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auditorium(This statement was submitted to the Scarsdale School Board by the Scarsdale High School PTA Executive Committee)
The Scarsdale High School PTA Executive Committee appreciates this opportunity to comment on the proposed 2020-2021 School Budget. We would like to thank the members of the Board of Education for their work, and we thank Dr. Hagerman, Mr. Mattey and both the District and the High School Administrators, especially Mr. Bonamo, for their commitment to the education of our students and for their time, expertise, and responsiveness during the budget development process.

The High School PTA Executive Committee stands by its previous statement of support for all of the High School administration’s requests. At the same time, we recognize that we are in a period of great personal and societal uncertainty and we appreciate the School Board’s efforts to trim the proposed budget to its essential elements. In light of this, we acknowledge and agree that some requests, including the staffing additions, the renovation of Art Room 215 and the Quiet Study Space in the library, while both worthwhile and needed, are more appropriate for future budget cycles.

Though we are neither blind to the problems and fears created by the COVID-19 pandemic, nor deaf to the sentiments expressed by our neighbors that the 2020-21 budget be free from excessive tax increase, we feel that the proposed budget as presented last Monday, March 23rd, reflecting close to a $4 million cut in spending, with the prospect of cutting significantly more, does not adequately support our schools and the excellence that a Scarsdale education embodies. Under the current circumstances, we certainly support meaningful reductions but we believe that the drastic cutback the board decided on during its meeting a week ago is unduly reactive and risks negatively impacting our students safety and education, our school facilities and our property values for years to come. Further, additional reductions to recurring expenses such as not replacing retiring faculty or staff or dismissing staff, will certainly negatively affect the safety and education of our children and should be considered very, very carefully. Please remember that you are not just talking about cutting dollars; those dollars represent teachers, aides, support staff, security guards and the resources they all need to be effective. We expressly do NOT support reductions to faculty or staff that would increase class sizes, decrease curriculum offerings or negatively affect the support our students get and need from resources like the Learning Resource Center, the Math and Writing Centers, the Counseling Department or College and Career Counseling Center. And so we support the Cabinet’s recommendation against personnel cuts in this budget.

With respect to the high school auditorium project, we remind everyone that the arts are where we turn in unsettling times like these, for distraction, entertainment and solace.
Moreover, the power of arts in education should not be underestimated. As stated in the study Champions of Change: The Impact of Arts on Learning 1:

Students can attain higher levels of achievement in all subject areas through engagement in the Arts. . .. The arts engage students of all abilities in innovative, creative and critical problem solving.

We continue to support the full auditorium project as necessary for the safety and education of our students and all community members who use it. We have consistently objected to the decision by every Board since the 2014 Bond vote to ignore that community directive, to use the money that was designated specifically for the auditorium project to fund overages for other projects, and to continue to fail to accomplish promised auditorium renovation.

Further, we disagree that any part of the high school auditorium project is unnecessary; rather we believe that the need for the repairs and upgrades proposed in the auditorium project is real and has only been exacerbated and made more urgent by the Board’s failure to attend to it for the past 6+ years. Those who have implied during this budget development process that the purpose of this project is merely aesthetic are either ignoring or unaware of the full rationale behind the project. We direct those folks back to the comprehensive presentations by Mr. Mattey during Budget Study #2 and by Mr. Mattey, Lisa Forte, District Coordinator of Music & Performing Arts, and Tobias Peltier, HS Theater Coordinator & Technical Director, during the public meeting on February 28, when members of the community were invited to hear the details of the project and tour the auditorium to see the need up close. In reality, every line item of the auditorium project wholly or primarily serves pressing safety and educational objectives.

We have already stated how much and how frequently the auditorium is used by our high school students, students from our other schools, and the community at large, so I won’t repeat that here, but I will attach a representative list of all the events that take place in the auditorium in a given year, compiled by Lisa Forte, so the Board has the facts in front of them.* We will also post this statement and that list on our SHS PTA website.

