Tuesday, Dec 11th

Last updateTue, 11 Dec 2018 2pm

You are here: Home Section Table On Our Minds

45CushmanRoad(This is the opinion of site founder Joanne Wallenstein) When I think about what brought us all to Scarsdale, it was the chance to join a successful community... a place where things worked and people cared. It was evident in an outstanding school system that was the result of collaboration between educators, administrators and parents ... in our lovely village-run recreational facilities and quality programs enjoyed by residents young and old... at our first class library that not only offered the latest books and movies but innovative programming and educational opportunities for all.

That's why I moved to Scarsdale and why I am proud to live here today. To me, it's a place that is bigger than any one of us. It makes me feel good to know that most of my friends recognize that it's sometimes necessary to make individual sacrifices for the greater good of the village.

But these values have been severely tested this year. We began 2017 with a highly contentious election that threatened Scarsdale's system of governance and the non-partisan system which had previously shielded the community from bitter partisan politics. A fight about the first village-wide revaluation in 44 years dragged on for months, with accusations, FOIL requests and angry voices at Village Hall. Long after the aggrieved received tax adjustments, the dissent continued.

On the school front we had another divisive rift. Even before the school district could openly examine options for the future of Greenacres Elementary School another faction of indignant residents organized a powerful campaign to safeguard the views from their backyards. Though in a minority, they squashed an open discussion about the best course of action for the school, the children and the future, insisting that their own property interests trumped community values.

And sadly these same debates continue on issues such as safeguarding trees, preserving historic homes and recycling.

Community-minded residents are proposing changes to the village code to prevent the destruction of our tree canopy, with others claiming that any tree preservation is a "taking" of their property rights.

In November, the entire Committee for Historic Preservation stepped down, because the few times they ruled against the demolition of a historic home, their decisions were overturned by the Board of Trustees. Why? Because the Village Trustees feared lawsuits from residents and developers. So as it stands now, any home, no matter how lovely or vital to the fabric of the neighborhood, risks destruction by developers who reap handsome profits from tearing down the town.

Even something as positive as a proposal to start weekly curbside pickup of food scraps and recyclables has met opposition from a few residents who object to bringing their empty bottles and cans to the curb. They claim this is a cut in service, ignoring the societal benefit of increasing village-wide recycling and cutting down on waste.

What's the common theme here? It's a lack of compromise and consideration for the good of the community. It's putting "me" first and depriving your neighbors of the opportunity to live in a place that values the "we" before the "me."

Think about it – if we allow our tree canopy to be destroyed, if we permit Scarsdale's historic homes to be razed, if we put "tax neutrality" before educational excellence, what will be left for the Scarsdale of the future? If we build an elementary school with cramped classrooms, poor air quality, environmental hazards and limited access to playgrounds, who will choose to move here? If we allow our schools to deteriorate from first rate to adequate, if we permit the destruction of our trees and historic homes, who loses? You ... that's you and the value of your home too.

What's makes us great is our willingness to work together for the common good. Yes we are faced with a hostile environment in Washington, but let's use that negative example to fuel a resurgence of community in Scarsdale. We have a legacy to continue. It's our responsibility to leave this a better place than we found it -- or at least as good a place as we found it.

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santa1The good cheer of the holiday season was reflected at this week's BOT meeting, as the trustees discussed a number of positive developments and news in Scarsdale.

Mayor's Comments
Mayor Dan Hochvert began the session with a nod to Scarsdale High School's "City 2.0" students. Working in teams, students meet with community officials and residents to develop relationships, identify local problems, and design solutions. "They are interesting young people who want to find ways to improve our town. They're very admirable and hard-working and I'm delighted to just listen to them."

The mayor also congratulated the volunteers who coordinated last week's "Light the 'Date" event, which was attended by over 500 people, as well as those who worked on a smaller, similar event in Davis Park that was equally successful.

Hochvert went on to discuss topics covered at the recent Scarsdale Neighborhood Associations meeting, including ongoing interest in a Scarsdale dog park and proposed tree code changes. All but one village neighborhood association is in full operation currently, which represents the most activity in a long time. The mayor encouraged residents to become involved in their local association, noting that they, along with other Scarsdale organizations such as the Scarsdale Support Council, help people practically, socially and emotionally. "If you engage socially in your neighborhood, you will help alleviate each other's angst. There's a social aspect to neighborhood associates that is very helpful."

