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Concerned Scarsdale Parents Ask BOE for More Structured Learning, Increased Transparency and Improved Communications

petition iconThis letter was drafted by a varied group of concerned parents with students in each Scarsdale elementary school, SMS, and SHS who represent a consensus approach to authorship and signed on as early support for the requests in this letter. Together, this group welcomes the community to sign on as equal voices and in a collaborative spirit of support for our students.

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September 21, 2020

Open Letter to the Board of Education and Superintendent Thomas Hagerman:

While we acknowledge the difficulties inherent in educating Scarsdale’s children during a pandemic, we respectfully express our urgent concerns about deficits we see in the opening weeks of school that we believe can and should be addressed as soon as possible.

There is insufficient structured learning time planned for Scarsdale students relative to other similarly high performing districts using hybrid plans.

1) Please work to provide more in-person, synchronized or virtual instruction to reduce deficits in covering curriculum. Especially while infection rates are relatively low, in-person schooling must be optimized.

2) All students should return to some form of synchronized instruction on at least a portion of Wednesday.

3) Like other peer districts, live streaming should be an available and broadly used tool in our toolbox. Commitment to care around student screen time should not preclude some live streaming of classrooms (simulcasting) for students at home to facilitate synchronized instruction with a goal to allow more curriculum coverage, especially for older students.

4) Please offer more structure or creative options for each student on the days/times that they are expected to work independently.

There is insufficient process transparency which contributes to mistrust between parents and the district leadership.

1) To ensure a public process for discussion of school schedules and related decisions, we ask that moving forward, the Restart Steering Committee formally report to the entire Board of Education and Superintendent.

2) The Restart Steering Committees and task forces should provide measurable goals with an updated timeline for their ongoing work to ensure broad accountability to all stakeholders.

3) Moving forward, Restart Steering Committees and task forces should publish agendas and meeting minutes, and produce working documentation of decision rationales, benchmarking against other districts in the region and our own district standards, and evaluation metrics.

There has been a lack of clear communication about rationales for restart goals with too few planned opportunities for community input and feedback.

1) As a readily available communications platform, we recommend more frequent special BOE meetings focused solely on these pandemic-related instructional issues to ensure the community can hear updates from the Superintendent. The community benefits from hearing board-level discussions and having the opportunity for public comment.

2) We recommend the District redouble efforts toward improving communications with clearer and more easy-to-navigate updates. We would welcome more frequent District and building-level parent Zoom sessions, including the opportunity for live questions and comments.

3) Peer school districts have pursued a number of different educational plans. We urge canvassing of our peers with respect to their year-opening experiences, in search of best practices.

4) Communicating the adjustments to core curricula impacted by hybrid plans must be a priority so that parents can better gauge what has been proposed and can give feedback.

5) All teachers, including in the upper levels, should communicate directly with parents about their unique approaches and plans for the school year. We understand that, especially in the upper levels, student independence is ideal but in these new circumstances, parents benefit from some inclusion in order to effectively partners from home.

Time is of the essence for our children. While challenges are unprecedented, we are counting on the Scarsdale School District to reduce the deficit as much as possible for Scarsdale students with respect to their education. They don’t get this year back.

We ask for these issues to be addressed at the October 5 Board of Education meeting, if not before. We are counting on Superintendent Dr. Hagerman to execute on a vision that supports Scarsdale as a leading school district.

Add your signature to the letter here:

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