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SchoolBoardCandidatesForumSchool Board Candidates Woody Crouch, Alison Singer and Pam Fuehrer at the LWVS ForumScarsdale voters will find themselves in another pickle this May when they will be asked to vote for two school board members, out of a pool of three, on Tuesday May 15. Why a pickle? Because traditionally the Scarsdale School Board Nominating Committee (SBNC) vets, interviews and selects the school board candidates and they run in an uncontested election for their seats.

However this year, when the SBNC announced their selections, Alison Tepper Singer and Woodrow Crouch, some were surprised that a candidate that had served her first term on the board had not received a re-nomination to serve three more years. After consideration, that board member, Pam Fuehrer decided to run independently. And in yet another quirk, rather than running for her own seat, she decided to run against SBNC candidate Woody Crouch who was running for the seat vacated by current board member Art Rublin.

Per the SBNC Resolution, candidates run for individual seats and the candidates who gets the most votes for each seat win.The proceedings of the SBNC are confidential in order to protect the candidates, so no one knows why Fuehrer was not re-nominated. However, there has been speculation that the SBNC’s decision was a reaction to community concerns about board transparency and the process for determining what projects would be included in the controversial 2018 bond. The February 2018 bond was the biggest in Scarsdale’s history, and it passed by only 65% with 667 voting no. Perhaps the SBNC was signaling that it was time for a change of leadership

So again the community appears to be divided among those who support the non-partisan system and slate of candidates and another group of former school board members and PTA leaders who are standing behind one of their own.

On Monday night April 30, the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale held a candidates’ forum and invited the public to hear the views of Crouch, Fuehrer, and Singer. Each candidate gave opening and closing statements and answered questions posed by the League and from the audience. The forum was moderated by Stephen Cohen, who is the President of the League of Women Voters of White Plains. The forum, held at Village Hall, was well attended, and was also televised on SPTV for viewers at home.

In their opening statements, the candidates highlighted the unique strengths that differentiated them. Woody Crouch explained that his experience as an engineer combined with his years of community service has prepared him to guide the district through the large scale facilities projects that are in the works. Allison Singer noted that having both a special needs and a high achieving child gave her a unique perspective on Scarsdale’s educational program. Pam Fuehrer emphasized that her service on the board for the past three years and volunteer work within the schools for the past fourteen years has given her the experience needed to serve.

When asked about the three most pressing issues facing the Scarsdale Schools, all three candidates agreed safety was among the more pressing issues. Singer and Crouch furthered that mental health and wellness are important due to the high levels of stress facing high school students. Fuehrer specifically noted to “Put taxes first; the non-deductability of most state and local taxes must be at the forefront” and also cited sustainability as a key issue.

Responsiveness to the community was a hot button issue over the past year, and was addressed multiple times throughout the forum. Fuehrer noted the complicated budget process is designed to utilize community input, as evident by the recent shift towards funding STEAM and world language education. Crouch felt that talking directly to people from each area of Scarsdale was the best way to gauge community sentiment on a given issue. Singer highlighted the value of public comments at board meetings, as people who comment tend to be experts in their specific issue and ought to be recognized and respected.

When asked about changing the budget process, Fuehrer said that the process weighs all viewpoints and comes to a decision that fits the vision of the district. Crouch believes the process should start earlier to give people time to raise issues. Singer reinforced her belief in ground-up budgeting, and was happy the current process allocated funds for the field and safety.

In response to a question about private contributions to the schools, Singer cautioned that while donations to Scarsdale Schools are welcome, it is important that spending decisions are at the discretion of trustees. Fuehrer noted that the decision to recognize the individual donors of the Scarsdale Schools Education Foundation for their gifts to fund the Design Lab and Fitness Center was a one-time occurrence and is not a precedent moving forward. Crouch believes that people who donate should be thanked, but not recognized with signage or plaques.

Regarding community appraisement in construction projects, Singer noted that communication and transparency are key. Crouch added that it’s also important to ask the right questions. Fuehrer believes the recent survey on the state of school infrastructure has provided a clear view on the conditions of the nine district buildings moving forward.

