Tuesday, Dec 18th

Last updateMon, 17 Dec 2018 11am

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ipadWith the purchase of 399 iPads for the sixth grade class, Scarsdale Middle School is adapting to a new teaching style that incorporates technology into all parts of the learning process.

This year’s sixth grade class is the first where each student was given their own device that they use in school and out; in the classroom, for homework and even in art class. In prior years students had access to ipads, MacBooks and Chrome Books that were stored on carts in the classrooms. Kids could use them in class, but were not able to store their own work or use the devices at home. But according to the schools website, this year’s 1:1 iPad initiative “provides students with opportunities to develop as users of computers and related resources through work toward a variety of learning outcomes and assured digital experiences.”

Before making this change, the school’s technology team embarked on research to see which devices should be purchased and how they were being utilized in other districts. They went on five site visits to districts like White Plains and Briarcliff Manor who had already implemented similar programs.

After considering what they saw they decided to purchase iPads with detachable key boards that when closed, form a protective cover on the screen. Though students can write on the screen using a stylus, the school has not supplied these this year, but students can purchase an Apple pencil or a Logitech crayon. A major benefit for students is that now all students have 100% access to the same devices. Previously, teachers heard that kids might not have a computer at home or might be sharing one with other family members, posing challenges to doing homework. Now that each student has their own machine they have unlimited access to their work.

Both students and faculty needed a lot of preparation for the move. Teachers received weeks of training as they needed to learn how to upload assignments and resources to the iPads and how to use them as teaching tools. The school offered STI courses, summer training and used faculty meetings as opportunities to offer training on using the devices.

Though the devices were distributed to students on the first day of school, they were kept in school for the first few weeks and did not go home until the kids had been briefed on handling, responsible use, charging and proper internet access. They learned how to access their assignments online, access resources, complete their work and “hand it in” to the teacher online. It is hoped that this new program will teach students to be responsible digital citizens now and throughout their lives. The school has the ability to monitor internet usage on the devices which serves to deter students from going places they should not. Furthermore, students cannot download apps onto their iPads – that can only be done by the school. No messaging or games are available on the devices.ipadclassroom

Parents who are used to seeing homework on handouts had many questions about the integration of the device into the curriculum. Some found that their kids were having difficulty doing math homework or writing on the screen. Others were concerned that if kids did not have internet access they could not do their homework. Others were having difficulty with scheduling and due dates.

To find out more, I met with the Jerry Crisci, the school’s technology team and SMS Principal Megan Troy and here is what I learned. Not everything needs to be done on the iPad, and Principal Megan Troy emphasized that paper can be used where preferred. For instance, if students are having trouble doing math problems on the screen, they can print out their assignments, do them on paper, take a photo of the completed assignment and submit the photo to the teacher.

Another parent expressed concern about kids’ ability to do homework online – without the benefit of a textbook or resources in hand. Technology teachers Doug Rose and Mike Pincus explained that the iPads do have split screen capabilities to allow students to refer to resource as they work on their assignments.

If kids know that they will be out of the range of internet service, they can download their assignments in advance and complete them on their machines.

What about taking notes? Is that a skill for the past? Apparently not. Though sixth graders are not usually developmentally up to taking notes, they can take notes using “Notability” and even mark up their virtual outlines. Teachers can access students’ notes and work and project them to the screen to share with the class. For example, for math problems, teachers can see how students are solving a particular problem and project the varying approaches with the class to compare.

The iPads are configured with a suite of apps and applications that kids will learn to use and will enhance student work. The machines include internet access via Chrome, presentation software Keynote, music composition software Garageband, spreadsheet, chart and graph software Numbers and much more. With applications like Google calendar, word processing software and video software, kids gain proficiencies that they will use for a lifetime. Check out what’s available here:

I asked if the kids are having trouble holding onto their iPads, keeping them charged and in good order. The school has the equivalent of a “Find My Phone” app and is able to locate any missing devices. Though there have been a few cracked screens, casualties have been lower than expected. Those who leave their iPad at home, can go to the help desk in the morning and get a loaner. In fact the iPad Tech Support Desk is available to students to help with both the physical machine and issues with usage.

The school is fortunate to have two full time computer teachers who provide tech support to faculty and kids. Without them, the iPads may not have been used to their full capacity. Parents with questions about the iPad can email computer teachers Doug Rose or Michael Pincus for help.

