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Blatt, Pass and Sterling Explain Why Kirkendall-Rodriguez Is Not Right for the BOE

Board of directors duties Boad Room CircleTo the Editor:
As a former Trustee and President of the Scarsdale Board of Education (I served from 2004-2010), I’m keenly aware of the qualities that best serve our community, and so are your neighbors, the well-informed, elected members of the School Board Nominating Committee. Trustees need to listen, leave preconceived notions behind, and demonstrate willingness to change their minds when presented with facts or interesting opinions they hadn’t previously considered. An excellent trustee serves without ego in a team environment and deploys an open mind and his/her common sense. No particular skill set is needed – the math of the job is easily handled by many Scarsdale residents and the administration employs or hires paid professionals to perform various functions. If the SBNC has selected Bob Klein and Amber Yusuf, you can be confident they have been nominated because they possess the needed capabilities and required personal characteristics in abundance.

Unfortunately, this strong slate, nominated after a thorough process, is being challenged by Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez. Over many decades, Scarsdale's reliance on the SBNC, and their confidential vetting process has resulted in superb leadership and a district nationally recognized for excellence. Yet Kirkendall-Rodriguez is forcing an unnecessary contested election and therefore I am compelled to offer my opinion that she is a poor choice to serve as a Trustee on the Scarsdale Board of Education. My rationale, in part:

• Kirkendall-Rodriguez has led the article 78 lawsuit against Scarsdale, and even with the added support of pro bono lawyers, the lawsuit is defended at taxpayers’ expense. The suit was dismissed due to “a lack of substance and empirical data.” After losing, she filed an appeal.

• At a December 11, 2019 Village Board meeting, Kirkendall-Rodriguez concluded her public remarks by losing her cool and saying to the Mayor, “Well, you’re just trying to cover things up.” No facts to support this claim were offered, and this is not the temperament we should seek in our elected officials.

• Kirkendall-Rodriguez attacked the School District for “shocking disregard for math and science” when the District made the difficult but important decision to close schools in March. Her poorly reasoned logic continued: “The mortality rate is FAR HIGHER in the flu, traffic fatalities, and gun shootings. What (sic) do schools not close for those external events?” I mean, wow.

Full disclosure, I’ve never met Kirkendall-Rodriguez, Klein, or Yusuf. I follow Scarsdale politics through a newspaper, websites, televised meetings, and discourse with my neighbors. That said, there is a very substantial amount of information in the public domain, some of which I cite above, that leads me to conclude that we should soundly reject Kirkendall-Rodriguez. The SBNC does a tremendous job for Scarsdale, and the process has served us very well for decades. I trust it, and you should too.

Please support SBNC nominees Bob Klein and Amber Yusuf, and vote in support of the proposed Budget as soon as your ballot arrives in the mail.

Jeff Blatt
Walworth Avenue

Kirkendall-Rodriguez not fit for BOE

To the Editor:
Within the next few days, Scarsdale residents will be asked to choose two of three candidates for the School Board. Amber Yusuf and Bob Klein were vetted and chosen by Scarsdale’s School Board Nominating Committee. The other candidate, Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, was not, and has decided to challenge them.

I have worked with Ms. Kirkendall-Rodriguez on several Scarsdale Forum committees, witnessed her often contentious interactions at Village board meetings, and read her various “newsletters” and online comments filled with misleading information and groundless accusations. Unequivocally, she is not suitable for this important leadership position.

Here are two examples:

First, in the comments section under a very favorable December 2019 New York Times article about Scarsdale -- an article likely to be read by anyone considering moving here -- she posted several negative comments and baseless accusations of governmental corruption. Some of Ms. Kirkendall-Rodriguez’ most outrageous comments were eventually removed, either by her or by NY Times moderators, but others remain. One reader, recognizing her name, replied: “I see we've taken this ongoing insanity national now. Doesn't this ever get tired?”