On fiscal responsibility, Crouch stressed the importance of using funds responsibly so the budget in whole can be applied properly. Both Singer and Fuehrer emphasized the significance of balancing fiscal constraints with strong and safe schools, with Fuehrer stating that every expense should align with the district’s vision.

When dealing with differences of opinion among board members and the administration, Both Fuehrer and Singer believe diverse viewpoints are a strength of Scarsdalians, but Singer furthered that once a decision is made, board members should support it regardless of personal beliefs. Crouch believes respect is key when addressing differences in opinion.

For creating a strategic process for the Scarsdale Schools with community involvement, Fuehrer brought up the importance of ongoing budgeting to guide community goals and holding forums on wellness and safety so the board understands the direction of the community. Crouch mentioned the importance of having a singular vision when developing a strategic plan, and would use his communication skills to reach out to the community. Singer noted the plan must be based in a collective community vision, and new plans should be based in studies and research on topics including stress and differentiation of instruction.

To keep Scarsdale on the cutting edge, Crouch believes teachers and principals should be brought in when planning the curriculum. Singer believes Scarsdale is already on the cutting edge with diverse extracurriculars, small class sizes, and high achieving students but improvements can always be made. Fuehrer wants to incorporate 21st century learning while maintaining achievement, and also expressed interest in funding the Center for Innovation so that teachers can get grants for designing and testing new and innovative forms of teaching.

Regarding curriculum review, Both Singer and Fuehrer believe teachers should take the lead in planning, and Fuehrer also noted that the board is designed to ask “why” and “how much” when dealing with potential changes to the curriculum. Singer believes differentiation of learning should be addressed to support instruction for different kinds of learning. Crouch noted the importance of vetting changes made to the curriculum.

Regarding political advocacy by the board, Fuehrer believes advocacy is one of the board’s primary responsibility and Scarsdale ought to have a district level advocacy committee made up of parents, community members, and administrators to issue joint statements to legislators. Crouch highlighted the value in collaborating with other school boards on various issues. Singer brought up her own experience helping pass the Combating Autism Act of 2006, and said, “We should not let perfection be the enemy of the good when dealing with advocacy."

When asked about unique experiences, Singer stated that her experience as a parent of both a special needs and non special needs child combined with years of professional experience at NBC and the Autism Science Foundation has provided her with communication skills and the ability to negotiate. Fuehrer said her experience as a board member gives her a unique edge, as she has already received training. She also touted her fourteen years of volunteer experience in Scarsdale, from the Junior League at Wayside Cottage to the League of Women Voters. “I’ve built billion dollar plants throughout the state of New York and am no stranger to dealing with complex issues firsthand” stated Crouch on his uniqueness, and also cited his expediency in completing these projects.

Singer believes the most important role of a board member is to maintain the balance between strong schools and reasonable tax rates and listen to their constituents to represent the collective view. Fuehrer believes students are the ultimate focus, and a good board keeps community members informed and has a collaborative relationship with the superintendent. Crouch believes carefully planning the budget and infrastructure are a necessity to make sure the schools run smoothly.

In her closing statement, Fuehrer cited her passion for students along with her veteran status on why she should be a member of the board. She cautioned that with elections taking place in the next few years, there could be up to six new board members in three years, causing an imbalance and leaving no veterans on the board. Crouch noted that the School Board Nominating Committee carefully vetted him as a choice for board member, and that his experience as an engineer can be vital when planning infrastructure. He’s also claimed to be a quick-learner, and told the community they “won’t be disappointed”. Singer expressed gratitude for the experience the Scarsdale Schools brought her family, and said she will bring enthusiasm and experience to the board while maintaining an open mind.

The three were collegial and cooperative, often agreeing with another and building on each other’s statements. They all appeared eminently qualified to serve. Voters will have to decide whether to consider the individual candidates on their merits or to support the nominating process and Scarsdale’s Non-Partisan System.

Voting will be held Tuesday May 15 from 7 AM to 9 PM. According to District Clerk Honore Adams, NYS law requires voting machines with optical scanners to be used and there is a section for write-in votes on the ballot, which are separated for counting purposes.