All that said, we do respect the Board’s decision to trim next year’s budget in response to economic concerns related to COVID-19. We strongly urge the Board to act on Mr. Finger’s idea, expressed during the March 23rd meeting, to use the approximately $730,000 that was part of the original 2014 Bond earmarked for the auditorium in the 2020-21 budget to accomplish at least some of the most critical items on the auditorium project list. Depending on what is most practical from an architecture and construction perspective, we would suggest any of (1) repairing the concrete floor and replacing the seats and carpeting to fix the numerous broken seats that must be roped off as dangerous and the tripping hazards caused by flapping aisle carpets, (2) upgrading the stage rigging so that lights do not fall to the stage as they did on two separate occasions this year, and so that our Theater Technology students can actually learn by doing rather than just watch their teachers work on outdated equipment, or (3) upgrading the sound system so, again, our students can learn by doing on modern equipment-- much like we did for STEM students with the iLab and the Design Lab-- and to include assistive listening capability so that our hearing-impaired students and community members can hear what the rest of us do during concerts, meetings and events.

The mission of the Scarsdale School Public School system is “to sponsor each student's full development, enabling our youth to be effective and independent contributors in a democratic society and an interdependent world” (emphasis added). The Board of Education’s responsibility is to make policy decisions to uphold that mission. We remind the Board and the community that this budget is for the entire upcoming school year-- a year, I sincerely hope, that our children can enjoy with each other and their teachers using our school buildings and grounds to their full capacity and potential. We must develop and pass a budget that can support that learning and activity. We must plan for our children’s educational future in a way that upholds the excellence of Scarsdale schools.

Again, we appreciate your time and efforts on behalf of Scarsdale High School, our students, and the larger community and for your consideration of our comments this evening.

The SHS PTA Executive Committee

Deb Morel, President,
Leanne Freda, President-Elect
Rokaya Hassaballa, VP Membership and Events
Jennifer Rossano, VP Programming and Volunteers
Seema Jaggi, Treasurer

Beth Cukier, Recording Secretary
Dana Matsushita, Corresponding Secretary

Delivered at Scarsdale Board of Education Budget Forum on March 30, 2020

The High School auditorium is a space that is used throughout the school year by students, parents and members of the community alike. This is a representative list, compiled by Lisa Forte, the District Coordinator of Music & Performing Arts, gave us a list of just some of the events, classes and other ways our schools and community use the High School Auditorium:

● School assemblies, multiple times during the school year
● Concerts for all SHS performance ensembles – 2 per year for each of the Chorus, Chamber Choir, Band and Orchestra
● SHS plays, including the annual musical, dramatic play, the student-directed
play, the drama department showcase, and senior class play
● All Studio and Theater Technology Classes
● Awards Ceremonies, including the Academic Awards night
● Jabberfest, an annual showcase of a large variety of our high school students’ talents
● Speech and Debate tournaments
● Student Government elections and other SO activities
● Shakespeare Festival
● The biennial Gap Year Fair, organized by the Counseling Department
● The biennial STEAM Day, organized by the PTCouncil, taught by many of our High School and Middle School faculty and students and attended by our elementary school students
● Student orientation meetings
● District-wide staff meetings, including the annual district convocation in August
● Parent meetings for a variety of school departments, like College Info Night for Juniors and their parents, organized by the Counseling Department
● Community organization events, like the Friends of the Library Spelling Bee
● Adult School speaker events
● And many others

1. Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning, Fiske, Edward B., President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, (1999). The Champions of Change study also states, “The Arts reach students who are not otherwise being reached... while at the same time providing new challenges for those students already considered successful.”

mini chocolate chip muffins 4Photo Credit: Together as Family Restaurant critic Judie Dweck taught cooking to kids in after school clubs for many years. With restaurants closed and children home from school, Dweck sent the following to keep kids engaged and create some tasty meals for the family to enjoy.

