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Almost, Maine On Stage at SHS Friday and Saturday

almost5The Scarsdale High School Drama Club will present Almost, Maine in the SHS auditorium on Friday night January 20 and Saturday night January 21 at 7:30 pm. Written by John Cariani, the performance includes nine short plays that explore love and loss in a remote, mythical almost-town called Almost, Maine. It premiered at the Portland Stage Company in Portland, Maine in 2004 where it broke box office records and garnered critical acclaim. There are eleven short scenes: the Prologue (which continues in the Interlogue and Epilogue), Her Heart, Sad and Glad, This Hurts, Getting It Back, They Fell, Where It Went, Story of Hope, and Seeing the Thing. Almost, Maine is directed by Ellis Jones and Tali Lesser, and it's a show you don't want to miss!almost4

The performances will be in the Scarsdale High School auditorium on Friday January 20th and Saturday January 21st at 7:30 pm.

Tickets are available here or at the door.

Photos by Jon Thaler: See more here:

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SHS Debaters Excel at Three Weekend Tournaments

debate2The weekend of January 7, students on the Scarsdale High School Speech and Debate Team attended three different tournaments around the country.

On Saturday, January 7, 2017 the Scarsdale High School Speech Team brought 50 students to the annual Chaminade Invitational Tournament in Mineola, NY, the highest number of students the team has brought to a tournament all year. Students competed in seven speech categories: Junior Varsity Oral Interpretation, Varsity Oral Interpretation, Junior Varsity Extemporaneous Speaking, Varsity Extemporaneous Speaking, Dramatic Performance, Declamation, and Original Oratory.

In Oral Interpretation (OI), students alternate every other round between performing one prose piece and one poetry piece. Prose pieces that SHS students are currently competing with include "Mick Harte Was Here" by Barbara Park, "Out of My Mind" by Sharon Draper, and "Swallow the Ocean" by Laura Flynn. Poetries include "Shark Girl" by Kelly Bingham, "Perfect" by Ellen Hopkins, and programs of poetry on topics such as social anxiety, feminism, and LGBTQ rights. Competitors read from a small binder, and are prohibited from moving their feet, so they can be judged solely on their vocal variation, hand gestures, and facial expressions.

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Overall, students like to describe OI as "competitive acting". OI is one of the more popular speech categories, because it is one of three that freshman on the team start off learning. Freshman joining the Speech Team can select to get their initial training in either Oral Interpretation, Declamation, or Extemporaneous Speaking.debate3

Extemporaneous Speaking is a current events based category. Before each round of a tournament, competitors draw a question they have never seen before, related to an issue in the news. They are then given 30 minutes of preparation time before they have to give a 7-minute speech, without notes, answering the question. To prepare for tournament, "extempers" file articles, keep up closely with current events, and give practice speeches. Example extemp questions from a tournament this weekend include: "How much influence does Donald Trump have on whether businesses build here or overseas?" "Should Montenegro be allowed to join NATO?" and, "How has the push for legalized marijuana in America affected the drug war in Mexico?"

In Dramatic Performance (DP), another "competitive acting" category, students cut and perform pieces from a book, play, or short story that are either humorous or dramatic. DP is similar to OI, but it is memorized and you are allowed to move your feet, so competitors are also judged on their movements.

In Declamation, students give speeches that have already been given, and are judged on their delivery of the speech. For example, competitors often perform Ted Talks, Commencement Addresses or Original Oratory speeches from previous years.

debate4In Original Oratory students write and perform their own 10 minute speeches on a societal issue that they are passionate about, and offer solutions on resolution of these issues. Competitors are judged on the delivery of their speeches, along with the writing. Josie Blatt's (17') oratory this year is about how we've lost the wonder that we had as young children, and why we need to regain it. Other examples of Oratory topics include Natalie Rosier's ('18) speech on society's over reliance on predictions, and Emily Schwartz's ('17) on the fear of being alone, and how we can see being alone in a positive light.

