

change2At 10 am, the whole seventh grade class gathered in the auditorium to hear Michel Chikwanine recount his personal journey from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Canada. The son of a human rights activist, Chikwanine was kidnapped by rebel soldiers at age five, and given a gun. He was instructed to use it and ended up killing a good friend. After a few days he escaped and was eventually found and hospitalized. When his village was overrun by conflict, his family moved to a plastic tent in a refugee camp in Uganda. They were ultimately able to get official refugee status from the United Nations and relocated to Canada. Chikwanine did an excellent job or relating to the kids and showing them what it was like to live in a rural, war-torn community.

The schedule included many more inspirational speakers and activities to give Scarsdale students a global perspective on human rights.change3change5change4

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