Though it’s too early to fully evaluate this new program, the school is gathering feedback and fine-tuning the program based on user experience.

What do your kids think of the new iPads? Enter your comments below.

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Hot classroomAir conditioning, lunch, facilities and security were top of mind at the December 3rd meeting of the Scarsdale School Board, reflecting parent’s concerns about these issues.

Air Conditioning

Assistant Superintendent Drew Patrick said the district is working on proposals to provide cool spaces in all district schools for excessive heat days. He defined “excessive heat” as days when the heat index reaches 90 degrees. (It was not clear whether this means 90 degrees inside or outside.) In preparing for this coming spring the committee has a current inventory of school spaces that are cooled and are working on a list of the maximum capacity for each of those rooms. They are looking to bring schools with a significantly lower level of cool spaces up to parity with other schools. For example, Fox Meadow is at a deficit compared to the other schools. They are working toward cooling an agreed upon percentage of each school as a target.

For the longer term they will:

-Deliver a feasibility estimate to match cooling and energy saving opportunities. They are working with Con Edison on energy savings.

-Present an estimate to cool some of the larger spaces in the older schools.

-Present a long-term proposal for air conditioning the district.

School Lunch Program

Stuart Mattey said that all lunch orders are being processed electronically, eliminating paper work. Spending limits on My School Bucks were eliminated to reduce rejected orders. He thanked Rachel Moseley for her help in fixing the system. The number of school lunch orders are continuing to rise each month.

Based on parent feedback the following changes will be made to the menu: In January there will be a hot vegetarian entrée offered when the main entrée is meat. There will also be an Asian Day with a vegetarian dumpling and more whole grain breads will be included in the menu.

Board member Chris Morin asked if the new Greenacres kitchen would have sufficient capacity to provide meals for other schools. Mattey indicated that the kitchen was big enough and that the question was timing. However Mattey also indicated that the district had asked architects BBS to look into building kitchens at Fox Meadow and Edgewood Schools to serve hot food.

Facilities

High School Synthetic Field

The synthetic turf is 80% down and will be ready for spring practices. The track will probably be built later in the spring as construction is weather dependent.

Hot Water Heaters

Mattey reported that the hot water heaters will be replaced at the high school and that the heaters at the middle school, also of the same vintage, have failed. In the interim they are sanitizing plates and dishes with chemical cleansers. The middle school heaters are out to bid but expected to cost about $135,000. The district was unable to serve hot lunches at the middle school on November 30 and December 3 due to the failure of the hot water heaters.

Greenacres Elementary School

Plans for the Greenacres School and the security vestibules have been submitted to the State Education Department for review. A third party architecture firm will review the work of district architects BBS and the final sign off will be done by the state. Mattey expects to get approval in the spring and put these projects out to bid. Plans for the Heathcote roof and minor work at the middle school were also submitted.

Environmental Reports

In response to a question from Board member Lee Maude, Mattey indicated that a water quality report from November 2016 had been added to the district’s facilities page. It shows the results of the testing of 369 district water outlets, 69 of which were above the EPA action level for lead.9 of which were above the EPA action level for lead.

School Security

Dr. Hagerman announced that a community security summit is planned for 7 pm on Wednesday January 23 at Scarsdale High School. The summit will include a panel discussion with stakeholders including representatives from the police, village, schools, private schools and houses of worship to discuss how they can work together to improve school security.

Stuart Mattey reported that District Safety Committee met for the second time this year last Thursday. The committee includes teachers, parents, and administrators. The minutes of the meeting will be reported on the district website under “Safety and Security.”

The District Emergency Response Committee (DERC) team will review improvement opportunities. The district has been in contact with the Department of Homeland Security to do an additional assessment of school buildings and this is in process. Mattey said “they made some good contacts there.”

Director of Security Mike Spedaliere reported that the district had run the following drills this year:

28 fire drills
6 alternate exit drills where one exit is blocked
8 lock down drills
3 evacuation drills
Bus drills

Spedaliere is working on threat assessment protocols with Eric Rauschenbach. Also, SHS Assistant Principal Chris Griffin and Mike Spedaliere met with a high school senior who had an accident near the high school and had concerns. Police have increased their presence at the school during the morning and afternoon.

Board member Bill Natbony said there was “low hanging fruit” that could be addressed more quickly including badges for faculty and policies on leaving doors open. He urged the district to move quickly.