The forum in full can be viewed by clicking here

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MegaBrainSHS Junior Emma Townsend attended Healthy Brain Day on April 19, and here are her reflections on walking through the large inflatable brain:
On Thursday, April 19th, the Scarsdale Drug and Alcohol Task Force hosted Healthy Teen Brain Day at Scarsdale Middle School. Students from fifth to twelfth grade, as well as parents, were invited.

Entering the hallway leading to the auditorium, I saw a sign leading to an “Escape the Vape Room,”and a table with "foggles," which mimic the effects that alcohol and other drugs have on a person, such as blurred vision. Further down the hall were several more tables, such as a food table and one for the Scarsdale Police Department.

On my way to the stage, there was a table with "Brain Teasers,”including a wordsearch and a maze where I had to find my way through the creases of the brain. Next to the Brain Teasers I found "stress brains," which are similar to stress balls–only in the shape of a brain.

On the stage in the auditorium there was a towering inflatable brain with a tunnel where I walked from the "back" to the "front" of the brain. The back has parts of the brain labeled, such as the temporal lobe, occipital lobe, and cerebellum, while the frontal lobe was labeled on the opposite end of the tunnel. Within the tunnel were diagrams and blurbs about various drugs, such as opioids, as well as information about plasticity, myelin, and Parkinson's disease, or PD. Abuse of opioids like Oxycodone impacts a person's ability to control their emotions and can eventually inhibit the flow of oxygen to the brain. PD, which impedes movement, is more likely to present itself in those who use methamphetamine, as the drug damages dopamine receptors. This damage was demonstrated by a flashing-light visual representation comparing the receptor cells of a healthy patient to those of a patient with PD.

On the exterior of the brain were similar posters, such as one that explained that alcohol affects the front of the brain first and that other parts of the brain are impacted as alcohol consumption progresses. After a certain point, a chronic alcoholic may develop Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, which is a permanent disease that causes psychosis and deprives a person of the ability to create new memories. Another poster shows a diagram of the many parts of the brain compromised by marijuana. The amygdala, for example, is affected and therefore can cause increased anxiety and paranoia.

A docent walked students and parents through the brain, giving in-depth explanations about the different parts of the brain. One particularly interesting fact was that alcohol impacts the front of the brain, which is responsible for emotion, explaining why alcoholics are likely to experience emotional outbursts.

A poster on the inflatable brain showed what to do if someone is having a stroke: Act FAST. If a person has symptoms pertaining to the face (‘F’), arms (‘A’), or speech (‘S’), call 9-1-1 in as little time (‘T’) as possible. Not only is this information useful,
but giving students access to such interactive presentations may also encourage them to become more invested in learning about the impacts of drugs on the brain, rather than having students be lectured by a teacher. Students may be more inclined to attend events like Healthy Teen Brain Day if the events are accessible more often throughout the year. As more students go, other students may be more likely to follow in their footsteps, feeling less embarrassed about something there is no shame in doing: ensuring that they are taking care of themselves, both mentally and physically.

If students have the opportunity to learn in-depth about how drugs operate on the human body, rather than hearing about the effects by word of mouth, they might be more likely to think twice when they are offered a drug at a party. Having this knowledge can transform a person’s perspective on the dangers of drugs from a half-informed hypothesis to an educated, thought-out stance.

thankyounoteMargaret Smith and Emily Vallario ran Healthy Brain Day: Here is a letter of thanks from them to everyone who participated:

To the Editor: The Scarsdale Drug and Alcohol Task Force (DATF) presented Healthy Teen Brain Day on Thursday, April 19th at Scarsdale Middle School. The program invited 5th through 12th grade students to participate in substance use prevention activities designed to help students more accurately access the risks of using any substances, especially alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine. Parents were also invited to attend and increase their knowledge as well as their comfort and ability to discuss these sensitive issues with their children.

