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Jill SpielerScarsdale Bowl Recipient Jill Spieler: Photo Credit Michael ChayesJill Spieler, a Scarsdale resident with 40 years of dedicated volunteerism, will be the 2019 recipient of the community’s highest award, the Scarsdale Bowl. The dinner will be held on Wednesday April 10 at Mulino’s at Lake Isle and the entire community is invited to celebrate Jill and volunteerism in Scarsdale. Click here to learn more:

We asked Jill a few questions about living and volunteering in Scarsdale, and here is what she shared:

How many years have you lived in Scarsdale and how did you begin volunteering? What were a few of your early activities?

I moved to Edgewood in 1976. In 1979 my first child was born. That same year my husband started to work from home. We needed a bigger house, so we moved to Greenacres in 1980. We have been in our current home for 39 years.

In Greenacres I met many other young women who already had elementary age children. They were involved with the yearly PTA fund raiser. I asked if I could help? I wanted to be involved, enjoy the new friendships I was making.

My first big commitment was getting involved with the Child Care Association of Scarsdale (Kids BASE),
an idea that came out of PT Council. More moms were going back to work and there weren’t many licensed, educational child care programs in the county for elementary school age children. This was something I valued, so I volunteered wherever I could. I was asked to join the Board in 1984.

Looking back — what were your favorite volunteer jobs in Scarsdale – and why?

Working on the Kids BASE board gave me an incredible opportunity to work with many creative, intelligent, caring women. Most of them were already leaders in many other community organizations. I learned so much during those early years.

There were many challenges during the first few years. Developing the program, building a following, and, most of all the constant question, “Where will there be room for us next year?” The sale of the American Legion Hall couldn’t have come at a better time. Not without controversy, but with many supporters, the Village and Kid BASE Boards worked out an agreement for Kids BASE to lease the property. Plans for the building, setting up the bonds, selling the bonds, and seeing it through. All these efforts and so many more details took dedication from numerous Board members and community volunteers. It was so exciting to see the finished building, with little chairs and tables, educational toys, a gym, outdoor playground equipment and a kitchen for preparing meals. It was such a gratifying moment for everyone involved.

One of the most engaging, fun, jobs I had was being President of the TVCCEF (Scarsdale Forum) as they were going into their 100th Year. I had a first-hand opportunity to learn about the history, and important studies the TVCCEF had done over the past 100 years. It was an exhilarating time. Working with many community members and reuniting so many past leaders of the TVCCEF. We had a wonderful turnout of over 300 people and raised $100,000 for the TVCCEF, which would help as we moved forward in our efforts to educate and inform Scarsdale residents with stimulating, thoughtful, provoking debate and conversations.

What was one of the toughest jobs you held?

There were many challenges over the years. The hardest times were when the community was at odds on an issue. I found it especially difficult when I was the chair of an organization, whether it be PRC, Scarsdale Forum or the Board of Education. You try your hardest to listen, be open minded, and have all sides heard from. Ultimately there needs to be some decisions to move the question forward. Sometimes the answer is working towards compromise, but that’s not always attainable. With the help of my peers, we tried our best to make the right choices.

Why do you like living in Scarsdale?

I have enjoyed living it Scarsdale because it gave me a sense of community. I took pleasure in watching my own children growing up with their friends. I made many friends through my children. And many more friends volunteering. I truly appreciate the sharing of knowledge between generations that I have experienced.

What do you enjoy about the community –favorite activities, restaurants?

I am grateful for the education my children received, and the fun they had participating in Rec programs, day camp and at the pool. I am looking forward to the library renovation. My husband and I frequent many of the restaurants in Scarsdale. We are enjoying the new additions on Garth Road.

Some empty nesters decide to leave the community after their kids are grown. Why did you decide to stay?

I love my home, and still want to be part of the Scarsdale community. I like to be able to participate in some of the LVW and Forum activities. I enjoy bumping into familiar faces in town and enjoy occasionally volunteering on smaller projects.

What would you tell new residents about volunteering? Why should they get involved?