He concluded his remarks by reporting that the village had great progress in keeping leaves out of the street throughout the fall season, and that there were no citations issued to residents for noncompliance with village code.

Manager's Comments
Free Parking: Village Manager Steve Pappalardo announced that the village will provide shoppers with two hours of free holiday parking in Scarsdale Village Center at specific, clearly-marked meter locations from December 18 through December 25. The public is asked to adhere to the two-hour limit so that others may enjoy this benefit.

Prepayment of Taxes: Pappalardo also addressed recent resident inquiries with regard to proposed federal changes to the tax code that will affect homeowners' ability to deduct real property taxes. Scarsdale Village staff are trying to find ways to assist residents in prepaying 2018 taxes in 2017 to offset possible negative affects of this change. However, because of New York State restrictions regarding prepayment of taxes, the only tax that may be paid early is Westchester County tax. Since the county budget has not yet been adopted, the village has not received the 2018 county tax levy/warrant. Should the village receive the warrant in time, staff will prepare and distribute tax bills to residents to allow for prepayment. For more information, read the recent Village of Scarsdale statement on the subject.

Appointments to the Committee for Historic Preservation
Trustee Ross introduced resolutions regarding appointments to the Scarsdale Committee for Historic Preservation.  The entire committee resigned in November. New members will fulfill the unexpired terms of those members who recently resigned and/or relocated from Scarsdale. They include Lucas Meyer (Autenreith Road), who will serve as committee chair, Bana Choura (Church Lane), Adam Lindenbaum (Post Road), David Paul (Fountain Terrace), Robert Scheibe (Walworth Avenue), Bruce Wells (Chase Road), and Barry Meiselman (Post Road), who will serve as alternate member. The board approved all appointments.

Trustee Reports
Trustee Seth Ross reported on recent efforts of the Scarsdale Cable Commission to obtain the best possible terms in upcoming contract negotiations with Verizon and Altice (formerly Cablevision). Resident focus groups were held and yielded a number of interesting ideas to be considered, and the commission now is asking all residents to participate in the online "Cable TV Needs Survey" to gain feedback on current and future cable TV service. The survey may be accessed here.

Ross also noted that the Drake-Edgewood Neighborhood Association has once again become active and that residents in those areas are invited to join the group via email at drake.edgewood@gmail.com. He concluded his comments by mentioning that, after a request by the Friends of Scarsdale Parks, a "Heritage Tree" application was granted for the American beech tree located in Chase Park.

Deb Pekarek noted that the Scarsdale Police Department will be designated as a "Gold Standard Agency" by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. She thanked and congratulated the village's "highly professional chief, command staff and all officers on the force" and took the opportunity to mention the department's recent Holiday Crime Prevention Press Release that provides useful tips for residents.

Jane Veron reported on Friday's successful public library fundraiser, "Black, White and Read All Over." "It was an extraordinary community building experience; 400 residents came together to support something that will benefit the entire community. " With regard to the library renovation, Veron said that work continues on cost estimates, site engineers are coordinating with the village planning committee and the library loft transition is on schedule.

In addition, Veron discussed recent activity in the village center, including the well-attended "Light The 'Dale" event, stating that "December has been a real show of community spirit." She mentioned that the farmer's market has moved indoors and will continue in the winter months, and urged residents to visit and provide feedback on services.

The board authorized acceptance of a number of financial gifts, including a $729,599 gift for the library renovation project, $5,000 for the fire department and $10,000 for the police department.

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excellentHow are Scarsdale students doing? According to a report on student assessments by Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Lynne Shain, students in the Scarsdale Schools are thriving. At the Board of Education meeting on November 27, Shain presented a review of the assessments that the district uses to monitor and measure student learning and the results which are impressive.

She explained that the district utilizes three kinds of assessments:

Assessment of Learning – a measure of what a student has learned after instruction has ended such as a unit test, mid-year exam or final exam

Assessment as Learning – A learning activity such as the fifth grade Capstone project is an activity or project designed to be a measure of learning

Assessment for Learning – A formative measure of what the student already knows and does not know to allow teachers to plan future instruction. These include a pretest on multiplying fractions and the STAR reading and math assessment.

