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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

The 2016 Guide to Holiday Tipping and Gifting

holidaytipIf you scroll through community Facebook groups during this time of year, you'll find post after post from people asking about tipping and gifting during the holidays. What is the average that people tip in our town for the holidays? To whom do people give tips, gifts or simple notes of gratitude? How the heck do you even tip sanitation workers when you leave for work before they come to take away your trash? There are no right or wrong answers, although policies do exist for some companies and government agencies regarding what their employees are allowed to accept.

Part of the joy of the holiday season for many is the opportunity to say thank you to those who impact your life in a positive way or provide a service to you on a regular basis. Gifting and tipping is often done out of obligation but one should not feel obligated to give. If gift giving is not within your budget, a note expressing your genuine gratitude is enough and should be appreciated by even the "scroogiest". Even if it is within your budget, give some thought to whom you are tipping and why you are tipping them.". Have you ever tipped or given a gift to a receptionist at a doctor's office or the school nurse who goes out of her way to help you? Sometimes the people who expect something the least are the most gracious," said a Quaker Ridge resident.

The Emily Post etiquette website cautions, do not buy into the thought that if you don't tip you won't get good service for the coming year. If you think you've had bad service for this reason, you might want to...speak directly to a manager. The site also adds: Tipping is one of the most stressful and confusing aspects of etiquette today. It is a...way to show appreciation for a job well done; however, treating the person who has served you with respect is every bit as important.


*Not included in the table here are day care providers as only 17% of respondents use this service. Mostly people gave a small gift or cash valued under $50. Dog walkers were seldom used (15% of respondents have dog walkers) but those who do give a small gift or a week's pay. About 23% of people have a valet and most give some small acknowledgement of thanks such as a note, small gift, between $10-$50. Personal trainers commonly receive cash gifts of $51-$100, but some people will give a full week's pay. Doctors were the least likely to receive any sort of holiday gift from their patients. Of the 74 respondents to this question, 6 give a small gift, 2 write notes, and a few give gifts valued between $25-$100.

Table Analysis

The Nanny: Most people give a nanny a gift equivalent to one week's pay or more (72%). Typical is one to two week's pay as a bonus. A working mom of three said, "My nanny makes my life so much easier for us and makes it possible for us to maintain our careers, so we give her a very generous 2.5 week bonus."

The Housekeeper: The majority of people have housekeepers (83%) and gift their housekeepers a week's pay as a holiday gift. Of those who have a housekeeper, an additional 16% give a gift valued over $25. "My housekeeper works hard for us and is reliable," said a Fox Meadow resident, "so I like to show my gratitude with an extra week of pay so she can afford to get her kids or herself a little something extra around the holidays. I usually include a gift just for her like perfume."

The Sitter: Half of those who responded to the survey have babysitters and usually give an extra week of pay to their sitter. Another 25% give between $26-$50. Some give a gift, with 50% of respondents spending under $25 and the balance spending more than $25. You may want to consider how often you use your babysitter to determine how you'd like to acknowledge them. A handmade gift or card from your kids is also something to consider.

The Boss: Half of respondents have no boss, but for those who do, more than half do not get them a gift. About a quarter of people will give their boss a gift valued under $25.

The Hairdresser and manicurist: Most people (91%) have a hairdresser as well as a regular person for manicures and pedicures. Of those, 25% give nothing and 25% give cash or a gift under $25; 10% give between $25-50, 20% give between $51-100, and 5% give between $100-$200. If you go to your regular hairdresser to get your hair done during the holidays, it is appropriate to give a bigger tip than usual (and up to the cost of the hair treatment). The same goes for a manicurist/pedicurist.

The Teacher: Schoolteachers often receive small gifts during the holidays. Of the respondents, 22% do not have children in school. Of the 78% that do, 12% give nothing and 40% give a gift valued under $25. Another 15% of those people who have kids in school give teachers a gift valued over $25, a monetary gift between $10-25, or a monetary gift of $26-50. Interestingly, two people gave teachers a cash gift of between $51-100 and one person gave over $200 to teachers. Although it is possible that these parents have children in private school with different policies, Scarsdale school policy states that class parents can ask for contributions of up to $10 per family for a group gift for the teacher and individual gifts must remain under $15.