Here is what she shared:

Many of us are looking for projects that kids can do at home. Cooking with young children becomes a true kitchen adventure. With help from an adult, the hours at home will pass quickly and the results can be shared by the entire family. So, let your kitchen become your classroom.
Creating something original and tasty is a learning experience that encompasses many areas of development including small muscle skills, in tossing and mixing, and sensory learning from tasting and smelling, Math basics are reinforced with measuring and observing sizes and shapes and science comes into play by observing changes in ingredients from one stage to another. Language arts are stimulated by reading recipes together and following sequential directions. Art is involved in creating something original. Of course self-esteem is the result of accomplishing the goal of the finished dish for the family to enjoy. When working with young children, you will find that when they prepare a dish themselves, it always tastes better and encourages them to try new things. Often, “yucky” becomes “yummy”
Following are several recipes both savory and sweet , that work well as a joint venture between adults and young children.

Asian Chicken and Bowties (Serves 4)

We Need:
1 pound ground chicken
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsps. hoisin sauce
2 Tbsps. honey
2 Tbsps. soy sauce
½ cup chicken broth
½ tsp. ground ginger
1 Tbsp. canola oil
2 drops sesame oil
1 pound bow tie pasta, cooked al dente and drained

We Do:
In a large pot, heat both oils. Saute onion and ground chicken until chicken is crumbly and cooked all the way through. Carefully with an adult remove the pan from the stove. Toss the mixture with hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, broth and ginger. Stir it well. Return pot to the heat and stir to mix well. Toss with the cooked pasta and serve.

Hide and Seek Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins (36)

We Need :
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
4 Tbsps. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
½ stick sweet butter, melted
½ cup chocolate chips
1 cup diced banana

We Do:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease mini muffin tins. Put flour, sugar and baking powder into a bowl and mix it well. Add the beaten egg, milk and melted butter and mix until everything is moistened. Fold in the banana and chocolate chips. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tins about ¾ full. Bake until golden or about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool and carefully remove from pans.

Tortellini Salad (Serves 6)

We Need:
1 pound cheese tortellini , cooked and drained)
1 cup broccoli florets, lightly cooked or raw
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 cup green beans, in 1 inch pieces, lightly cooked or raw
1 cups cherry tomatos quartered
1 cup cheddar cheese cut into small cubes
For the dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the dressing ingredients into a jar with a tight lid. Shake it well until the ingredients are all blended together

We Do:
Place tortellini, vegetables and cheese in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over it and toss the mixture so the vegetables are covered with dressing.

Have fun with these creative cooking ideas in your kitchen classroom

Library 3Yet another community institution has now shutdown as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. Scarsdale Library Director Elizabeth Bermel announced on March 13 that the Scarsdale Public Library will be closed to the public effective 6pm Friday, March 13, 2020. They hope to reopen on Monday, March 23rd, but will re-evaluate as new information becomes available.

Bermel’s email says, “This decision was not made easily or without great consideration as we know how important the Library and the services we provide are to our community. We have considered the fact that a significant portion of our patrons are especially vulnerable to this virus. Please note that no SPL employees have tested positive to COVID-19 and none are subject to any form of restrictions as a result of direct or indirect contact with a confirmed case.”

She noted that the frequency and cleaning of the Library’s temporary quarters, the Library Loft has increased. While closed, the Village of Scarsdale will hire a contractor to perform a complete and thorough cleaning of the Library Loft.

Here’s the status:

All scheduled programs and events are cancelled through March 31st.
Circulation of physical materials will be suspended.
Do not return borrowed materials at this time. The book drop is locked. Do not leave items outside. You will be charged for their replacement costs.
They are waiving all fines incurred through this period.

If you have questions, email the library's email account at and they will attempt to respond.

coyoteResidents have reported several coyote sightings in recent weeks in the area of Mamaroneck and Saxon Woods Roads and in the area of Meadow Road, so we’d like to share some information from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation about what to do if you should come across a coyote.

According to NYS DEC, if you see a coyote:

-Be aggressive in your behavior – stand tall and hold arms out to look large. If a coyote lingers for too long, then make loud noises, wave your arms, throw sticks and stones.

-Contact your local police department and DEC regional office for assistance if you notice coyotes exhibiting "bold" behaviors and having little or no fear of people, or if you see them repeatedly during the daytime in a human-populated area or near residences. Seeing a coyote occasionally throughout the year is not evidence of bold behavior.