The structure of a typical one-day speech tournament consists of three preliminary rounds, where students give their speeches in rooms with five other competitors. They are ranked on a scale from one to six, and the students with the lowest cumulative ranks move on to either a one room final round with six to eight competitors, or a two room final round with 12-16 competitors. However, this Saturday students were informed after the first preliminary round that the final round was cancelled due to the snowstorm, and the team left immediately after the third round. Although there was no final round, students were still awarded half qualifications to the New York State Forensics League Championship, at Hofstra University in April, based on their ranks in the three preliminary rounds.

The following students from Scarsdale High School received half qualifications: In JVOI, Julia McMurray '19 and Emma Glaser '20, and Christina Coco '20. In VOI, Jocelyn Weiss '19. In JVEX, Eve Mainster '20, Adina Mistry '19 and Abhinav Vittal '20. In Declamation, Katia Jacovides '19, and in Oratory Josie Blatt '17. Mainster and Blatt are now fully qualified for the State Championship, and will join around 20 other speech team members who are already qualified.

On Friday, January 6, and Saturday, January 7, 2017, 16 students on the debate side of the team attended the Newark Invitational tournament at Science Park High school in Newark, NJ. The Lincoln Douglas resolution for January and February is "Public colleges and universities in the United States ought not restrict constitutionally protected free speech." Students must argue the affirmative and negative sides on this resolution.

Students competed in Varsity Lincoln Douglas Debate (1 on 1 debate), Novice Lincoln Douglas Debate, and Novice Public Forum Debate (2 on 2 debate). In Varsity LD there were six preliminary rounds, and the tournament broke to partial double octafinals. Natalie Isak '18 and Michael Landau '17 were double-octa finalists, Lauren Singer '17 was an octa finalist, Gillian Zipursky '17 was a quarterfinalist, and Zack Gelles '17 was a semifinalist. Zipursky and Gelles received bids to the Tournament of Champions, making it Zipursky's third bid of the season, and Gelles's second, completing his qualification to the Tournament of Champions. Zipursky was also ranked third speaker and Gelles was ranked fourth. In Novice LD, there were five preliminary rounds and the tournament broke to quarterfinals. Nikki Lerner '20 was ranked 8th speaker.

On Saturday, January 7 and Sunday January 8, 2017, Zach Kapner '17 and Keshav Rastogi '17 attended to the Montgomery Bell Academy Extemp Round Robin in Nashville, Tennessee, an invite-only tournament for competitors in Extemporaneous Speaking. Invites to the tournament were based on performance at major circuit tournaments in both the prior season and the first semester of this one. There were ten rounds of Round Robin competition, with four competitors and three judges per room. There were only 16 competitors invited, so it was an impressive achievement just to be a participant, but Zach Kapner '17 also placed sixth in the highly competitive tournament.

January is a busy month for the Speech and Debate Team. Next weekend, January 14-16, students will be attending the Sunvitational Tournament in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, the Fr. Rippon Memorial Tournament at Regis and Loyola High Schools in Manhattan, and the Lexington Winter Invitational in Lexington, MA. Later this month, the team will be attending the Columbia Invitational at Columbia University in Manhattan, and the Convent of the Sacred Heart Tournament in Greenwich, CT.

The team is coached by physics teacher Joe Vaughan, and assistant coach Will Maldarelli, a middle school social studies teacher. They chaperone and help run almost all tournaments that team attends. However, on a weekend with more than two tournaments, the team brings parent chaperones. The team also must provide a certain number of judges at each tournament, depending on how many students it brings. The judges are typically trained parent judges or SHS alumni. In addition to judging tournaments, parents of team members also help run the Scarsdale Invitational Tournament, hosted at SHS in November.

This year's Speech and Debate Team is the biggest it has ever been, with 138 members. With a team so large, the mentorship training program is incredibly valuable. The team's 19 junior and senior officers, and other upperclassman, work closely with underclassmen at practices twice a week. The team has been very successful this year, and is looking forward to a great conclusion to the season.