The Bus Driver/Monitor: Just over half of respondents have a bus driver and monitor for their kids and most people give a small gift or cash valued under $25. Many parents will pitch in together to get the driver and monitor bigger gifts (average is about $10 each for driver and monitor.)

The Trash Guys: Scarsdale's Department of Sanitation has a policy stating that sanitation workers cannot accept or solicit monetary gifts. However, we certainly love our sanitation workers as they are the most tipped of any surveyed group; 94% of people give a monetary gift to their sanitation workers. Almost 10% of people give gifts valued under $25 and 14% give gifts valued over $25. Of those that give cash, 16% give between $10-$25, 24% give between $26-$50, 22% give between $51-$100, and 8% give between between $101-$200. These dollar amounts are per sanitation worker. One person gives over $200 and another gives the equivalent of a week's pay. If you're going to give the sanitation workers a gift, some people recommend taping a note onto the garbage cans on trash day requesting they ring the doorbell to hand them their acknowledgement directly, ensuring the right people receive the gift. Many people worry about people other than sanitation workers walking around and grabbing envelopes taped to trash cans. One mom posted on the Scarsdale Moms Facebook page that she went out of her way to drop cash off at the sanitation office for the people who haul her trash and they never got it. This might be due to the village policy. Another person told me that she chooses not to tip sanitation workers because they are salaried employees with benefits and are not dependent on tips. "They're not people who I have a relationship with and who provide me with a special service, so I don't feel the need to give them money beyond what I pay indirectly through taxes. On the other hand, I give holiday gifts to the people who help me out on a regular basis and never get acknowledged like my pediatrician who calls me back in less than ten minutes, solving minor problems and saving me countless trips to the office."

The Postman: Mail carriers are also usually acknowledged during holiday time, although the United States Postal Service (USPS) does not allow mail carriers to accept cash gifts, checks, or any other form of currency. They may accept snacks and beverages, gifts valued under $20 including gift cards to a specific retailer, or gift baskets that can be shared with other staff. That being said, only 12% of respondents give a gift valued under $25. More commonly, people give cash: 33% give between $10-25, $19% give between $26-50, 7% give between $51-$200, and three people actually give between $101-$200. Has anyone ever received a note from their mail carrier saying, "My apologies, USPS policy states I cannot accept cash..."? I didn't think so. My own mail carrier leaves me an envelope saying "happy holidays" on it with his address. It's even stamped! I personally find that to a be a bit aggressive considering the postal service's policy.

The Delivery People (Newspaper, FedEx, UPS): Newspaper deliverers commonly receive cash, between $10-25. Private delivery people (FedEx and UPS) may accept monetary and non-monetary gifts. Again, these are salaried employees with benefits so one should not feel obligated to tip even if they receive many packages throughout the year.

The Dry Cleaner: More than half of respondents don't give anything to their dry cleaner attendant. Those that do might give a small gift, gift card, or some extra cash with a pick-up.

The Gardener: Two-third of us don't go out of their way to give anything to the gardener. Those that do, though, most often give a gift valued over $25 or cash ($51-100). I wonder if more people would tip their gardeners if Christmas came in the springtime!

The Admin: A third of respondents have secretaries/administrative assistants. The survey results were all over the place and 10% give nothing. Some give over $200, some give less than $25, and there are lots of people who gave something in the middle or a gift versus cash. Sorry folks, there's really no average here or suggested gift value.

The Handyman: Handymen were the most likely to receive a simple note or card saying "thanks." Of the 40% of people who have a regular handyman, more than half do nothing. Another handful of people give a gift valued at less than $25, cash $51-$100, or cash $101-$200. Again, if your handyman is working around the holidays for you or really goes out of his way for you, it is nice to show your appreciation in some form.

Coaches, Tutors, Extracurricular Instructors: Although not included in the survey, many people wrote in to say that they do give their kids or their own instructor a holiday bonus or gift. Of those who choose to do so, most give the equivalent of one coaching, tutoring, or extracurricular session. "Every year I have my kids make cards for their teachers outside of school like their dance instructor and Spanish tutor. They're so appreciative of the time my kids take to do this."