The DATF could not have delivered this intervention without the generous support and collaboration of many sectors in our community. We would like to extend our warmest thanks to the Scarsdale School District and Middle School Principal Meghan Troy, the 7th grade science teachers, and Head Custodian Rob Schweit and his staff for helping develop the program and making the Middle School campus available and set up for its delivery. The event was made possible by White Plains Hospital, the Village of Scarsdale Recreation Department, Maroon and White, the Scarsdale Rotary Club, the Scarsdale Police Department, and Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service. We acknowledge Mayor Dan Hochvert and the Village trustees and staff for proclaiming April 19th Healthy Teen Brain day in Scarsdale. We also thank the many parent volunteers, led by Sharon Higgins and Sidney Witter, who gave their time and talent to organize the many moving parts, man tables and doors at the event and keep everything running smoothly. Finally, we had wonderful support from our DATF youth members, Bridget Foley, Caroline Higgins, Julia Kawai, and Jack Waxman, who helped run the event and mentor the younger students in attendance

Besides the afterschool program, the DATF also ran an in-school program for all 7th grade students during their science classes. Science teachers in all houses developed a curriculum centering on the adolescent brain, and this was augmented by a formal symposium at the mega brain for each individual science class run by a trained docent.

By any measure, this program was a resounding success. The DATF hosted 285 students and 115 parents during the after school program and covered about 360 7th graders during science classes. Students enthusiastically engaged in the activities, making this prevention intervention an effective and impactful experience that is likely to be well remembered. Both students and faculty provided very positive feedback about the program.

We are so proud of our community for pulling together to create and deliver an impactful prevention program for our youth. This is population health at work! The DATF looks forward to continuing its activities in the community to give our students the best possible environment for growing up safe and healthy. We invite anyone interested in this mission to join us.

Margaret Smith
Chairperson DATF

Emily Vallario
DATF Coordinator

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corkfillA special meeting of the Scarsdale Board of Education to discuss the future of the synthetic turf and surrounding track at SHS drew a passionate crowd on Tuesday April 10. The first synthetic field was installed 13 years ago is beyond its useful life and badly in need of replacement. The existing field was installed after a community wide fundraising campaign to finance Scarsdale’s first synthetic field which allowed for more playing time and an extended outdoor season. At the time, the crumb rubber surface was state of the art, but in the intervening years concerns have been raised about the safety, health risks and sustainability of recycled rubber turfs.

Now 13 years later, the school district needs to replace the surface and some community members raised the health risks of crumb rubber surfaces including off gassing, exposure to toxins and excessive heat. In the proposed 2018-19 school budget, the board had allocated $1.2 million to replace the turf, but after residents comments, the administration asked their architects to provide pricing for crumb rubber and alternative surfaces, including organic infill and natural turf – also known as grass.

With the Board’s budget vote only a week away, and a commitment to the community to replace the turf in the fall, the Board scheduled an extra meeting to decide how much more needed to be allocated for the field in next year’s budget. Though the field is technically Village –owned property, it is up to the school to maintain it.

Athletic Director Ray Pappalardi presented a usage report showing how many hours per week the synthetic turf is used for physical education, interscholastic activities and community programs. He ran through an analysis of the loss of playing if the synthetic field were replaced with natural grass that is not suitable for play when it is wet or muddy. If the district decided to reinstall the grass, Pappalardi estimated a loss or “displaced use” of 39 hours per week. As it is already challenging to find any field to schedule in Scarsdale, many of the people in the audience found this tradeoff unacceptable.

Pappalardi outlined the factors to be used in making the turf decision which were:

  • Usage
  • Health and Safety
  • Cost
  • Sustainability
  • Community Relations

Next the Board invited a landscape architect from BBS to outline options for replacement of the turf field. He explained that the turf is actually a large carpet with plastic blades of grass. These plastic grass fibers are held in place by a layer of silica sand topped with infill made from crumb rubber, EPDM, TPE, or something organic like coconut husks, cork or olive pits. He gave a lengthy presentation about the benefits and drawbacks of each of these infill options, discussing their performance, safety profile, maintenance needs, aesthetics and costs.

Scarsdale’s turf is currently made of black crumb rubber which is Scarsdale’s least expensive synthetic option. However, this FieldTurfsurface has come into question as it is made from recycled car tires, emits gasses, causes abrasions and is hot. A second alternative, coated crumb rubber, comes in colors that make it cooler than the black turf but still pose the risks of recycled rubber.