Wegmans Coming to Westchester

wegmans-groceryScarsdale shoppers may have a mega food store nearby if Wegmans is successful at developing a 20-acre lot on Westchester Avenue in Harrison. The Rochester-based chain signed a deal to purchase the property at 106-110 Corporate Park Drive off Route 287 with Normandy Real Estate Partners. Three aging and partially vacant office buildings that are currently on the site would be demolished before construction begins on the store.

They plan to build a 125,000 square foot grocery store along with another 8,000 square foot building that would be rented to a restaurant or other tenant. The store will employ 400-500 people and will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will also include a café. Forbes Magazine named Wegmans one of the top 10 employers.

Devotees of Wegmans love it for their prepared foods, fresh produce, reasonable prices and variety. They offer fresh-baked breads, custom cakes, specialty cheeses, a fish market, sushi, international foods, candy to rival Dylan's, flowers and local and organic produce all at competitive prices.

Stay tuned for more news on Wegmans first Westchester store in 2017.

Greenacres: A Road Map to a Solution

greenschool(This is an opinion piece from site founder Joanne Wallenstein)
In late September, Dr. Hagerman formally announced "a pause in the discussion" about the future of the Greenacres School, due to a divided community." He made a call for more time, saying, "Let's work together. Let's pause, reflect, communicate, and collaborate."

Here we are a few months later, and I agree; it's time to communicate and collaborate to find a solution that works. To begin 2017, here are my ideas for a process that will engage all stakeholders and build positive momentum toward a decision.

Research:

First, let's do our research by inviting experts to present their thinking about educational trends for the future, learning spaces to support these trends and sustainability professionals who can showcase features of green schools and demonstrate how these green buildings can save energy and become a part of student's learning experience.

Visit:

Learn from the Friends of the Scarsdale Library and send ad hoc groups from Scarsdale to visit state of the art facilities in other communities. Let's find out what's working in other schools by interviewing the educators who work at these schools and gathering ideas that we might consider in our own planning.

If we are going to provide a school to last another 100 years, let's explore how children will be educated in the future. Perhaps schools will not be built around the concept of classrooms by grade housing 20-25 students each. Maybe we will require different types of spaces and facilities where students can build, collaborate and explore. How will technology be integrated into the environment? What's the thinking about the future of physical education and what equipment will state of the art schools include? There are many questions to consider and the entire community should be invited to listen and learn.

Engage:

Next we need to facilitate an open exchange of ideas. Let's invite the faculty of Greenacres School to an upcoming Board of Education meeting to provide their thoughts on the current facility and how it impacts the curriculum and student well-being. Give them license to present their ideas for creating an ideal learning space for the future.

Likewise, the Greenacres PTA should be invited for a similar exercise. Permit parents to give their candid views of the current facility and how the learning experience can be improved in the future.

Members of the Board of Education should reach out to their constituents, hear their ideas and invite them to be part of the process.

The administration should sponsor a series of forums and round table exercises with stakeholders to brainstorm ideas, prioritize needs and get involved in planning for the future. Invite parents, faculty and empty nesters to share their thinking.

Prioritize:

Once we've gathered and evaluated what's available, prioritize the features that will be needed at the school. Evaluate architectural and engineering firms that have the expertise to design schools, vet them, select one and request schematic designs.

Consider:

Once the process is complete, our next steps should be clear. The community will have been part of the planning, they will be invested in the solution and feel ownership of the decision.

In short, now is our opportunity to build on Scarsdale's tradition of excellence by planning facilities for the future. We need to move the conversation away from peeling paint, poor air quality, lead pipes and mold onto bright, state-of-the-art facilities that will continue to attract young parents to our Village.

Onward and upward.

SMS Principal Mike McDermott to Retire -- and more from the Scarsdale School Board

mikeandmikeWhile the future of Greenacres School attracted much of the attention and public comment at the Scarsdale School Board meeting of December 12, many other important matters worthy of community attention were covered in the Board's packed Agenda.

SMS Principal Mike McDermott to Retire

Perhaps the most noteworthy was the announcement that longtime Scarsdale Middle School Principal Mike McDermott will retire at the conclusion of the current academic year. As he has served in the district for 29 years with the last 25 as SMS Principal, he has guided the educational experience of thousands of students and families. In reporting Mr. McDermott's resignation, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Leadership Development Drew Patrick assured the community that there will be opportunities to honor his service later this year.