Several people commented that they give gifts to others as well: groomers, milkmen, vets, gym instructors, and tennis professionals. Sometimes a bunch of people who regularly take a class will collect money from anyone wanting to pitch for a group gift. As far as groomers and dog walkers, many people will give a bonus if the person regularly attends to their pet.

A few people wrote in to say that instead of traditional "tipping" during the holidays, they donate to charity in the names of those who have provided a service and lets them know by giving them cards expressing gratitude.

There are many questions we can ask ourselves about the whole process of gifting to people other than family and friends: Why do we typically tip our sanitation workers but not the school janitor when sanitation workers are paid significantly more? They are both salaried government workers. Why do we give a holiday bonus to the relatively well-paid UPS delivery guy who has company-provided benefits but not the dishwashers at the restaurant we go to every week?

These survey results provide guidelines for what people in our community typically give to others during the holiday time and whom they gift. Remember, there is no "right amount," to give or obligation to give at all. This holiday season, I encourage you all to give a small gift, gift card, or "tip" to one person who doesn't typically receive a holiday gift. After years of doing this, I can say for certain it feels like a good deed and might make all the difference in one person's day.

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:

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.

Da Giorgio Ristorante – A Local Gem

dagiorgioFall was in the air as I parked at The North Ridge Shopping Strip at Quaker Ridge Road and North Avenue. Cosi is at one end and Harmon at the other, and tucked in the middle is a little gem of an Italian restaurant, the not to be missed, Da Giorgio Ristorante. Owned by Chef Giorgio Giacinto, it is named for his father. His parents and mentors, have their roots in Calabria, and young Giorgio grew up learning all the facets of Calabrian cooking in their catering business. His interest in the culinary arts as a young boy, led him to The New York Restaurant School. He always dreamed of opening a restaurant of his own. He gained more experience when he visited Italy and worked in the kitchens of many notable chefs for two years. "I learned that consistency is very important, as is respect for your ingredients. I love preparing fish which I purchase at Cosenza Fish Market on Arthur Avenue in The Bronx. My most important kitchen tools are my pasta machine, my cheese grater and, of course, my hands. Given the opportunity, I would love to prepare a meal for all of my Italian aunts and uncles who welcomed me into their homes when I lived in Italy."

The simple long narrow dining room at Da Giorgio seats 47 guests. A gold toned tin ceiling, traditional sconces along the walls, a peaceful mural and several posters add interest to the room and most notable is the blackboard of daily specials, of which there are many.

At many restaurants that we visit, our purpose is simply to eat. foodpictureAt Da Giorgio you go to dine. A meal here is truly a leisurely adventure in good taste. The menu includes many traditional as well as creative dishes. Several of the classics such as stuffed meatball Calabrese, as an appetizer are based on family recipes. Here, the meatball of beef, veal and pork is enhanced with a filling of house made mozzarella. The Lasagna Calabrese is layered with mini meatballs, caciocavalo cheese and thin slices of prosciutto. I arrived at Da Giorgio with expectations of sampling many menu items, perhaps stuffed meatball, baked clams, eggplant rollatini, mussels bianco or crudu del Giorno , sashimi style sliced fish in a lemon and oil dressing. I remembered a unique calamari pocco pazzo salad (a little crazy) with arugula, fried calamari, sliced banana, tomato and avocado in a ginger lime vinaigrette, and an outstanding beet salad with asparagus, organic greens ricotta salata in a port wine reduction I might have sampled some wild mushroom or sausage and pea risotto. My pasta choice would have probably been one I remember so well, Rigatoni Giorgio with zucchini and steak tips in a brandy sauce or maybe cavatelli con vongole with baby clams, cannellini beans, grape tomatoes and garlic and olive oil. Salmon with pesto, branzino oreganato, bisteca alla fiorentina, or chicken or veal in several preparations might be my entrée.