During public comments David Brown of 24 Herkimer Road read a long statement about school safety and security and his concerns about the district’s response to parent’s inquiries. His statement far exceeded the three-minute speaking limit.

Brown said, “These are dated schools, built at an earlier time without cafeterias or air conditioning.” He expressed concerns about access to the schools and the ease of entering. He said that when he asked Mr. Mattey how long it would take to fix this he was told it would take two to three years to get approval. He complained that he did not receive replies to his emails about access control and said “not a thing has been done to address this.”

Brown said he was “frustrated” and was treated with “nonchalance and arrogance.” He urged the Board to leverage the services of parent Roger Neustadt who he said “knows more about this stuff than anyone on the administration” … adding, “this is not about guns” or “eliminating all risk.”

He was upset that it took 20-25 minutes for police to respond to the Quaker Ridge bomb threat, saying “we have to do better …. the management was a mess.”

He said the district did not have a clear perspective on the presence of police in the schools. In one email, the following two statement were made:

“We welcome as much police presence as they are able to provide”

“Police presence creates a dark cloud of fear in our children by militarizing our schools.”

Brown said the police say they want to be around the schools as much as possible but the district does not welcome them. When Brown pointed this out to Dr. Hagerman, the superintendent called this “misinformation.”

Brown continued, “Over the past six weeks we have locked down three different schools and evacuated two of them. This stuff is not going away. …In the PTC survey, more than half of respondents ranked school security as a chief concern. That’s consensus. …The majority of parents believe we are underfunded and under focused on security.

He went on to call for some specific improvements, saying, “There are easy and basic fixes on your list of security improvements. I would like to offer a few actionable takeaways to the board.

-Fix the door access issue.
-Get cameras at schools that police can monitor
-Procure and implement lockdown technology
-Get shatterproof glass film
-Install panic or emergency buttons tied to the police
-Install impediments to enter the school such as planters and boulders.
-Hold a public meeting on safety
-Hire an independent security firm to audit the work of Altaris
-Invite broader parent involvement on the Security Task Force

Other matters:

Fund Balance

Speaking for the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale, Leah Dembitzer noted that in the recent 5 Year Fiscal Trend Analysis presented by the district, the undesignated fund balance is reduced from 3.5% in the 2018 budget to only 1.5% in the 2022/2023 budget. She asked if this was part of the strategic plan and if so, how would unexpected needs be met. She inquired how the district would safeguard their bond rating as they go out to bid on facilities projects and how these reserves would be replenished.

Mattey said he would answer these questions when he receives them in writing.

Principal for Fox Meadow

Assistant Superintendent Drew Patrick reported that the district is at the beginning of a search for a new principal for Fox Meadow School. They are soliciting input, will build a profile and go out for candidates in January, with the goal of hiring a replacement in March.

Holiday Schedule

Dr. Hagerman acknowledged those that had called for the recognition of a more diverse holiday schedule. He said that though it is difficult to declare more official school holidays, the district can recognize and celebrate these holidays as a part of the school day. During the public comments portion of the meeting Avi Amin of 29 Shawnee Road thanked Dr. Hagerman for responding to his inquiry, He noted that the New York City Public Schools have now added three new holidays to their schedule: Dawali, Eid and the Lunar New Year. Though he realized this was a “complex ask,” he inquired about recognizing these holidays.

Freightway Development and School Enrollment

School Board President Scott Silberfein spoke with Scarsdale Mayor Dan Hochvert concerning the Freightway Development Project. He said the School Board or school district would be involved in the RFP process for the project - especially on school enrollment issues. He said that the Village and the schools would not be “siloed” on this project.

District Policy Manual

Dr. Hagerman said that he administration is planning to do a complete overhaul of the district’s policy manual this year and committed to giving opportunity to the PTC, STC and the community to be involved in the process and review drafts.

Watch the meeting online here.

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GabrielGaleGabriel Gale, Leah Dembitzer and Rene Makrinos at the Young Writers' Workshop332 excited third, fourth and fifth grade students came to the Scarsdale Middle School on Saturday November 17 to explore storytelling, writing, reporting and creativity at the 24th annual Young Writers' Workshop. This year’s workshop was the biggest yet and ran seamlessly under the direction of Leah Dembitzer and Kerry Hayes from the PT Council along with many willing volunteers.

