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LWVS Poses Questions On Facilities Planning

questionmarkThe following statement from the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale was read by Mary Beth Evans and Linda Doucette Ashman at the July 6 meeting of the Scarsdale Board of Education.

The LWVS Committee studying the District Facilities Bond appreciates the Board of Education's June 27th invitation to community groups to comment on facilities issues; however, we will instead take the opportunity today to share with the Board and the public background on the League's study process and what we need from the District in order for our League membership to be in position to evaluate a bond proposal.

The League of Women Voters of Scarsdale is a nonpartisan political organization that promotes political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government, and we only take a stand on issues after careful member study, discussion and consensus.

In order to educate members of the League and the public on the school facilities bond, our eight-member study committee is committed to an open-minded approach to fact-gathering based on a framework of multiple, objective lines of inquiry broken into three main areas: (1) decision making process, (2) educational value, and (3) cost benefit analysis.
Despite all the information that the District has provided to date, we struggle to conduct our study due to numerous factors, including the:

(1) Rapid pace of the process;
(2) Overwhelming volume of data being presented at each public meeting;
(3) Constant shifts in narrative following real–time District decision-making;
(4) Substantial number of remaining unknowns pending future results from Board requested professional analyses;
(5) Growing list of yet to be answered League and community member questions; and
(6) Most importantly, the absence of a clear statement of the Board's overall objective as it relates to the quality of our schools and Scarsdale's educational values.

Without adequate time to process consistent information, clear, research-based criteria for assessment, and a coherent picture of what our buildings need to provide in order to preserve and enhance a high quality Scarsdale education, members of the League and the community lack the tools needed to evaluate a facilities bond proposal. Both the League and the public's informed perspective depends on answers to such key questions as:

• What is the School Board's decision-making process for building community-wide support? And what has the School Board done or plan to do to actively engage and inform District residents, parents, students, and educators so that we may realize a shared educational vision and achieve broad community support for the proposed work in the Bond?

• What educational needs and community values are met by the proposed facilities projects? And what is the objective standard and reference point for measuring whether the recommended work will achieve optimal learning environments for all Scarsdale students now and into the future?

• What are the benefits and cost justifications of the proposed projects?
A successful District bond proposal that makes sense for our community requires us to work together. To this end, it would be helpful if we all start from the same place and proceed forward together in a methodical manner, with a shared understanding of the basic underlying assumptions and overall District goals and educational values driving the process that a proposed facilities bond will address.
Sincerely,

Mary Beth Evans, Chair School Facilities Bond Study Committee
Linda Doucette-Ashman, President League of Women Voters of Scarsdale

LWVS District Facilities Bond Study Committee Questions to School Board & Administration at July 6th Board of Education Meeting

1) When will you make public the corrected financial analysis comparing the long-range costs of a Greenacres renovation vs. a new building?

2) When can we see a side-by-side comparative analysis of the benefits of a Greenacres renovation vs. a new building? It is our understanding that the question of whether a particular investment is worth it to the community is cost-value equation.

3) While it's clear that the quality of our teachers is the most important factor in our children's education, we are surprised to learn that the "model program" that was a meaningful benchmark in prior Greenacres building committee work involving our faculty is now being disparaged. Can you please clarify?

4) In your decision to move forward today, what methods, information and criteria did you use to evaluate the level of community buy-in and support for the current proposal and scope of the bond that we learned about at today's meeting? What challenges do you see in achieving community buy-in for your decision between now and mid-December and what is your process for meeting those challenges to ensure community support?

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