You Can Influence Education Policy Nationwide: Contact Your Senators!

School Board member Art Rublin leads Scarsdale's engagement with State and Federal Education policy, and reported that he is closely monitoring issues surrounding President-Elect Trump's nomination of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary, with particular concern about her advocacy of charter schools. Mr. Rublin encourages all members of the community to contact Senators Gillibrand and Schumer to express opposition to her confirmation, and points out an easy-to-use sample letter available at: networkforpubliceducation.org.

Moving from federal to state policy, Mr. Rublin shared that as part of a consortium of public education groups, the Educational Conference Board, Scarsdale took recently part in issuing a position paper. Chief amongst its recommendations, and very much pertinent to Scarsdale, was a call to change the state's tax cap law. Currently it is set at the lower of 2% or the Consumer Price Index, and next year's cap is currently projected to be a mere 1.14%. The Educational Conference Board recommends changing the cap to a stable 2% and objects to it being tied to the volatile CPI, which has no relationship to items such as pension contributions which are out of Scarsdale's control. As many in the community are aware, the district is not absolutely bound by Albany's tax cap if we deem it necessary for Scarsdale to exceed it, but a budget that increased by more than the adjusted tax cap then requires a 60% majority to pass. Recent history shows these may not always succeed.

Stable Enrollment Projected

With the challenges of Albany's tax cap in mind, the planning from the district business office becomes ever more crucial as each new budget is developed. Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Drew Patrick presented the results of the recent Enrollment and Demographic study. Mr. Patrick explained how methodologies are combined to get both near-future and long-term projections. In good news for budget planning, he reported that current enrollment is very close to last year's projection, minimal changes are expected in the short-term, and a housing study projects high stability for the next 5-10 years.

Budget 2017-2018 in the Works

Describing the development of next year's Budget, Assistant Superintendent for Business Stuart Mattey noted the astounding fact that there are 1,500 separate accounts that make up the entirety of the annual school budget. Nonetheless, the primary driver of the budget is Superintendent Thomas Hagerman's Transition Plan which lays out major goals for the years 2015-2018. With those goals foremost, other items are factored in: enrollment, staffing, contractual obligations, reserves, debt service, and of course - the infamous tax cap.

As one very involved in the tax cap question, Mr. Rublin asked whether the administration is feeling bound by the tax cap. Mr. Mattey replied that they are "always cognizant" but ultimately focused on district needs. Board President Lee Maude affirmed that view: "We start with the transition plan and educational goals and see where the money flows from there; we don't work off of the cap."

Mr. Mattey also outlined what he sees as some "major players" for next year in terms of budget elements. Many items came as good news: pension contributions have gone down in recent years, interest earnings have gone up a bit, health insurance is trending below projections, and new teacher hires have been at lower salaries than anticipated. The one area trending higher is special education. This is a result of bringing more services in-house and having fewer students paying tuition to come in to the district for services.

In terms of timeline, residents eager to follow and comment on the budget process should look to Board meetings during January and February. The full proposed budget presentation will be on March 13th, a budget forum will take place March 27th, and the vote will occur on May 16th.

Where Did the Middle School Parking Spots Go?

Concert-going Middle School parents will strugglemiddleschoolphotos even more to make it to their child's performance, but it's all good, as the new Middle School Orchestra rehearsal space construction begins December 14th, utilizing some of the parking spaces as a staging area for construction equipment.

Yes, the December 2014 Bond projects are underway: construction meetings have commenced and construction fences are going up. At the High School, the temporary fitness center should be established in Gym A by the end of January. Edgewood and Heathcote projects will begin this summer.

Away from the active construction, analysis has begun involving administration and principals in planning changes to make the new spaces usable: custodial care, new furniture, etc.

Those who want to keep up with the developments will find details in the 'Dale Dispatches as well as on the Facilities Master Plan Update on the District website here.

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