I know most of us move here for the Schools, but there is much to gain if one invests the time. You will be able to share your views, learn something and teach someone as well. You meet many people of different interests, feel part of something bigger than yourself, leave something behind for a community that has given so much to you and your family.

Were you surprised to learn you had been nominated to receive the Scarsdale Bowl?

Yes, it was unexpected. When you volunteer it is because you want to contribute your time to a good cause. Or someone has asked, and you feel it would be an interesting opportunity. I never looked back to see how involved I had been for so many years. I feel very honored, and fortunate to have had so many interesting experiences. I have met wonderful people from all areas of the community, across many generations.

Click here to learn more:

paulinState Assemblywoman Amy PaulinIt was back to school for Scarsdale’s representatives on February 1 when the PTC Council hosted a very informative Legislative Breakfast and invited federal, state and local representatives to update locals on how government policy is impacting the Scarsdale Schools. PTC Legislative Advocacy Chairs Elissa Ruback and Lauren Hertzog-Fields assembled an impressive panel to discuss educational funding, teacher evaluations, state testing, the deductibility of local taxes and more.

The panel included Congressman Eliot Engel, State Senator Andrew Stewart-Cousins, State Senator Shelley Mayer, State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, Regent Judith Johnson, County Legislator Ben Boykin and Scarsdale Mayor Dan Hochvert. Each panelist was introduced by Scarsdale Superintendent Thomas Hagerman and gave a topline speech about what they are doing in the educational arena.

Engel said he had begun his career as a teacher and that “the bottom line in the federal government is money and the federal tax package is horrific for New York State. We give more money back to the federal government than we get… Under the new SALT law, local tax deductibility is limited to $10,000 and we have less federal money coming in.”

rubackfieldsLauren Hertzog-Fields and Elissa RubackAndrea Stewart Cousins, the newly elected Senate Majority Leader is also a former teacher. She explained, “Up until this moment my party was in the minority for a very long time. After 2016 people woke up and realized the power of their votes…. I am the first woman leader in the history of the state –which is shocking for a progressive state like NY. I CousinsRubackAndrea Stewart-Cousins And Elissa Rubacktook office on the 9th of January and we hit the ground running and we are not going to stop. We passed new legislation on election form, and now have early voting and will allow 16 and 17 year olds to preregister to vote. We have banned conversion therapy, passed the dream act and banned bump stocks.”

State Senator Shelley Mayer Chairs the Education Committee and was excited to report the “Decoupling of state test scores from teacher performance, (APPR).” She said the “APPR tied teacher evaluations to the growth rate on student tests – it was a mistake.” The vote to change this, “passed unanimously and will allow districts the power to evaluate their teachers.” She said, “We are no longer teaching to the test.” She called Governor Cuomo’s proposal for school funding for next year too low, and said it was a “non-starter.” Mayer said, it is a “Most exciting moment in Albany – people are motivated that they can make a difference.”

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a longtime Scarsdale resident said, “I am proud to represent you.” She said the new tax laws that limit the deduction of state and local taxes to $10,000 “impacts our real estate and our school budgets.” She discussed plans to sue the IRS because the rules were improperly adopted and said that the Scarsdale Village Board is contemplating joining the suit. She said for many, “their house is their worth,” and “this will hurt them and their families.”

engelCongressman Eliot EngelDiscussing state funding, she said that Scarsdale gets very little, “5% or about $3.5 million.” She said she is fighting the Governor’s proposal to reduce state aid for school building projects from 19% to 5%.

Regent Judith Johnson, is a former school superintendent from Peekskill and the first African American woman to serve as a NYS Regent. About Scarsdale she said, “You are the model of what all schools should look like…. We shouldn’t take dollars from you to help schools in need.” Providing some information on the work of the regents she discussed funding for the arts, saying, “Every child in NYS should have the opportunity to learn music or pick up a paint brush.” She also said, “We are changing the graduation standards and what it means to have a high school diploma. We are rethinking the five regents exam to earn a high school diploma…. We are working with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to bring joy back to the classroom.”