A few of the other alternative presented have not been on the market long enough for meaningful studies to be done on safety and performance. Among these are EPDM, (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) which is manufactured from virgin rubber along with TPE, (Thermo Plastic Elastomer) which has been approved for use in NYC parks.

Rather than using inorganic fill, some school districts have opted for organic fill comprised of coconut husks, cork of olive pits. The benefit is that the organic fill is cooler, sustainable and does not emit toxins. The architect warned that the material tends to move after heavy rains and may require more maintenance and would also require irrigation during dry periods to prevent it from getting dusty. However, resident Michelle Sterling said she spoke to the facilities directors in Bronxville, Irvington and Pleasantville, where the organic fill was installed, and they all had only positive things to say about this turf.

Costs to remove the current turf and install these surfaces were estimated as follows by BBS, though Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey said that the district would need to put the project out to bid, and costs may vary.

Green Coated Crumb Rubber $1,466,349
EPDM with Shock Pad $1,716,942
Organic Infill with Shock Pad $1,900,249
Removal of Synthetic Turf, Replace with Grass $1,346,526

Following the presentation, a lively conversation ensued. Board members were given the chance to ask questions first. Lee Maude wanted to know if the track surrounding the turf needed to be replaced at the same time, and they answer was no, but that it would possibly be more efficient to do the two projects together.

Art Rublin asked Stuart Mattey if there were facilities projects in the current proposed budget that could be cut to pay for the turf? Mattey advised that the facilities work in the budget was all a priority and it would be” kicking the can down the road” to defer any of it to a later date.

Nina Cannon asked a question about a 8-10 foot net that will be installed around the turf to prevent balls from flying off the field onto the track. The architect said that this is common practice.

Almost two hours into the meeting, before opening the floor to public comments, Board President Bill Natbony said, “99% of the emails we got were to save our turf field. With that we have made no decisions. We’ll try to stay open to all kinds of qualifiers. We read your emails; believe me we’ve read them. I responded to people.” He asked people to limit their comments to 3 minutes and said, “If someone says something you agree with, you can get up and say me too.”

First up, was Beth Dell'Orto, a co-president of sports booster organization Maroon and White who read a statement from the M&W Board and past presidents that you can read in its entirety here. They asked the Board to research materials and to replace the turf field with a synthetic filed in time for Fall 2018 installation. They said that grass was not feasible as it requires more upkeep and is not always available to meet playing schedules and team requirements.

Rippy Phillips recounted the history of the first field and said that part of the deal was that the school would maintain it as a turf field forever. At the time, vending machines were installed at the middle school and high school to generate revenue for replacement of the turf, but that revenue was later assumed by the school cafeterias. He said the turf was “the town’s pride and joy.” He also said there was not evidence to link carcinogens in fields to cancer in the players.

Michelle Sterling spoke about the danger of crumb rubber surfaces including toxicity and off gassing, which causes the players to breath in chemicals. She said there was insufficient data on coated crumb rubber and EPDM and warned that TPE is a polymer of rubber and plastic that contains harmful chemicals. She said, “To me, hands down, organic infill is the way to go.” She said she spoke to representatives from Bronxville, Irvington and Pleasantville who all raved about their organic infill and said, “we’re thinking about health and safety … why wouldn’t we go with the highest GMax rating?” She said she was also an advocate for natural turf (grass) which never needs to be replaced.

Sterling explained that artificial turfs shed plastic fibers which are breathed in and ingested. She said that a study by Brigham and Young University found that the crumb rubber get very hot on warm days, sometimes over 100 degrees, while natural turf stays cool.

Claire Paquin a Scarsdale mom and SHS alumni said she played three varsity sports at SHS and now runs the youth lacrosse program in town. Since the younger children have to play on the grass fields at the middle school, she often walks the fields and finds them too wet to play. She spoke in favor of a turf field, saying “there is no definitive research “on the danger of turf fields. “Grass is off the table – we have a million grass fields that we can’t use. Why add another?”

Dan Ornstein, a board member of SYLA, said “finding fields is next to impossible. The grass fields are overused as it is. That’s why the turf field is getting a tremendous amount of usage. I hope grass is out. I have faith that you will make the right decision about the kind of turf. There hasn’t been a real concern about virgin rubber …. all the rubber is the same material that is used in everything we use.”

