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Letters to the Editor: Irin Israel is that Man

Iri IsraelThe following letters in support of Irin Israel for Scarsdale School Board were received this week:

This past fall, I was part of a group of community medical professionals who were willing to volunteer our time and expertise to consult with the Scarsdale School District on a medical advisory committee.

The purpose of such a committee would have been to assist with additional medical and healthcare guidance so that the Administration and Board would have the most current information on the pandemic from professionals who studied the most up to date research and were working on the front lines. Knowledge is critical to all decision-making and impacts decisions by the Board of Education, the district administration, teachers students and parents, especially during an unprecedented medical crisis when conflicting opinions are publicized in the media daily.

The medical advisory committee would have allowed for the administration to focus on day-to-day decisions, that would have streamlined policies. The difficulties posed by the current pandemic are expected to be long-lasting and the risk of additive epidemics (e.g. drug use, depression) is real. And there was no downside to a committee.

However, the Administration and Board rejected the idea of a medical advisory committee. In fact, at that time Scarsdale Board of Education Policy 2230 specifically mentioned additional medical personnel positions that were lying vacant. At the following Board meeting, the Board voted to change Policy 2230 and eliminate those medical positions entirely. This was in the midst of the greatest school health crisis in our lifetime.

These actions are but a small example of an Administration and Board that refuses legitimate and wise community insight and shuns community input. Turning down the expertise that such a group was volunteering to provide was a most unwise decision.

Conversely, Irin Israel, who is currently running for the Board of Education, worked with medical professionals and community organizers and put together a broad based coalition which helped formulate a petition to get the elementary school children back to school full time. He was and is a supporter of openness and transparency in decision making through dissemination of information and community involvement. In these unprecedented times we need people like Mr. Israel who are open to new ideas and have the ability to bring together diverse elements of the community in a broad-based coalition to achieve results. He can steer the board in a new direction and help bring about change which will benefit the children of this community and the community at large.

Thank you
Bakhtiar Ishtiaq, MD
63 Stratton Road

Dear Editor:
I'm writing in support of Irin Israel's candidacy for the Scarsdale Board of Education. How do I know that Irin would be a valuable member of the Board and a tireless advocate for students' best interests? Because he's proven it already. When our administration used space constraints as a reason to keep our kids out of in-person school during the pandemic, Irin took it upon himself to investigate the truth of this assertion. Using his own resources, he went to tremendous lengths to obtain the architectural renderings and layouts for each school. He then calculated the square footage of the classrooms, proving that, in fact, the kids COULD safely fit inside - even at 6 feet. Irin brought this evidence before the Board in a manner that was respectful and compelling. Irin was persistent and steadfast throughout a multi-month campaign to persuade the administration to change its position, which ultimately it did.

Irin has demonstrated that he is an effective leader who is willing to take a stand when it matters most. His professional background lends itself perfectly to this position, and on a personal level, he's just as qualified. I know Irin to be a hands-on parent who is uniquely attuned to the needs of his kids and committed to making sure they're always happy, safe, and engaged. Scarsdale would be lucky to have Irin looking after our kids as well.

Marissa Gurdian
8 Boulder Brook Road

To Whom it May Concern:
Over the last year, we were faced with an unprecedented crisis that demanded superior leadership for success. Not everything was in our control but the best leaders in schools around the country were decisive and focused on facts. They were willing to pivot, push limits, seek creative solutions, maximize use of resources, and plan strategically. This pandemic will not last forever, but those leadership skills will always be essential. The Scarsdale community needs Board of Education members who are straightforward and honest, and who will seek input and information to act on behalf of our community and our children.

Irin Israel is that man.

I met Irin this past year. I know his name is familiar to many of you, but what you may not know is that he methodically sought information about each elementary school in Scarsdale and carefully mapped out each room. It is because of Irin that parents were made aware in the fall that all elementary students could safely fit into our schools, even with more restrictive six-foot guidelines in place. He has been a steadfast advocate for students and parents, tirelessly determining the facts to make the best decision for all of our children.

Irin has shown his dedication to the families of Scarsdale through his efforts and advocacy over the past year. On a volunteer basis, he created multi-page reports for the Board of Education and the community. He discussed and analyzed school-related issues, investigated them when necessary, and communicated his findings and recommendations in order to disseminate data and initiate conversation. He attended nearly every board meeting, spoke up in more than half of them, and has been receptive to questions or concerns related to his findings. He looked for solutions even when they were not immediately apparent – and he usually found them. Ask yourself: what have the other candidates done over this last year?

Moving beyond the pandemic, Irin will truly engage and discuss issues of concern with the community, and will explain decisions as needed. He will build a bridge for parents to participate in the BoE, and his collaborative mindset will help the BoE move toward a more transparent process that will benefit us all.

Vote for change. Vote for innovation. Vote for transparency.

Vote for Irin.

Kimberly Greene-Liebowitz
Walworth Avenue

I’m excited to support independent candidate, Irin Israel, for the Scarsdale Board of Education. I believe he is fully devoted to making the needs of our students and families hislettertop priority. As school boards are accountable for how schools and students perform, representation from parents who have children in school is paramount.

I began communicating with Irin late last summer when I became involved in the school restart conversation. I certainly understood the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19 and agreed with the nearly worldwide closure of schools in March through June. However, by late summer of 2020, with scientific data showing relative safety in schools and an urging to return children to in-person education, the district’s inert response was highly disheartening. While most board meetings became devoted to justifying obstacles to increasing in-person school, I appreciated community members, like Irin, who offered solutions.

Irin openly and publicly expressed that his children were suffering from not attending regular in-person school. I appreciated his honesty as I witnessed my own children struggle with hybrid learning that included fewer than 10 hours of on-campus instruction per week. Many friends and relatives in other regions had children safely enrolled in full-time school since mid-August. We also watched other local districts successfully devise innovative approaches to teach in-person.

As the debate continued, I was inspired by the manner in which Irin studied the spoken and written words of the superintendent and cabinet. He critically analyzed the information presented and asked meaningful questions to unravel the true barriers to in-person learning. He tirelessly researched state guidelines and space allocations in an effort to work along the current board and administration. When his questions failed to yield answers, he spent a remarkable amount of time and energy trying to find them. From obtaining information via the FOIL act, to demonstrating that our buildings had adequate space for all elementary students, he seemingly never gave up. He also generated and disseminated intricate materials to elucidate his points and educate the community. Irin not only brought the issues to light, but he brought the solutions as well. He maintained his composure and professionalism while openly inviting those with differing opinions to debate. Irin was never disparaging or disrespectful to any member of the community.

We desperately require leaders who aren’t afraid of the politics of disagreement, those who curiously ask hard questions without fear of reprisal. We do not require another deliverer of platitudes. Instead, it is essential to elect a board member who is willing to forego their own comfort and use their voice to focus on the well-being of our students.

So much has been said about the “stakeholders” in this school restart process. Irin Israel unequivocally recognizes that the students and their needs, by far, have the dominant stake in our school system.

Theresa Ciliberti Musto
Dell Road

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