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(This is the opinion of site founder Joanne Wallenstein) The campaign for Scarsdale School Board is over and the votes have been counted. On Tuesday, an independent candidate for school board triumphed over a nominee selected by the Scarsdale School Board Nominating Committee (SBNC). After the SBNC deliberations, an incumbent who served a first term on the school board was not selected by the SBNC, but triumphed in her independent run. What can we say about the results of this week’s election and what does the vote say about our process for selecting and electing candidates?

A few observations:

As anyone who is reading this article knows, the intent of the non-partisan system is a democratically elected committee of nominators charged with vetting candidates for school board and selecting those that they believe are most qualified to serve. Once selected, these candidates run uncontested and save the community from contentious and partisan campaigns.

However, in recent times, our elections have become more, not less partisan. Candidates who are not selected by the School Board Nominating Committee (SBNC) have been emboldened to run independently, and those who customarily back the non-partisan system lend their support to favored independent candidates. In this recent election we saw community leaders, former and present members of the Board of Education and PTA leaders, abandon their commitment to the non-partisan system in favor of an incumbent who was not selected by the SBNC.

From all accounts it appears that the SBNC did a thorough job of vetting, interviewing and selecting candidates, yet the wider community felt no obligation to support the slate. A popular former Board President led the campaign to re-elect an incumbent who was not re-nominated, and many jumped on the bandwagon on her recommendation.

Some said they voted based on recommendations from friends and information garnered from cocktail party conversation or chose the incumbent, which enabled the "true insiders" to re-elect their candidate in order to maintain the old guard. As a result, all the work and due diligence performed by the nominating committee, who were elected by the community, was undermined. Though some criticize the nominating committees for being “insiders,” the committees consist of representatives from all of Scarsdale voted in by their neighbors. They seek to find the right candidates with an open mind.

From my five years of service on the SBNC, I can attest to the fact that the 30-member committee follows the non-partisan resolution carefully, reaching out to find candidates, gathering input from peers, discussing and debating the needs and composition of the board and acting in the best interest of the community at large. This year a former Board of Education President chaired the proceedings, adding even more integrity to the work of the SBNC.

Furthermore, the independent candidate ran a full-fledged campaign, using advertising, social media and her network of PTA colleagues to garner support. She targeted the more vulnerable of the two SBNC candidates and left him with no choice but to launch a campaign on his own. Members of the School Board Nominating Committee did not believe it was their role to campaign or back the selected candidates, leaving the nominees to run their own campaigns.

To be blunt, the non-partisans were hit with a partisan election campaign and had no mechanism, organization or budget to defend their nominees.

Where does this leave us?

In the future, candidates who come before the SBNC should be aware that if selected by the committee, they may have to run their own campaigns. Will this deter residents from running? Perhaps!

Those who sit on the School Board Nominating Committee may also be called on to campaign for their selected slate. Again, will that deter residents from running for the committee? Perhaps!

Clearly the non-partisan process has been tested again. It was intended to prevent divisive and contentious campaigns, but today the non-partisans are just one political party. If this decades old system is to remain effective, it will need to adapt and use 21st century campaign tactics to defend itself.

Without any mechanism to bring out the popular vote, the non-partisan slate will be trumped by partisans over and over again.

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clockStudent leaders had the opportunity to exchange thoughts on the use of the new learning spaces, vaping and the schedule change at a meeting with h members of the Scarsdale Board of Education, prior to the BOE meeting on Monday May 7. They engaged in frank discussion on changes at the school in the past year and collaborated on how to fix some ongoing issues. 

The students reported that the new learning commons has been a great addition to the high school. The learning commons has created a space where students can go during lunch or free periods to grab food, study, or do homework. Private side rooms, including the new iLab, allow teachers to bring their students to a more collaborative environment during class time. The board asked the students how they felt the learning commons has been utilized over the past few months. Junior and Vice President Amanda Glik had been looking forward to its opening and commented, “People use it everyday…it really represents the mature environment of collaboration.” The space has also been compared to something one would find at a college campus.

Another benefit of the learning commons recognized by the students is the alleviation of pressure on the library. They said that since the library used to be a place for students to go to eat lunch and hang out during free periods, the opening of the learning commons has drawn these students to a different venue. The students now recognize the library as a quiet place to study and get work done over a place to socialize.

The students also noted that the food service offered in the learning commons is being utilized to its full extent, especially during periods other than lunch. Since food is available in the morning and also after 5th period, when students have lunch, the learning commons has become a popular location for students to either eat breakfast in the morning or snack in the afternoon before a club meeting or sports practices. They also said that they look forward to indulging in the learning commons food since it provides more options than the cafeteria including a salad bar and a soft-serve ice cream machine, both which were immediate hits with students.

