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You are here: Home Schools School Board Says Goodbye to Morin and Silberfein, Reviews Election Procedure and Affirms Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
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School Board Says Goodbye to Morin and Silberfein, Reviews Election Procedure and Affirms Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

budget 1Scott Silberfein and Chris Morin will complete six years on the Board of Education at the end of the school year.The Board of Education covered lots of ground on Monday June 8, including discussion of inclusion and diversity, election changes and goodbyes to two retiring Board members.

Board President Pam Fuehrer opened the meetings with reflections about the Sunday night vigil in Scarsdale. Here are excerpts from her remarks:

In his convocation speech in August Dr. Hagerman spoke about the power of belonging and pledged to make Scarsdale an even more inclusive place this year and asked the staff and board members to prioritize the same… Throughout this past week PTA presidents and school principals have reached out to their communities, acknowledging the necessary partnership between home and school to promote multi-culturism, belonging, inclusion and equality. Just last evening speakers at the vigil empowered us all and encouraged responsibility, action, courage and discomfort. Speakers at the vigil asked us to make impactful changes and I am so grateful. I heard recent and current students speak to their experiences as children and as young adults in our buildings. I heard them refer to both curriculum and behavior as they spoke to the toll on their soul and their psyche. Their stories were difficult to hear. So tonight, on behalf of the board, I express our support for and a continued commitment to this pressing issue, including the ongoing work of our faculty and administrators, collaboration with the Village and curriculum and goal-setting around multi-culturism, diversity, belonging and inclusion.”

Dr. Hagerman thanked Fuehrer and reiterated the district’s commitment to diversity, multi-culturism, belonging and inclusion, saying these have been a huge priority in the district, in the classrooms, curriculum and in hiring practices. He said, “clearly we all recognize that there is more work to be done in this area, but we are fully committed to making sure that the Scarsdale Schools are safe and supportive spaces for everyone.

Dr. Hagerman discussed the extension of the school board and budget election to allow receipt of ballots by mail through June 16 at 5 pm, rather than June 9. Any ballots delivered between June 9 and June 16 must be received by mail.

Votes will be counted after 5 pm on June 16 and the counting may not be finished until June 17. Once the votes are counted and tallied there will be an official Board meeting to certify the vote. The district will livestream the full process, Dr. Hagerman said this is a large pivot for the district after a month’s worth of planning. No daily ballot counts will be provided until June 16 upon their attorney’s advice.

The Superintendent also discussed the Governor’s new order that graduation ceremonies may go on after June 26 for 150 in total. Mr. Bonamo and the Senior Events Committee are exploring options for a live graduation ceremony for high school seniors. At this point there is no indication that that this exception would apply to ceremonies for children in the younger grades.

Personnel

Drew Patrick announced the probationary appointments of two appointments in Special Education. Kristin Crudden will join the SMS Special Education Department and Lisa Geraghty will join Quaker Ridge Elementary School as an integrated co-teacher in special education.

Public Comments

Joey Silberfein of 5 Oaky Way spoke on behalf of the PT Council and wished all the retirees well and thanked the Board of Education and the entire cabinet for their dedicated service and commitment to our children’s education. She recognized two retiring board members, Scott Silberfein and Chris Morin, saying, “You spoke up and spoke often. You have never been afraid to express your opinions…. You worked collaboratively with the community… You listened carefully to the community and were committed to representing all residents in Scarsdale. It appeared that your guiding principle was to do what was best for our children, striving to maintain and improve the quality of a Scarsdale education. You were both inquisitive and thoughtful in your deliberations ….. Your commitment has been tireless, steadfast and selfless. Thank you to all the Board members. …. I know from Scott how much time you take from your personal and professional lives to ensure our district remains one of the best places in the country in which to learn, teach and to work.
Our board members provide a vital service to the community so to you we say thank you.:

Leah Dembitzer, 354 Mamaroneck Road, speaking on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale’s Board of Directors, also thanked Scott Silberfein and Chris Morin for their leadership. “The League Board wishes to thank outgoing Board of Education members, Scott Silberfein and Chris Morin for their six years of dedicated service to the Scarsdale School District.

Scott, you served as Board President and your leadership was exhibited though your direct, collaborative approach. You are a community volunteer who doesn’t shy away from difficult and complicated leadership roles. You have moved forward through many years of intricate board matters with hard work and dedication.

Chris, you are eloquent and thoughtful in your contributions at the Board table. You have added a complex and nuanced perspective to Board discussion on difficult issues. You have spoken out for increased Board advocacy for the past several years and that is an aspect of your Board work that the League has noticed and values.

You have both demonstrated a commitment to striking a balance between the value of a Scarsdale education and a keen awareness of the tax burden on residents.

Scott and Chris, the League Board deeply appreciates all of your dedicated work to preserve and enhance a Scarsdale education for our community’s children and we wish you all the best in your future endeavors.”

Bob Berg appeared to be setting the scene for a potential legal challenge to the school budget and Board of Education voting process. He repeated his concerns from prior meetings asserting the right of any Scarsdale voter to challenge the bona fides of any voter based on the information on the outside of the ballot envelopes which are signed by voters. He said, that voters have a right to challenge the votes and appeared to want residents to be able to view the envelopes before they are opened.