The day began with the ever popular Gabriele Gale, creator of the Ages of Oz series, inspired by the Wizard of Oz. Gale is both writer and illustrator of the series and he led the kids through the process of creating their own mythic beast; a scaly, smelly, venomous fire-breathing goat! He happily reported that his series is now being considered for adaptation to the screen by Warner Brother and Netflix.

Following Gale’s presentation, kids attended a series of workshops where they wrote adventure stories, songs, dialogue, acted, made collages, explored entrepreneurship and more.

I taught two workshops on newswriting and I think I may have learned more from the kids than they learned from me.

First, we examined the “who, what, why, where and how” of writing a news stories. For children ages nine through eleven, they sure caught on quick. They understood what was newsworthy and how to write a strong introductory sentence. They came up with some great stories that hadn’t reached Scarsdale10583.

I didn’t know that a school bus from Fox Meadow ran into a car driven by a high school studenagesofozGabriel Galet or that a faulty fire alarm at Fox Meadow left the entire school shivering outside without coats for a half hour in the rain. What else? One student reported that he had been in a car accident during the storm and another said that his Dad had abandoned their cars on the road.

Kids are also excited about the 100th anniversary of Edgewood Elementary School and the contents of the buried time capsule that will be revealed in 2019.

In both of my workshops I was impressed with the bright, engaged students I met.

Thanks to Leah, Kerry, the workshop leaders and all the volunteers for an exciting day in Scarsdale.

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threatAn online threat on a social media site that was targeted at a Scarsdale High School student on Saturday November 24 turned out to be a hoax.

On November 25, SHS parents receive this email from school principal Kenneth Bonamo. He said,

Late yesterday, we became aware of a social-media post that threatened an individual student at Scarsdale High School. The student’s parents brought the post to the attention of the Scarsdale Police Department and school staff members. The Police Department is investigating the origin of the post, and we at the school are taking steps to ensure the safety of all students tomorrow.

To be clear, the threat was against a specific student and not a generalized threat. Nevertheless, as an extra precaution, there will be a police presence during student arrival tomorrow morning and throughout the day.

We will continue to work with police to protect the individual student and to ensure the safety of the school and all students and staff, and we will be in touch if new information warrants an update.”

On Tuesday November 27 the Scarsdale Police Department announced that they had identified the source of the online posts to be three juveniles from the Chicago and Cleveland area. According to Scarsdale Police, "The investigation determined that the posting in this incident poses no threat to the individual or the Scarsdale Schools. The Scarsdale Police Department has notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the incident and the result of our investigation."

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fox1Over 400 students along with teachers and administrators took a celebratory walk from Greenacres Elementary School to Fox Meadow Elementary School on Thursday November 8 to commemorate the opening of Fox Meadow School 90 years ago.

The excited kids were bussed from Fox Meadow to Greenacres where they were greeted by police, fire trucks and Foxy the Fox. They lined up by class on the blacktop at Greenacres before forming a big line to walk down Brewster Road and commemorate the walk the students made 90 years ago for the opening of Fox Meadow School.foxmarch


Dan Gutman, Author of My Weird School Visits Greenacres

Dan Gutman On Thursday, November 8th some lucky Greenacres students won a lottery to have lunch with visiting author, Dan Gutman. Mr. Gutman, a resident of New York City, is the author of the extremely popular My Weird School series. In addition, he has also penned several books on topics such as famous athletes, the electoral process, and a machine that does homework (the last being fiction).

While munching with his third, fourth and fifth grade lunch mates last week, Mr. Gutman discussed with them their futures, their teachers, and, of course, the weirdest thing to happen at Greenacres (a police incident was cited). Fifth grader Ella Hurwitz said, “Lunch was fantastic…he was really funny.” Charlie Im, a third grader, said, “I think it’s really interesting to hear how books are written. Maybe I’ll write one one day.”

GutmanMr. Gutman loves writing for children, and values the opportunity to meet face to face with his audience. In addition to the lunch with about a dozen students, he also met with each of the upper grades and also spoke at a school assembly. He shared with his young audience how being an author was not always so easy (such as receiving 20 rejections for one book) as well as what it’s like when you get your rhythm (it takes about a month for him to write a book in the My Weird School series).

While he’s had to say farewell to some of his beloved creations (Rappy the Raptor, a picture book series, is now sadly gone into extinction) he also sees new avenues for opportunity, such as ebooks and other media, on the horizon.GutmanLunchGutman2

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