Shain emphasized that tests are just one measure of student performance, as teachers make informal evaluations of students daily by observing their response to questions, noting class contributions, interactions with their peers and evaluating discourse and identifying gaps in knowledge or understanding.

She reviewed the standardized tests administered to students including the SAT's, NYS Regents and state tests for grades three through eight.

How does the district measure success? Here are a few measures:

College Acceptances: In terms of college acceptances, 98% of 2017 high school graduates are attending college and 59% were accepted at the most competitive colleges and universities in the U.S. in 2017.

Level of Preparedness: The last survey of Scarsdale High School graduates was done in 2012 and surveyed students from the classes of 2007 and 2010. That survey found that 98.9% reported that they either felt better prepared (76%) or as prepared (22.8%) as other students at that college.

SAT's: Scarsdale mean combined SAT Score Results were the highest among comparable districts in our region.

AP Tests: The percentage of students receiving scores of 3,4 and 5 on AP exams is 97%.

Shain then reviewed some of the test results. The full report is available online here:

She showed data comparing third, fourth and fifth grade students performance on the ELA to the results in peer districts including Bronxville, Edgemont, Great Neck, Chappaqua, Rye City, Blind Brook, Ardsley, Mamaroneck and Byram Hills, and here are the numbers for 2017:


The math results were also excellent:


Moving onto middle school results, she explained these scores were a function of the district's philosophies on teaching to the test. Shain said, "Different districts place different levels of importance on the tests – what gets the scores up is the alignment with the testing material with what is taught in class. If the teachers here wanted to prep for the test, I have no doubt that the scores would go up. We don't know what the dynamic is in other districts."



She also provided graphs of how elementary school students perform in the five elementary schools, saying that differences in performance between the schools was not statistically significant. She added that results are also affected by the placement of inclusion or special education classes within district schools.

Graph Scarsdale Schools

About SAT results, she said, "The mean combined scores of Scarsdale students are the highest among selective schools in our region. They are historically at the top 1% of the top 1% nationally.

SAT results

Take a look at the complete report here or watch her presentation online here. You'll be impressed.

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houselitatnightThe Scarsdale Police Department, in partnership with the community, want you to help make the Village a safe place to live, work and visit. The Scarsdale Police Department makes the following recommendations to residents to assist in preventing larcenies from automobiles and home burglaries during the upcoming holiday season:

  • Make your home appear occupied. Leave lights or televisions on timers when you are out.
  • Use motion sensing exterior lighting and keep the perimeter of your home well lighted.
  • Make your home more difficult to enter by increasing exterior security.
  • Don't allow daily deliveries of mail, newspapers or flyers to build up while you are away. Arrange with the Post Office to hold your mail, or arrange for a friend or neighbor to collect them regularly.
  • Always turn your alarm system on when you are away.
  • Keep all exterior doors locked, using deadbolt locks. Keep your garage door
  • closed and locked.
  • Always lock your vehicle whether it is parked on the street or your driveway.
  • Do not leave valuable possessions in view, especially electronic and GPS
  • devices.
  • Be an observant neighbor. Immediately notify the police of any suspicious activity in your neighborhood.
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walksignThere's only a few days left to take the Scarsdale Forum's Municipal Services committee Traffic Survey, www.ScarsdaleTrafficSurvey.com. The Survey is closing at midnight on November 30. The objective is to bring everyone's concerns about conditions on our local roads, sidewalks, school drop off lanes and parking areas to the attention of the Village. We also need the input of our youth who are just beginning to drive with a permit, or who already have their license, or who experience problems as pedestrians or riding their bicycles.

The Survey analysis, to be done by residents who are knowledgeable working with survey data, will be an integral part of the Forum committee's continuing follow up to our 2015 traffic report recommendations.Some signals and signage have been improved since then, but more can and should be done. There should be zero tolerance for pedestrian knock downs, vehicles passing stopped school buses, and speeding. The Village-wide chaos on the roads the day before Thanksgiving and on ordinary days too – including impassible gridlock, excessive speeding, and illegal turns through red signaled crosswalks – is also unacceptable.

Participation in the survey by everyone in the community will ensure that the data helps us make progress towards safer streets. The Survey can be taken on a computer or smart phone at www.ScarsdaleTrafficSurvey.com.

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