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You are here: Home The Goods Remarks from Board President William Natbony: Board Believes in "Openness, Fairness and Transparency"
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Remarks from Board President William Natbony: Board Believes in "Openness, Fairness and Transparency"

board2017-18These remarks were delivered by Scarsdale School Board President William Natbony at the opening of the meeting of the Scarsdale School Board on September 25.

This evening I have several points I want to address.

Prior to the Board meeting tonight, members of the Board toured the ongoing construction areas within the high school to review and understand the progress made and status. We toured the new commons area, the fitness center and the design lab space. While we will hear more from the Administration on the status later this evening, suffice it to say the Board is excited about these new spaces and wish to express their gratitude to all those involved in making these improvements possible, including our taxpayers.

Second, recently there have been reports in the press and rumblings in the community and schools about certain inappropriate graffiti on school grounds and the alleged harassing verbal comments of individuals in cars bearing Scarsdale logos. It is not clear that any of these events involved Scarsdale students or residents. That said, on behalf of this Board and our District it is absolutely essential to state that we see our school community as a safe, nurturing, open and collaborative community where diversity of background, ideas, lifestyle and values is embraced not feared. To the extent any of these acts are to be construed as messages of hatred, bigotry, intolerance or discrimination, those acts are not only not condoned but expressly rejected. There is no place in our community for such inappropriate and disrespectful conduct.

I also want to briefly speak to the issue raised recently through a Petition organized by many of our students concerning the need for a formal policy regarding a 9/11 observance our schools. Without question the Board and Administration recognize the profound importance and significance of 9/11. Currently, High School and Middle School social studies classes are tasked with the responsibility for incorporating some recognition and discussion of the 9/11 events on that day. The Board appreciates the sentiments of Petition and the expressed desire of some community members, following the lead of the Petition, to have a more formal, published policy and the Board will discuss that issue with the Administration and our principals and begin to discuss whether and to what extent a formal policy is needed at its next meeting on October 16th.

I also feel compelled to speak briefly about the process this Board and the Administration have been engaged in with respect to our facilities planning and, in particular, Greenacres. We are a Board of seven, independent-minded and tireless volunteers who give hundreds of hours a year to this community in an effort to make it better. We discuss, listen, and determine openly and with consideration of an abundance of information and viewpoints. We do so with respect for, and in partnership, with the Administration, our students, our staff and our community and with open minds, open ears and open hearts.

As a Board, we receive a lot of feedback. Mostly positive but some critical. We consider and appreciate all feedback. There is always room for respectful disagreement over issues. However, when comments, letters and blog reports spout false or misleading information that could stir up emotions or instigate conflict unnecessarily, I feel compelled to correct the record.

Isolated comments have called the Board complicit and uninvolved or disinterested. They point to a lack of probing questions. The public is not necessarily aware that we receive the Board Packet and attachments on Friday and submit many questions by Sunday night via a Google Doc, which are answered by the administration by Monday, before our meeting. Bond related questions are added to the FAQ document, posted onto the website, so that the public can benefit, and often the administration/BBS adjusts their presentations to respond or address Board questions. As I think BBS and the Administration would agree, this Board is neither complicit, uninvolved or disinterested.

I sit at this table with 6 other Board colleagues and Administration representatives whom I hold in high regard for their commitment, their intelligence, their selflessness and their common sense approach to issues. They each, along with myself, believe strongly in openness, fairness and transparency in decision-making and in process. They are motivated by what's best and prudent for our kids and the community. That is the way this Board approaches its job. We do so in partnership with our able and committed Administration, including our Superintendent, Dr. Hagerman and his cabinet. We do in fact question and we do in fact care deeply with great interest.

I could spend hours responding to the few statements out in the public domain that recite incorrect facts or distort the reality of what we do. They stand in the distinct minority compared to the many positive and/constructive comments I hear and see but I will respond to but a few statements to make my point.

Our process on facilities and Greenacres discussions has been called a "sham", designed to be non-transparent and reach a pre-ordained result. One need only review the detailed multi-year history of public meetings, discussions, proposals, presentations, community forums and Board responses to suggestions. That record speaks for itself.

The Board has been accused of preventing public comment by avoiding public participation in the process of the Board and purposely having public comment start at 11:00 PM. First, that is simply not true. Second, the Board has continuously provided 2 public comment opportunities at each of its meetings and has begun a new process of responding to questions or issues raised where a response can be provided efficiently within the time limitations of the meeting. The Board also wants public comment to be informed comment and thus, with respect to facilities in particular, has held its first public comment session after the detailed presentations by our consultants. Otherwise, public comment would be uninformed comment. The Board also reads and responds to all written communications and actively updates the District website with all relevant information. The GA Building Committee and District Facilities meetings include a diverse group of community representation and reports are issued to the public following every meeting. Members of those Committees have been disclosed publicly and the community is free to engage with them. Comments and suggestions relevant to issues before the Committees are brought to the Committees for discussion.

Again, the record speaks for itself.

One last example. A number of residents continue to express a desire to have students relocated during the entire GA project. The claim is made that the Board is ignoring those concerns and not listening. We understand this is an important issue. To the point, the Board has referred that issue to the GA Buildings Committee for comment and has made no final decision on a number of construction implementation issues, including the extent, if any, of relocation. Certainly, the ultimate decision will consider all relevant factors. What this Board will not do and should not do is simply react to emotion without deliberate consideration of the facts. The deliberative process continues and the Board will continue to act in good faith, as we hope and expect all community members to do as well.

Finally, I have a formal announcement and request on behalf of the Board, which was communicated last week to the Greenacres Task Force group and will also appear on the District website:

To facilitate the Scarsdale Union Free School District's examination of the impacts of the proposed bond project, including the proposed renovation and expansion of Greenacres Elementary School, any reports, studies, information or materials that members of the Scarsdale Union Free School District community would like the Board of Education and its consultants to consider with respect to the proposed bond project should be provided to the District by October 6, 2017.

Comments   

+12 #1 Jack Greenspan 2017-10-01 19:52
Could they at least release the Google Doc with the questions and answers?
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