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questionmark(This is the opinion of site founder Joanne WallensteinWe spoke to several people who are keen observers of the Scarsdale non-partisan process to get their feedback on the most recent School Board election. As many of you know, in the May 15 election, two candidates were selected by the democratically elected School Board Nominating Committee to run on the ballot for Scarsdale School Board.

However, current school board member Pam Fuehrer, who had served one three-year term, was not selected by the SBNC to run for a second term. She opted to run independently, garnered the support of many current and former members of the Board and the PTA’s and defeated one of the candidates chosen by the SBNC.

The election was controversial for many reasons and we thought it deserved further exploration.

What is on people’s minds? Here are some of the questions:

-Barring cases of gross misconduct, should the SBNC automatically grant an incumbent candidate the nomination for a second term on the Board if the incumbent wants to run?

-Traditionally the community has supported the non-partisan system and the candidates chosen by the non-partisan process. Has the community lost faith in this process?

-The current voting process dictates that candidates run for specific seats on the Board. For example the committee nominated Alison Singer to run for the seat held by Pam Fuehrer and Woodrow Crouch to run for the seat held by Art Rublin. Believing that she had a better chance of defeating Crouch than Singer, Fuehrer chose to run against Crouch for the seat held by Rublin rather than running for the seat she currently holds. This assured Singer of a position on the board (as she ran uncontested) and challenged Crouch. Some are calling for the procedure to be changed to eliminate the process of running for specific seats, and instead giving the seats to those who get the most votes.

- Is it the role of the School Board Nominating Committee to act as a political party and support their chosen candidates with a political campaign? Since the independent candidates launch campaigns, are the SBNC candidates at a disadvantage?

Very few people were willing to be quoted, but we did hear some interesting thoughts.

Former school board member Jackie Irwin supported Fuehrer. Commenting on the issue of incumbency, Irwin said, “Since I can only recall one other time when the SBNC declined to re-nominate a sitting trustee for a second term, it is difficult to say that this is new trend. From my own experience on the SBNC and as a reference for prospective nominees, I sense that in any given year there are committee members who are critical of an incumbent. The majority of committee members, however, come to appreciate the fact that school board members and Village Trustees abide by our de facto two-term limit and in the end vote to re-nominate the incumbent. The outcome this year was a head-scratcher for many of us. Our mutual concern galvanized us to support a challenge to the slate. The results speak for themselves.”

Two former school board members, Rita Golden and Barbara Jaffe also supported Pam Fuehrer’s bid for re-election. They explained their thinking in a letter to Scarsdale10583 and said that their support of an independent candidate did not mean they did not support the non-partisan process. They wrote, “We, along with many other former school board trustees, supported Fuehrer in the recent election because of our concern that there is a steep learning curve involved in becoming an effective board member, and felt strongly that Pam’s experience and knowledge was essential at this time.”

“We fully support a non-partisan SBNC that is committed to selecting board members who are not single-issue candidates, do not vote as a bloc, and consider the merits of each decision on an individual basis. As with any democratic public or political institution, the SBNC may not always function perfectly, but it is, in our opinion, the best system to select the most qualified candidates to lead our school district.”

“In the future, we hope that more people will be willing to run for a seat on the SBNC and that those elected will understand that experience and first-hand knowledge are very important criteria in determining their final selection. We want to encourage volunteerism in our community and not let the fear of being rejected for a second term discourage those willing to run for a School or Village Board seat.”

A Greenacres neighbor offered the following in defense of the non-partisan process:

“To me, even more than saving the community from contentious and partisan campaigns, the value of the non-partisan system is saving the qualified nominees from contentious and partisan campaigns. Specifically, there are many highly qualified individuals who are happy to serve but would not run if they had to spend their energy and money fighting against their neighbors. Importantly, the value of the non-partisan system is also that qualified individuals do not have to decide in advance how they feel about specific issues and campaign on those prematurely-formed views based on incomplete information. Rather, they can keep an open mind, listen to the community (including residents, the administration, teachers, groups that study the issues, other board members, etc.), gather detailed information, and then more fully analyze the situation to do what is in the best interest of Scarsdale as a whole.”

A former member of the School Board Nominating Committee called for an examination of the election process to determine how to change it so that candidates do not run for specific seats. She favored a process whereby those with the most votes win. She also questioned the decision by former and current members of the Board of Education not to support the candidates nominated by the SBNC, when they had all served after being nominated by the SBNC. She said, “They only support the non-partisan process when they like the candidates chosen? … How can a current member of the Board of Education sign a full-page ad in the Inquirer in support of a candidate when the process is supposed to be non-partisan?”

On the recent process of candidates running independently, one observer noted:

“Some would argue it’s a good thing to give voters a choice, but others (traditional supporters of the nonpartisan system) would argue it defeats the purpose of having a nonpartisan system.”