Chef Giorgio had other ideas for me. Since I had devoured so many of the menu items when they opened in 2007, I was treated to a tasting of the exciting specials that appeared on the day of my visit. A pail filled with freshly baked rolls and a dish of housemade caponata were set before me and soon, the parade of inventive dishes began. Many of us have sampled the popular buratta. Chef Giorgio's presentation was exquisite. Two large slices of this cheese, creamy in the center, were topped with crunchy caramelized grape tomatoes, crumbled pistachios and drizzled with a balsamic glaze. Carefully cubed pieces of beets and pistachios surrounded the dish. It is said that each section of the tongue reacts to a different taste. Here sweet, tart, and salty all interacted for a truly great beginning. Next to arrive was a fresh fig, wrapped in speck and buffalo mozzarella. A glaze of balsamic completed the topping. Sitting beside it was a salad of fennel, granny smith apples, pomegranate, watercress and candied nuts. It was autumn on a plate, a beautiful still life. An unusual pasta special followed. The spachtelli, a squid ink infused black pasta, tossed with a garlic butter sauce, thin slices of jalapeno and succulent crabmeat was sprinkled with parmesan bread crumbs. The touch of jalapeno added a bit of kick to the dish without overwhelming it. The breadcrumbs added texture to complete this beautifully conceived pasta dish. Our entrée special was indeed special. Porto Piano started with scaloppine of chicken breast. Thinly sliced, it was layered with mozzarella and prosciutto and for Giorgio's creative finale, a large tempura battered squash blossom topped the dish. A sauce of roasted garlic, lemon and white wine surrounded this flavorful creation. For dessert, I was presented with a parfait glass with a scoop of hazelnut gelato. Hot espresso was poured over it and it was embellished with freshly whipped cream. Refreshingly simple, this rendition of affogato was just sweet enough to complete a perfectly orchestrated meal.

Soft music and a friendly staff added to the pleasure of the dining experience. Enthusiasm still permeates Chef Giorgio's personality. His eyes light up as he describes his creations and mine lit up upon tasting his glorious dishes. With a mind exploding with culinary ideas, I cannot imagine what he would create given a selection of unique assorted items with which to prepare a dish. I can only assume the results would be extraordinary.
Enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner at Da Giorgio's, where creativity abounds.

Da Giorgio Ristorante
77 Quaker Ridge Road
New Rochelle
(914) 235- 2727


Squid Ink Pasta with Shrimp, Ndujetta and Tomatoes (serves 2-3)


1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined and chopped into ¼ inch pieces
3 Tbsps. extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 cup crushed or whole peeled pureed tomatoes
4 ounces ndujetta*
Kosher salt to taste
12 ounces squid ink spaghetti
¼ cup freshly chopped parsley
Finely ground Calabrese chili flakes, to taste*
½ cup dry white wine {if you would not drink it don't cook with it]olives

Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat and saute garlic until golden, stirring constantly. Add wine and reduce by half. Add tomatoes and bay leaf and cook on medium high heat for 4 to 5 minutes. In a medium pot fill ¾ way up with water and kosher salt and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook to al dente. In the meantime add shrimp and ndujetta to the tomatoes Cover the pot and heat through to cook the shrimp. Drain the pasta and reserve about 1 ½ cups of the water. Add cooked pasta to tomato mixture adding the reserved pasta water as needed for a desirable consistency. Toss in remaining oil and parsley and serve.

• The ndujetta is a soprasetta spicy paste available in Italian markets and Calabrese chile flakes are available there, as well

Marinated Mixed Olives Calabrese (Serves about 4)

½ cup each of red, green and black olives *
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbsps. chopped fresh oregano
Red chili flakes, to taste
Zest of ½ orange, lime and lemon
Drain all of the olives and rinse in water. In a non-reactive bowl toss with the remaining ingredients and let them marinate for a while.

• Teitel Brothers on Arthur Avenue has a good selection of olives

Contributor Judie Dweck has been writing about restaurants and food for many publications. She teaches creative cooking to children at Scarsdale elementary schools. Through the years, her articles have appeared in Jack and Jill Magazine, Spotlight, The Pleasure of Cooking and The Scarsdale Inquirer. She balances her restaurant tastings with daily ballet classes.