County Legislator Ben Boykin once served on the White Plains School Board. He said he is now the ”spokesperson for all 17 legislators and also your legislator.” After an inquiry from Scarsdale Mayor Dan Hochvert he said, “we are going to work on the bike path (along the Bronx River Parkway.)dembitzersilberfeinLeah Dembitzer with Scarsdale BOE President Scott Silberfein

BoykinCounty Legislator Ben BoykinWith just a few minutes remaining, Scarsdale Mayor Dan Hochvert said, “We moved here because we heard the education system is great. The proof is that after college none of my kids came home to live – they all had jobs.” He continued, “Cooperation among the people who lead you is now more important than ever. We know everyone is working to improve security – in schools and downtown. We are working together to serve people who live in Scarsdale better.”

johnsonNYS Regent Judith Johnson

bmw2A Fountain Lane driver accidentally drove forward rather than back when he was parked next to Boniface Circle on Saturday January 12 just after noon. The 61 year-old man said that when he shifted his 2011 BMW out of “Park” it accelerated forward and drove directly into Boniface Circle where it hit a memorial bench and a garbage can before stopping in the park. The metal memorial plate was dislodged from the bench. There were no injuries.

bmw1

safetyandsecuritypanelIf you were looking for a debate on guns, metal detectors or other security issues, you may have been disappointed after last week’s safety and security forum. What attendees did get, however, was reassurance that Scarsdale officials are thinking about school safety and a case for preventing violence instead of reacting to it.

A joint presentation by the Scarsdale government and school district, the forum featured a number of representatives from Scarsdale schools and Scarsdale-Edgemont Family Counseling Service (SFCS), as well as the chief of police and a few clergy members.

Scarsdale Mayor Dan Hochvert got things started by stating, “The panel will cover just about all the major aspects of Scarsdale that we are concerned about, and we hope… you will be resting more easily about safety and security.” He then stated that the panelists would not provide details on security measures, but invited attendees to write down any questions they wanted answered that evening. This put limits on time and content, but did offer residents some opportunity to be heard.

Scarsdale Schools Superintendent Thomas Hagerman followed and said, “We really want to demonstrate to the Scarsdale community that all of us… are really standing shoulder-to-shoulder around safety, security and emergency management practices… ” He then echoed Hochvert’s comments about the nature of the discussion, “You don’t always have multi agencies coming together around a common topic… so, the kinds of questions we’re looking for are questions that can be answered by anyone on the panel.”

First Line of Defense: Promoting Mental Health
Despite the fact that schools remain as one of the safest places for children, the epidemic in school violence certainly weighs on all our minds. And, although Scarsdale is a relatively safe community, many residents are concerned about protecting our children in worst-case scenarios. But, as residents heard last week, security is part of the issue. To assure safety, experts contend we must address the underlying causes of antisocial and potentially dangerous behavior.

GenovaJay Genova, Executive Director of SFCS, explained that his organization provides critical prevention and intervention services to individuals and families, both in and out of Scarsdale schools. Probably best known via the Scarsdale Community Youth Services Project, SFCS works directly with the district via its team of mental health professionals in the middle and high school. These counselors provide “on the ground” crisis intervention, outreach services, and supportive counseling to individuals and their families.

Genova said, “Not everybody who feels isolated or disenfranchised is going to be a perpetrator of violence. However, many who do perpetrate violence often feel disconnected or disenfranchised… (We) give them an outlet… to express what they might be feeling and to regain some sense of hope… What’s important to us is to make sure that people feel acknowledged, they feel validated, that they feel heard.” He continued, “We want to give people the opportunity to be heard before they have to rely on their behaviors or on any type of extreme situation…”

Lauren Pomerantz, one of SFCS’ youth outreach workers and coordinator of The Safe Coalition, expanded on Genova’s points and discussed the root causes and risk factors of many types of violent behavior – cultural norms that support aggression; harmful norms about masculinity and femininity; social isolation and lack of social support; a history of violent victimization or witnessing violence; and poor parent-child relationships and conflict.