He said the district has appointed “poll watchers” who are district employees, and not registered Scarsdale voters. Under election law they are required to be district residents who are qualified voters. He said, “Despite counsel’s opinion, that the COVID epidemic allows the district to circumvent this part of the election law, the executive order does not speak to anything of the sort.” He said, “I think you are skating on thin ice.” He suggested that the ballot counting be done under a big tent outside.

Later in the meeting Dr. Hagerman answered Berg saying that per the Governor’s orders only district employees can be in the schools “working in that capacity.” The District specifically asked the attorneys if others like poll watchers could be in the building and were advised against that and told that only essential workers were permitted. However, the voting process will be live streamed and the press will be permitted to observe. He added, “We cannot ask people to be outdoors, in the dark, with bugs, with allergies.” He also said, “We cannot have more than 10 people” and “will already have 25-30 people.” He said, “This will be a valid and transparent process.” He added, “All we can do is rely on the legal counsel and advice of our attorneys. That’s what we pay them for and we do our best to follow it to the best of our ability.” They have scanning equipment to make sure that there is only one vote per person.

Other matters that were discussed:

Facilities

Stuart Mattey said, “The renovation of Greenacres looks good, not only on the outside but on the inside where they are doing a lot of demo work. … they are getting into the area earlier than anticipated….Boilers are arriving, ventilators are ready to be installed and we are verifying the playground plans. Work at Edgewood and Fox Meadow has also begun where ductwork for ventilation is being installed. At the high school work is being done at Dean Field, the high school roof , to address handicapped accessibility issues, water mitigation along Post Road and new flooring near the high school offices.

At Butler Field, Ray Pappalardo said the work on the field lights has started. The bases were installed. Electrical work is now being done, followed by the installation of the lights by June 29 when Con Ed will turn on service. At their next meeting the Board will consider the installation of a sound system to be funded by Maroon and White.

Work on the Dean Field will be suspended if the district does decide to hold an outdoor graduation ceremony.

Scarsdale Family Counseling Service

The Board of Education approved funding for Scarsdale Family Counseling Service Youth Services Project for the 2020-21 school year. The district will pay $264,000 for their half of the budget, in two payments.

Watch the entire meeting here:

Commenting on the article above, Bob Berg said the following:

"I read your article about the Monday school board meeting. Your "reporting" that it appears that I'm about to set the stage for a legal challenge to the School Board election is completely off base. I would prefer that you simply report what I said rather than set forth what is inaccurate speculation. What I've been trying to do all along here is preserve the integrity of this election by having the District follow the Education Law, as superseded by Governor Cuomo's Executive Orders. The Governor has made things incredibly difficult for all School Districts because he has decided to micro-manage everything in the State, which, of course, is impossible. And in so doing, he has been sloppy. His Executive Orders regarding the School election have been ambiguously drafted, and when pressed for clarification, the Governor has been dilatory in responding, leaving Districts hanging. When he did finally respond in his last Executive Order, he once again created confusion.

Against this backdrop, the District has turned, rightly, to its counsel. District counsel has provided legal advice that I disagree with. First, District counsel opined that the District could not provide a drop box for deposit of completed ballots up to 5 pm yesterday or otherwise allow for in-person delivery of completed ballots because the Governor's initial Executive Order did not expressly allow for that, and instead, expressly provided only for mail delivery. I argued that interpretation was far too narrow, was not what the Governor intended, and would inevitably disenfranchise dilatory voters who waited until the last minute or voters whose reliance upon the US postal service for timely delivery was misplaced. Most Districts allowed for drop boxes. Of course, the District followed its counsel's advice. The Governor's second Executive Order, issued on Sunday, fortunately clarified that drop boxes and in-person delivery of ballots were indeed permitted, and the District promptly set up the necessary arrangements to comply.

My biggest concern all along has been about the District's insistence on using its own employees as poll watchers and election inspectors. It's not that I don't trust them. I actually trust them a lot more than using "qualified voters" from the District. But there's simply no provision in the Education Law allowing their use, and the Education Law specifically provides otherwise. Moreover, the Education Law expressly provides for any qualified voter to "challenge" the bona fides of any purportedly qualified voter ballot presented for canvas. The only way to do this is to allow any qualified voter who desires to be present and to examine the signed envelope containing the voter's ballot which identifies the voter by name and address. This is an important substantive right of voters that has not been vitiated by any of the Governor's Executive Orders. District counsel's opinion that members of the public can't enter school buildings because of the Governor's COVID-19 restrictions won't carry the day if someone wanted to challenge the election. That's exactly what I am trying to avoid -- in advance -- by raising the issues ahead of time.

That's why I suggested holding the canvassing proceedings outside under a tent if District counsel wouldn't allow them to be conducted in, for instance, a large, airy gymnasium in the high school, with proper PPE. As an attorney seeking to protect this election from legal challenges, I have been voicing my concerns openly in public, hoping to hear of a process that conforms with the Education Law. It seems that the District is still grappling with these issues since the District has not fully set forth how the canvas will be conducted, though I am pleased that the actual canvassing of the opened ballots will be "live streamed." I hope my explanation helps."

Best regards, Bob.

 

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