Another addition to the High School as a part of the STEAM initiative is the design lab. The design lab has not only houses design and fabrication classes but is also utilized by the robotics club. One student on the robotics club noted that the new design lab has been a major improvement over the previous physics classroom that the club used for meetings. The modular design of the lab allows for better group work and participation in the club. Since it is easier to move around the tables, the process of building robots has become more fluid. For the club and many others, the design lab has been a useful and productive space.

A member of the ski team reported that sports teams, specifically the ski team, have definitely reaped the rewards of the new fitness center. Before the its opening, the ski team would participate in their dynamic warm ups in the commons, not a gym space said one of the student. Now there is a proper space for them to do their warm ups, for which they are very thankful.

The board also asked the students to comment on the ongoing vaping issue at the high school, how it made them feel and possible solutions to the problem. From the student perspective, this issue is not only damaging to the health of students but has also made the high school somewhat of an uncomfortable environment. The source of the problem is students Juuling or vaping in the school bathrooms. One student recalls trying to go to the bathroom during homeroom. He said he had to go to three or four bathrooms before he found one that did not have people Juuling inside. The group concoluded that this issue seems to be much more prevalent in the male bathrooms than the female bathrooms.

The group collaborated on how to deal with this epidemic. “We don't want it to take the 20 or 30 years it took for cigarettes to become uncool,” said Glik. They highlighted that since this trend has occurred so suddenly and rapidly, there has not been much education on the issue. The point was brought up that sophomores enrolled in the second semester health class have only recently discussed the issue, while sophomores who took the first semester health class barely touched upon it. They realized that a contributing reason that Juuling is so popular is because of the lack of information and education students have received, leaving many unaware of the health consequences. One student suggested an assembly or a workshop to educate the entire student body on the health effects of Juuling.

In terms of prevention, the students brainstormed ideas on how Juuling in school can be minimized. Increased staff in the bathrooms or random bathroom during popular hours such as homeroom or lunch was one suggestion. However, the issue is more deep rooted. “This is a health crisis more than a disciplinary one,” stated Principal Bonamo. One member asked, “How do we help them get unaddicted?” The board is now tasked with addressing nicotine addiction. 

Also on the agenda was a discussion of how the new school day schedule has impacted the students. This year, as a result of collective bargaining with teachers, each class period was extended by two minutes, to a total of fifteen minutes a day. In addition, homeroom only occurs on Tuesdays and Thursdays, instead of everyday.

One student who is an athlete noted that this change has been a tremendous struggle, especially for teams who take busses to their practices and games. She explained how the ten-minute delay creates a time crunch for students to get from their class to the locker room to get ready for their sport, and then onto the bus. In some cases, students have been left at the high school and missed out on practices and games because there was not sufficient time for them to get ready.

Another point made by the students is that students lives outside of school haven't changed which makes the new schedule even more inconvenient . They explained how students still have their everyday, after school commitments that have not been adjusted to account for this missing ten minutes.

The students also said they feel deprived of their homeroom, ten minutes they used to relax, grab food, and socialize. Now, they said, students may have five classes in a row with no break or no way to eat. Also a major concern of the students is the loss of meeting time for some student organizations, like student government and yearbook, that meet during homeroom. Because homeroom is only twice a week, the schedule changes everyday and students are confused about class times.

One student proposed having a universal free time everyday instead of the extra two minutes added to each period. It was explained that for those with jam-packed schedules or no free periods in common with their teachers, this time would be a great way to meet with teachers. Glik added that Scarsdale High School prides itself on its tutorial system, therefore, having a universal free period everyday would reinforce this value, over the two minutes each period where the teacher is standing in front of the classroom rather than meeting with students one-on-one.

One board member asked if giving up the universal Friday seventh period free would be a fair compromise. Some students felt that this was a time they look forward to all week and many clubs and sports teams schedule meetings and games during this time. However, others saw it as a way to compromise, given that they have all weekend to do homework or hang out with friends and do not think that an hour after school necessitates free time.

It wasn’t clear at the end of the meeting whether any change to the schedule would be made. But the students seemed pleased to at least be given the chance to offer their suggestions.

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votingmachineHere is information on voter registration for the upcoming school budget vote/school board election for the Scarsdale Union Free School District on May 15, 2018.

Voter Eligibility for the Tuesday, May 15 Budget Vote and School Board Election. 

To be eligible to vote in a school election you:

* Must be registered with the Westchester County Board of Elections to vote in general elections; OR
* Must be registered with the School District’s Board of Registration, or have voted in a Scarsdale school election within the last four years.

Local voter registration for the May 15 school election will take place on Tuesday, May 8, from 4:00 - 9:00 p.m., and Thursday, May 10, from 1:00 - 5:00 p.m., in the Board of Education offices (2 Brewster Road).