Ron Schulhof said, “After considerable research, I think we should go back to natural grass. Over time you start to hear concerns about inorganic surfaces. In five years, if we find out there is a health risk, it would not be a shock to me. It is not a tradeoff I think this community should make.”

Michael Crowley said “My kids have benefited from the athletic program. I have faith and confidence that you will make the right decision. Also repair the track at the same time – it is probably in the same level of disrepair and the track and field team has the most kids participating – and is used by the community 24 hours a day.”

Following the public comments, the board turned to a discussion of how much to allocate in the budget, while not immediately deciding on the surface which will be reviewed by a district wide community. Dr. Hagerman said it was important for the committee to do its work. He said, “There are coaches who work in different seasons … we need to build consensus by the committee and they can be cheerleaders about getting the message out to the community.”

Rublin felt that the community needed synthetic turf, but argued for the organic infill, saying he was not comfortable with any other fill than the organic infill.

Cannon wanted to give the committee more parameters – and asked that they only look at sustainable and organic options and consider the safe and health of whatever they choose. She also asked that the committee consider another option called Envirofill that has a 16-year warrantee.

Pam Feuhrer said, “We don’t have the EPA study results which are supposed to come out this spring… If the EPA says crumb rubber is healthy and safe, depending on their results we might have other thoughts,” to which Rublin replied, “Remember it’s Scott Pruitt’s EPA!”

Morin said that there were not conclusive results about the playability and safety of organic infill. He agreed that it should be an artificial turf field, not grass, and that the track should be done at the same time.

Bill reminded the Board that they did not have to decide on the surface at this meeting, just the funding in the budget. He said, “We owe it to the community to have a minimum placeholder (for funds) and a charge to the committee.”

Lee Maude said, “The administration should figure out the field. … we have to figure out the budget number; and now we’re at 2.65%. Just a few weeks ago we were at 2%. Unfortunately we had this budget process up to 3 or 4 weeks ago and then Florida happened and boom we put in $250 grand for safety and now we’re putting another $500 grand into the field. I am troubled about how we got here.”
Nina Cannon asked, “Is there something else that you could possibly defer?” Art Rublin asked if the money could be taken from the fund balance. Mattey recommended “no” to both questions.

After much discussion, the Board agreed to allocate $1.9 million for a synthetic field replacement in the proposed 2018/19 school budget. They directed the administration to form a committee of stakeholders to consider the materials. They have taken the options of grass turf and crumb rubber off the table. They also decided that the new track should be installed at the same time.

This decision to allocate $1.9 million to the turf raised the proposed 2018/19 school budget to $157,849,656, which is a budget to budget increase of 2.71% and a 2.74% increase in the tax levy. This will mean a 2.65% increase for Scarsdale residents and a 4.22% increase for those in the Mamaroneck strip.

After several years of minimal budget increases, the board found themselves without surplus reserves or fund balances to pay for necessary improvements while keeping tax increases at a minimum.

Watch the entire meeting on video here

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CukJohn Cuk conducted his last choral concert on Tuesday April 17This week, Craig Sherman District-wide Coordinator of Music and Performing Arts learned that for the tenth consecutive year, Scarsdale was one of 583 communities named to the list of Best Communities for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation. According the NAAM website, “The award program recognizes outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of a well-rounded education. Designations are made to districts and schools that demonstrate an exceptionally high commitment and access to music education.” See the list of top districts here:

Commenting on the honor, Craig Sherman said, “We did it! With everyone's support I was able to secure this recognition for the tenth consecutive year. This is quite an honor for all of us, and I am grateful to you for your efforts that allowed this to occur. It does take all of us, and we are the village that makes this happen. It is clear this is a widely held consensus.”

Also this week, Director of Choirs John Cuk conducted his last choral concert at Scarsdale High School. He has announced that he will retire at the end of the year. According to one attendee, “It was a beautiful concert. Lots of tears. It was his last concert after 17 years at Scarsdale High School and he gave the seniors a little gift and they gave him a signed music stand and sang a few songs in his honor.”