-Do not allow pets to run free. Supervise all outdoor pets to keep them safe from coyotes and other wildlife, especially at sunset and at night. Small dogs and cats are especially vulnerable.

-Teach children to appreciate coyotes from a distance.

Please check the DEC website below for further guidance and information.

Of course, if there is ever an emergency involving a coyote, please contact the Scarsdale Police Department at (914) 722-1200. A police officer will be dispatched. DEP Regional Office: 845-256-3000

SMSThe streets of Scarsdale were quiet on Monday after a case of Coronavirus shuttered all seven schools.Scarsdale is eerily quiet on Monday March 9, after the district announced that all seven schools would be shuttered until March 18. The closure was sparked by a report that a teacher at Scarsdale Middle School had tested positive for the virus during the weekend.

An email sent to the community on the afternoon of March 9 provides more details about the closing of schools, instructions for students and families and next steps for those who came into contact with the afflicted faculty member.

According to the email, the district is working with the Department of Health on health and safety, deep cleaning and disinfection as well as plans for the “continuation of learning.”

Specifically, “All students and staff who had close contact with the affected faculty member have now been contacted by the District. Additionally, those names and their contact information have been provided to the Westchester County DoH, at their request.

The DoH is in the process of contacting those people. The District has advised them that they will likely be told to self-quarantine and provided them with guidance to follow until they are contacted by DoH.

In addition to those who came into close contact, the faculty member also attended a faculty meeting and spent a short time in the cafeteria during Butler 7 lunch. Out of an abundance of caution, the DoH has asked us to provide the names of all faculty in attendance at the meeting and all students in Butler 7. We ask that these groups maintain social distancing and avoid contact with vulnerable populations until told otherwise by the DoH.”

This is the second incident directly affecting the Scarsdale community. On March 7 it was confirmed that a student who plays on the Scarsdale Youth Hockey Association middle school team had also tested positive. This student does not live in Scarsdale or attend the Scarsdale Schools. However he was in contact with teammates.

As a result, those teammates – and perhaps their families – have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Here is the text of that e-mail:

“The team members who played on the same SYHA team as the student who tested positive will be asked to quarantine for 14 days from their last encounter with the player. At this time, there are no students or staff in the Scarsdale Schools who have tested positive for COVID-19. The School District will work with the families involved to support them in any way possible. The Department of Health has given the families specific guidance as to how to implement these quarantines and how the rest of the family should travel and participate in day-to-day activities. The families will need the support of our entire community to help them through this time. We ask that all members of our community respect these families' privacy and encourage their children to do the same.”

At this time it is unclear how many players and families are affected. We also don’t know how many students and faculty members came into contact with the Middle School Teacher. But given the facts above, we can assume that many will soon be told to stay behind closed doors for 14 days.

An email to the police chief and mayor about the extent of the virus in Scarsdale received no response.

The email also recommends that residents practice “social distancing,” asking parents to

-Limit playdates/get-togethers and certainly any larger gatherings of students or students and adults;

-Not have students provide babysitting services to other students; and

-Not schedule practices for sports teams or meetings for any clubs.

All schools and buses are being cleaned and disinfected and teachers are working on e-learning plans so that students can continue their education at home.

In the meantime, the Superintendent asks students “to spend time engaging in passion-driven learning activities and use the time to engage in reading for pleasure.”

The email also provides links to NYS Department of Health guidelines for quarantines and guidelines for virus testing

Other Closings:
The closing of the Scarsdale Schools on March 9 has had a domino affect on other community organizations. Following the announcement, Westchester Reform Temple, which was closed during the weekend announced that they would also remain closed until March 18.

The nursery school, or Early Childhood Center, Jewish Learning Lab and Adult Education classes are cancelled. The Friday night Shabbat service will be available via livestream only.

However, bar and bat mitzvahs and funerals will be held. The synagogue will seat people farther away from one another and ask service goers to refrain from touching or kissing the Torah. Guests should be limited to close family.

The Reverend Pete Jones also announced that Hitchcock Church will be closed until March 18. This includes the office and all activities at Hitchcock are closed for the same time period. 

They will wait to make a final announcement later in the week about Sunday morning worship.  

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