Voter Qualifications for Registration:
* Must be a United States citizen; and
* Must be a resident of the School District for at least 30 days preceding the vote: and
* Must be at least 18 years old by May 15, 2018.

Voter information is also available online on the District website (www.scarsdaleschools.org) under Site Shortcuts.

For additional information, contact the District Clerk, Honore Adams, at 914-721-2410, or hadams@scarsdaleschools.org

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vital aging 3Daryl Moss demonstrating a healthy recipeRain showers didn’t stop the steady stream of attendees filing into the Girl Scout House Wednesday, April 25th morning to hear presenters from the Women’s Enterprise Development Center’s (WEDC)’s Senior Providers’ Network. Also on hand showing their support for the Vital Aging Program were dignitaries Mayor Dan Hochvert and Trustee Lena Crandall.

The four presenters spoke on various aspects of wellness. Physical therapist Molly Roffman of StepWISEnow, Holistic Health Coach Daryl Moss of Mission to Wellness, Anna Diehl of Awaken Seniors, and Nancy Kessler of Memoirs Plus offered a captive audience their expertise on balance fitness, holistic nutrition, sensory activities and memoir creation and recording.

The free Vital Aging workshop was made possible through Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service’s Aging in Place Initiative. Vital Aging workshops are offered periodically throughout the year, in collaboration with Scarsdale Recreation’s Seniors Program, for the benefit of the older adult community. For more information please contact Maryellen Saenger, LMHC, 914-723-3281 or msaenger@sfcsinc.orgAnna DiehlAnna Diehl on Stimulating Sensory Activitiesvital aging 4Pictured Left to Right: Tatiana Nitis (SFCS), Anna Diehl, Molly Roffman, Daryl Moss, Nancy Kessler, and Maryellen Saenger (SFCS)Vital Aging 1Nancy Kessler tips on memoir recordingVital Aging 2Molly Roffman offers balance demonstration

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kidssocialmediaWhile social media has been around for over two decades, parents in Scarsdale and beyond are constantly grappling with how to best raise their kids in a tech-obsessed digital world. For this reason, the Scarsdale PT Council put together an important program on Wednesday, April 18, at Scarsdale High School, which began with a discussion of Scarsdale schools’ soon-to-be-introduced social media policy, followed by a talk about raising confident kids in the digital age.

To start the morning, Jerry Crisci, Director of Instructional Technology and Innovation and Co-Director of the Center for Innovation for Scarsdale Schools, discussed Scarsdale’s existing technology guidelines. He went on to summarize the school system’s new policy (currently in draft form on the Scarsdale School website), which focuses on social media as it pertains to the school community. Some of the big ideas introduced include: taking responsibility for your digital footprint, separating the use of technology for personal and professional use, respecting copyright and following fair use guidelines when communicating via social media, and being vigilant JerryCrisciJerry Crisci, Director of Instructional Technology and Innovationwhen it comes to sharing personal information.

“It’s a responsible use policy, instead of an acceptable use policy, ” Crisci said. “Everyone has to take responsibility for their use of social media.”

Next, educator, motivational speaker, and author of the Amazon bestseller Girls Just Want to Have Likes, Laurie Wolk, gave an informative talk about the challenges parents and children face in today’s 24/7-connected world and how we can best address them. She began with a story about a high school girl who tried out for her school’s field hockey team, and unfortunately did not make the cut. In the “old” days, the story would have ended there. However, in today’s world the girl was subjected to constant reminders of what she was missing: triumphant wins showcased via Instagram, team-bonding sessions caught on Snapchat, and more.

“FOMO (fear of missing out) is the new reality,” Wolk said. “Times have changed. Social media compounds everything.”

Wolk went on to say that instead of fearing social media, parents must embrace it since it’s not going anywhere. She advised the audience to see social media as a good thing, since it’s a widely used and accepted form of communication and a way to gain insight into our children’s lives. However, she also stressed the need to set limits, help preserve our kids’ self-esteem, and teach them to monitor their usage and be aware of the implications of sharing via social media.

“We must use social media as a reminder to provide opportunities for kids to live in real life and help them build crucial skills like resilience, empathy, and self-regulation,” Wolk explained.

girlsjustwanttohavelikesAnother way she recommends that parents monitor social media is by creating a family media agreement. This kind of contract sets rules for technology usage in the household, puts those rules in writing, and helps kids to understand the reasons behind it.

“Kids need rules. They crave boundaries to bump up against,” she explained. “But they want to know why.”

Wolk also emphasized the importance of role modeling the behavior we want to see in order to create confident kids. As parents, we have to be aware of when we are looking at our own Facebook feeds and scrolling through text messages.

“With all of the digital distractions, we forget how to role model,” LoriWolkAuthor and Social Media Expert Laurie WolkWolk said. Not only do we have to tell our kids the right way to act, we have to show them.”

For more information about Laurie Wolk, visit her website for more information.

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