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Air Conditioning and School Security on the Agenda at the Scarsdale School Board Meeting

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.


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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