“We feel like these are really relevant and important to talk about, and, if we’re talking about them as root causes or risk factors, we can also turn it around and talk about all of the protective factors that exist. One… is, obviously, the collaboration and coordination of resources like we see tonight; access to mental health (services); family connections and connection to the community.”

The audience then heard from Assistant Superintendent for Business and Facilities Stuart Mattey , who began StuartMatteyby reiterating the school district’s commitment to safety and security. “This commitment takes many forms and has evolved over the years as security-related norms have changed. However, the focus of the district’s efforts is generally concentrated not only on plant upgrades and security-related practices, (but) most importantly, the social and emotional well-being of our students.“

He then mentioned the ability of staff members, along with assistance from community partners such as SFCS and the police department, to support students through a wide range of social/emotional issues, such as peer conflicts, difficult family situations, stress, and challenges in decision-making.

Mattey also discussed current proposals to augment existing security measures and the district’s work with an independent security consultant. “Alteris (Emergency Management Group) has assisted the district in gaining congruence in all buildings in three critical areas: 1) preparedness and prevention; 2) emergency response; and 3) post-incident recovery procedures… To have a ‘go-to’ security professional onsite, the district hired… Mike Spedaliere as its Chief of Safety, Security and Emergency Management this past summer.” He added that, in concert with the Scarsdale Police Department, teachers and students receive ongoing emergency training through various drills that are continually assessed for improvement.

AndyMatturroNext to speak was Scarsdale Chief of Police Andrew Matturro, who described his department’s “continued response and efforts to address the active shooter threat in society today.” Scarsdale police officers have, for years, received training in the latest rapid response techniques; and, for almost two decades, the department has utilized a formal rapid deployment and response program to ensure every member of the force is able immediately respond to any emergency in schools (and other locations throughout the village).

In discussing the Police Department’s work with the district, Matturro explained, “Personnel serve on our department’s school safety tactical response committee… (And,) over six years ago, in cooperation with the district, our department instituted a random school walkthrough program, where officers are assigned to randomly visit and conduct walkthroughs of our (public) senior high school, middle school and elementary schools. This has been expanded to include other schools within our village and houses of worship that wish to participate. Members of our department (also) participate in meetings of the district-wide safety team, and regularly participate in school exercises and drills.”

The Reverend Dr. Kelley Hough Rogers, senior minister at Scarsdale Congregational Church, was the last panel member to speak, and expressed support for various community organizations’ efforts to assure safety. In discussing specific measures at each house of worship, she added, “We invite dialogue… We are going to be more aware of our spot in the community and how we can be better prepared for any type of emergency that may befall us. I think we’re all in agreement that we really feel it is critical to protect people in their most sacred hours and we’re committed to doing so.”

Q’s and A’s in Brief
PT Council President Amber Yusef then read a variety of questions posed by audience members, ranging from the timing of the installation of security vestibules, to addressing students’ special needs during emergencies, to the district’s choice of Altaris as its security consultant. But the questions discussed in greatest detail were whether there should be an armed presence in our schools and how to address the root causes of violence.

To Arm or Not to Arm?
First, the panel was asked if armed security officers were a viable option for improving school security, if there is data showing armed guards make schools safer, and whether armed guards would make a difference if police response was delayed.

Hagerman began by explaining that armed police officers or SROs were present at many of the schools, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas, where recent shootings have taken place. “In some cases, it helped to mitigate or shorten the length of time of those tragedies, but we also know there were victims.”

He went on, “You can look back at a number of school shootings and look at the efficacy of… having armed guards. For us, it’s more of a philosophical question… We’ve heard from some… in our community who feel very comfortable having armed guards or armed personnel at our schools, and there is another group, who feel just as strongly… do not want to have their children in environments with armed guards.”

Mattey stated that SROs were among a long list of possible security measures, but were not likely to be put into place over the short-term. “It’s a long discussion for the community and the schools, and that conversation will continue over the next year.”