On incumbents being re-nominated she said, "Each nominating committee is charged with selecting an individual that the committee members determine is "qualified" to serve. Note that neither resolution modifies that - i.e. not most or best qualified, simply qualified.” She added, “No one should take for granted that he/she will be re-nominated just because he/she is an incumbent and has not committed any crime. You have to serve with distinction during your first term and make the effort to present your credentials and your interest in continuing to serve. Every elected official, whether on the county, state or federal level, has that responsibility; it should not be different on the local level just because we have a nonpartisan nominating system.”

About the need to campaign, she said, “I do think it is necessary that when there is a contested election, there is a mechanism in place for a nonpartisan party committee to mobilize to support the candidacy of the SBNC candidates as is done on the village side. I think this election illustrated that the SBNC candidates were left to fend for themselves to run a campaign.”

I had conversations with several others who assumed that the SBNC committee members themselves were focused on a single issue or were blaming the incumbent for the actions of the School Board. Since the proceedings are confidential we will never know what was said in the room, and I was puzzled that these critics spoke so confidently about what they assumed had occurred. I also noted that many who backed Fuehrer based on her service had not attended a board meeting in the past three years, so I wondered what information they were using to form their views.

In an April 13 letter from SBNC Chair Elizabeth Guggenheimer, who herself is a former School Board President, defended the process and the nominees. She said,

“Pursuant to rules of procedure, committee members conducted due diligence by contacting dozens of people outside of SBNC familiar with the applicants, presented confidential due diligence reports, shared relevant factual information and experiences, focused on the many positive attributes of this year’s candidate pool, and listened to one another carefully.

Discussions and deliberations regarding candidates are confidential in order to encourage people to apply, protect the privacy of candidates and references, allow for candid discussion among SBNC members, and select nominees based on their qualifications.

The committee discussed fully and candidly the qualifications of all proposed candidates before there was any vote, and it voted by secret ballot to fill each vacancy. This year’s SBNC members devoted an estimated 1,600 total hours (an average of 50 hours per person) to their charge. The process was serious and deliberate, with respect for differing opinions.”

So though the Chair believed that the committee had acted responsibly and ethically, many outside the room drew their own conclusions.

Does the non-partisan process serve the community well? If you have thoughts about the election and the non-partisan system, please share them in the comments section below.

img1713 Scarsdale’s baseball and lacrosse teams both suffered devastating losses this week, marking the end of a good season for both teams. The baseball team had an 8-10 record and the lacrosse team went 10-8 during the regular season, meaning both teams secured a spot in the playoffs. However, both seasons ended with the baseball team's loss to Suffern and the Lacrosse team's loss to Lakeland. 

On Monday, the 13-seeded Scarsdale Raiders Baseball team had their first playoff game against the 4-seeded Suffern Mounties. The game, twice postponed due to weather, was played at Suffern High School with starting pitchers Jack Callahan (‘18) for Scarsdale and Texas Tech baseball commit Jack Scanlon (‘18) for Suffern. In the first inning, the Raiders stranded Michael Green (‘18) and Joe Weintraub (‘18) on base after a double and walk, respectively. In the bottom of the first, Callahan retired the side, heading into a scoreless second inning.

The third inning, started by two Suffern walks, led to 3 mountie runs to make the score 3-0. Once again, the Raiders stranded two runners on base in the top of the forth and Callahan’s double play helped the Raiders escape runners on first and third with no outs without allowing a run. The next two innings was a pitching duel as both teams could not bring in baserunners. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Suffern struck again with three more runs and brought in Wyatt Palmer to close the game.IMG 1715Michael Green ('18)

In the top of the seventh inning, the Raiders could not muster a run. Scarsdale stranded runners on base in five of the seven innings and lacked the timely hitting needed to knock Scanlon out of the game. The game concluded the Scarsdale Raiders’ season. However, many of the players will be playing in the Scarsdale Annual Memorial Day Tournament.

lacrosse 2Tuesday May 23rd, the Scarsdale Varsity Lacrosse team faced off against Lakeland. The team went into their quarterfinal game with heads held high, as they had solidified their rank as the number two seed in the Class A tournament last week. Seth Thornton, who will play lacrosse at Syracuse University next year, scored three goals, Oliver Krohn scored two goals and one assist, Andrew Bernstein had two goals, Jason Lipsay scored one goal, Jackson Bornstein scored one goal, and Jack Brosgol had two assists. Even though the Raiders fought hard, the were defeated by Lakeland 10-9, which unfortunately ended the Raiders successful season.

The team was fortunate enough to have 16 dedicated seniors this year who demonstrated their leadership throughout the entire season. Next year a squad of new players will take the field. Lacrosse photos by Jon Thaler. See more here.

lacrosse 1

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.

(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.

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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