LastConcert

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shsberke1(This opinion piece was sent to Scarsdale10583 by Ray Cooper)
What has compelled me to write my first commentary on Scarsdale10583.com? It is the news that the Board of Education is allowing two engraved plaques, at a cost of $38,000, to be placed inside the Scarsdale High School. These plaques will list the names of donors who gave $10,000 or more to the Scarsdale Schools Education Foundation (SSEF) to supplement the 2014 taxpayer funded school bond. Allowing these plaques inside our schools is simply wrong. I, along with most residents, moved here to provide our children with a high quality public school education. Elevating the status of some families has no place in our public school system, especially where the school’s motto of “non sibi” (not for self) is at the core of our school values. Moreover, no child should be left to feel bad that his or her family name does not appear on a recognition plaque in school, or that a family could not afford a high level donation. It is remarkable to me that the BOE does not see this concern.

Back in 2014, when Scarsdale developed plans to bond new facilities in our schools, I was wary but not opposed to private donations through the SSEF for school improvements. I followed the issues back then and I was satisfied that individuals were not being singled out with praise as donors. Fast-forward 4 years to March 19, 2018. I learned that the BOE appeared to approve designs for plaques containing recognition of high level donors, and that these plaques are to be placed at the entrances to the new SHS fitness center and design lab. The BOE’s approval was made in the middle of the night, without public discussion among the board, and without input from the community.

In 2014 the BOE entered into a memorandum of understand with the SSEF “to support an appropriate means of recognizing donors.” There was no mention of engraved plaques or singling out individual families for recognition. On March 15, 2018 the SSEG wrote a letter to the school superintendent about proposed donor plaques “seeking Board of Education approval of both the preliminary designs and the cost estimates.” This item made its way onto the BOE agenda for its March 19th meeting; however, its inclusion in the agenda was quite obscured. While I received the notice for the BOE March 19th meeting, wholly absent from this notice was any reference to the plaque proposal. In fact, the BOE notice listed 5 separate items on the agenda that night, including the meeting’s featured purpose: the upcoming school budget proposal. Buried in the bowels of the on-line “board packet” and brought onto the floor at the BOE meeting after 11:00 pm were the proposed plaques. I am perplexed reading the quote from school board president Bill Natbony claiming that the schematic in the board’s packet posted on line was sufficient to obtain public buy-in. (Also problematic is that the posted design schematic is not legible.) I watched on replay the BOE’s “middle of the night” discussion of this issue. The BOE discussed the odd way for funding the $38,000 for the plaques but did not discuss at all its rationale for listing high-level donor names. It also did not discuss the steep price tag for these plaques. Can’t we spend this money in a better way? Perusing the current proposed school budget, for $38,000 our high school can hire two new varsity coaches. It is not difficult to find other meaningful expenditures for this money.

Additionally, I wonder: if these donor recognition plaques were mentioned upfront as part and parcel of the SSEF agreement, would our community have supported our school’s partnership with the SSEF? I suspect most donors provided funding to the SSEF because they wanted to support enhancements to our school’s facilities, and not for individual recognition on a plaque. I am sure the SSEF and the BOE can come up with other, more reasonable ways to recognize the SSEF and its donors. The BOE is on a course for a very unsettling precedent: will more donor recognition plaques make their way onto our school walls the next time the SSEF has a capital campaign or a large gift is made to our schools? Perhaps a forward thinking BOE policy is warranted, as this issue will again appear as we continue to strive to improve our school facilities. The BOE should add these plaques back onto the agenda for a future BOE meeting and (1) provide the public with full and fair notice of it, (2) provide the public with a full BOE discussion on the issue, and (3) provide the public with a reasonable opportunity to give input.

I grew up in a family of life-long public school educators. While I no longer have school age children, I still strongly believe in the importance of a public school education and the values of our Scarsdale schools. I do not think the BOE is acting in the best interests of our children here. I hope this ship has not sailed and that the BOE reconsiders supporting the proposed plaques. I encourage other residents to let the BOE hear from you on this important topic.

Ray Cooper

(From the 3/19 Board of Education Meeting Agenda)

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