Second, in November 2018, Ms. Kirkendall-Rodriguez championed a slim report by a fringe organization, Truth in Accounting (TIA), entitled “Scarsdale Financially Distressed.” She disseminated this two-page report widely via email and Facebook, and even wrote about it in an article she contributed to Forbes: “This September, [TIA] gave Westchester County and the Village of Scarsdale… a near-failing grade of ‘D.’” In a similar article she wrote for Crain’s New York, she quotes from the report: “Scarsdale's financial condition is not only disconcerting, but also misleading as government officials have failed to disclose significant amounts of retirement debt on the village’s balance sheet.”

I was curious and confused about this “Truth in Accounting” report since Moody’s had just reaffirmed Scarsdale’s Aaa rating, their highest rating possible. The two-page TIA report did not cite its data sources, so I reached out to its CEO for more information. Besides the questionable premise of declaring "distress" by simply comparing long-term liabilities to short-term assets, the TIA CEO admitted that several of the assumptions used in their calculations were based on state-wide averages and not actual figures for Scarsdale. As for the “hidden retirement debt,” ALL of it has been disclosed in the Village’s annual financial statements since at least 2002, in conformity with GASB accounting standards. Fact-checking site Politifact rated TIA’s similar report on Georgia's finances as “Mostly False.”

So not only did Ms. Kirkendall-Rodriguez unnecessarily spread negative and misleading information about Scarsdale in a national publication, she did so by quoting a deceptive and flawed report. This is completely unacceptable behavior for someone that wants to represent us on one of our most important boards.

Fortunately, Scarsdale has two qualified choices in Amber Yusuf and Bob Klein, vetted and nominated by the SBNC. Please vote for them.

Steve Pass
Shawnee Road

Klein, Yusuf Excellent Candidates; Opposition Unfit for Board

To the Editor:
I am writing in support of Robert Klein and Amber Yusuf for the Scarsdale Board of Education. Bob and Amber have the skills, qualities, and experience that will make them great members of the Board of Education.

Bob has lived in our community for over 30 years. He is an architect and his wife Jane is a teacher. As a parent of 2 adult children who went through Scarsdale schools, Bob has a broad perspective of the school system. His professional career as an architect will be valuable to the Board as the district has numerous capital projects underway. Since retiring, Bob has been active as a founding Board Member of Neighbors for Refugees, a non-political, grassroots humanitarian group. Bob’s volunteer work reflects his desire to give back to the community and lend his experience, expertise, and perspective. Bob is level-headed, congenial, works well with others and will be a valuable addition to the School Board.

Amber is a mother of 2 middle school children in the district, has an MBA and is the Director of Operations for a successful financial technology company. On top of her academic and work pedigree, she has volunteered extensively for our community and schools. Throughout Amber’s 10 years of volunteering, she has consistently been elected to progressively more senior leadership roles including terms as both Heathcote PTA president and PTC president. I have known Amber personally for many years and we have worked as volunteer colleagues on various school projects. She is intelligent, a pleasure to work with, a team player if there ever was one, and someone who can and does get things done.

I have also worked with the other candidate running this year, Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez. Mayra lacks the qualities demonstrated by Amber and Bob such as the ability to get things done by achieving consensus with other members of an organization. One example, out of many, is that when Mayra did not agree with others on the Scarsdale Forum, she accessed the organization’s email system and sent an unauthorized and inappropriate mass-email grievance letter to the entire Forum membership. Her letter contained false statements, unsupported accusations, attacks on the Scarsdale Forum as an organization, and personal attacks on Forum Board members. Her actions were a violation of ethics, confidentiality and the trust bestowed on a Forum Board member. This is not how you work in an organization or with other people, and is definitely not an appropriate type of behavior for someone running for the Board of Education. In my mind this action alone disqualifies her from being a member of our Board of Education.

I hope that our community votes to support Bob Klein and Amber Yusuf, two highly qualified candidates that will positively contribute to the Board of Education and our school community.

Michelle Sterling
Brayton Road

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