Director of Special Education and Student Services Eric Rauschenbach then discussed the difference between armed security guards and SROs. “The main purpose of (an SRO) is not to be a security monitor… It is an actual teaching and interaction-with-student position that allows for close connections between the police department and community. “

He added that, unlike armed guards, who are civilians who may or may not have police training, SROs are specially trained police officers who are placed in schools typically in communities that need improved relationships between the public and law enforcement. This, along with the fact that Scarsdale Police already have a presence in the schools, makes SROs less of a fit for Scarsdale.

In addressing police response time in a potential school emergency, Matturro volunteered that his department’s average response time was 4m, 40s on all calls and 4m, 5s on priority calls, with response time on emergencies “much quicker.” He also noted that, at times, an officer in a squad car is be able to respond more quickly than an armed guard on foot. Matturro also reiterated the importance of focusing on preventing violence in the first place by coordinating local services.

The panel then was asked how the community could weigh in on the question of armed guards in the schools. Mattey replied, “The BOE is always receptive to information provided… certainly at board of education meetings – we have a public comment period – and, of course, emails are very powerful (in making) your concerns known. Evenings such as this are other great opportunities...” He went on, “For some of these bigger issues that might need a longer conversation, that might change… how we might think about our buildings, maybe another forum might be appropriate.“

Inclusiveness vs. Isolation
The next question was about the best ways to address the root causes of violence and work with at-risk children and young adults.

Genova responded, “No matter how many counselors you can hire, you are always going to look to the community to be a part of this. Root causes have a lot to do with the cultural and existing conditions that lead people toward violence.”

He continued, “For instance, we want to protect our children. We may see children who our children are associated with, and we may not like their behaviors. We will, more than likely, tell our children, ‘Let’s stay away from that child.’ How does that impact community safety? …Are we making that child more isolated? Are we depriving that child of some valuable, positive connections that they can learn from? If we’re not reaching out to that child – and, I’m not saying this is easy – we are creating some of the circumstances that lead people toward violent behavior.”

Genova then said creating a safe community means creating a better-connected community that includes individuals who “don’t look like us, sound like us, believe in our beliefs, or behave in ways we approve of.”

Rauschenbach concurred with Genova and added, “When we look at students with mental health challenges in the schools, we have… a community that is cognizant of each other, and unafraid to come to school (officials) and report something that they find difficult or disturbing… At the same time, (we) understand that, whenever a child or group of children are making decisions that we find disturbing, the worst thing that can happen is to increase their isolation… When you feel something’s not right… if children are hearing something or seeing something... give us a call, give the police a call…”

He went on to say that voicing concerns to officials allows for a quick response to any problem and prevents the negative social impact related to people just speaking among themselves. Within the schools, students are encouraged to speak up about issues or fellow students they are worried about. And, the district administration now is looking to make the process easier via anonymous tip lines, allowing students to report issues for possible intervention.

To view a recording of the event in its entirety, click here.

JFK TheLastSpeech AmazonOn Sunday February 10th at 3pm the Scarsdale Forum, the League of Women Voters Scarsdale and the Scarsdale Library will be screening the film JFK: The Last Speech at the Scarsdale Women's Club. The film explores the dramatic relationship between two seminal Americans—President John F. Kennedy and the poet Robert Frost—which reached its tragic climax in a surprising encounter with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the height of the Cold War. Born out of these events is Kennedy’s remarkable speech about poetry and power, which alters the life course of a group of Amherst college classmates who witness this compelling address and continue to exemplify in their contemporary lives a portrait of challenges facing America.

See the website here:

Neil Bicknell, a former Scarsdale resident and Amherst College graduate said about the film, "When my classmates and I initiated this project during our 50th Amherst College reunion, we were motivated by the conviction that President Kennedy’s words are more important today than when he spoke them to us on October 26, 1963. We felt it important to take JFK’s words, message and spirit to the American public.”

Mr. Bicknell and a fellow classmate, Mark Sandler, both of whom were in attendance for President Kennedy's speech, will introduce the film and answer questions after the screening.

One other piece of Scarsdale trivia...In 1956, just after the opening of the library on Olmsted Road, Robert Frost visited Scarsdale and addressed the community.

Please join us for this exciting event at the Scarsdale Women's Club on Sunday, February 10th at 3pm.

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