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2020-21 School Budget, Staffing and Technology Update at the School Board Meeting

shscupolacopyOn the agenda for the Scarsdale Board of Education on Monday January 27, 2020 were the 2020-21 school budget, staffing and a report on the use of technology in the Scarsdale Schools. Here is what you need to know:

School Budget:

The current estimate for the 2020-21 school budget is $166,988,817 which is an increase of 3.86% over the 2019-20 school budget and translates to a 3.6% tax increase. The reasons for the increase will be discussed at a subsequent meeting.



As a first step in the budgeting process, the Board reviewed district staffing. The graphic below shows that in the last ten years, district-wide staffing has increased from 610.55 employees to 630.1 projected for 2020-21.

The reasons for these staff increases was explained by Assistant Superintendent Drew Patrick.

-During this ten-year period, the number of special education elementary classes has risen from 6 sections, to a projected 13 for the next school year and special education staff was added at the middle school and high school to accommodate students in the upper grades.

-Over the years, five elementary reading teachers were added to support students at each of the five schools.

- At the high school, staffing was increased by three positions to accommodate the STEAM curriculum and opening of the new design lab at SHS.

After a discussion, the Board gave tentative approval, or a “soft nod,” for an additional 2.4 FTE’s for 2020-21 including:

One elementary special education co-teaching position

One elementary special education teacher for the new 8:1: 2 classroom that will accommodate some students who are now placed out of the district. The cost of this position should be offset by a reduction in out of district tuition payments.

A .4 FTE for the psychologist’s secretary at the middle school

Board member Scott Silberfein agreed that the additional staffing was needed but expressed concern about the proposed budget increase. He said, “We are now at a 3.86% budget to budget increase. I am concerned about the overall budget increase. I know it’s early and it may shift, but this is higher than we’ve seen over the last few years.”

Chris Morin concurred, saying, “Including security, it’s a 45 addition to head count over these last six years with flat enrollment, and that is just extraordinary. The 3.86% is an awful lot …. Sooner or later we will create a problem for ourselves if we don’t get our arms around that issue.”

Retirements and Tenure
BryantPhys Ed Teacher Maggie Bryant was granted tenure.

Drew Patrick announced the retirement of three teachers, together representing 99 years of teaching.

They are:
Heidi Kaplan – Math teacher at Scarsdale Middle School
Renee Lund – Special Education from Scarsdale Middle School
Tom Maguire – Social Studies teacher at Scarsdale High School

Tenure was granted to SHS Physical Education teacher Maggie Bryant who was present with her family for the announcement.

Technology and STEAM Update

Director of Technology Jerry Crisci and SHS Steam Coordinator Lisa Yokana provided an impressive report on the integration of technology into all district schools. Updates on the STEAM curriculum at Scarsdale High School, now in its fourth year and information on the district’s Center for Innovation, now in its eighth year were provided.

Crisci explained that the overall goals of his department are outlined in “The Scarsdale Technology Vision Statement.” It calls for the district to “use technology to empower learners” by giving them tools for creating, communicating and collaborating.”

He explained how various activities at all grade levels address goals such as teaching students to be good digital citizens, creating computational thinkers, innovative designers and creative communicators.

At each school, students learn to navigate age appropriate databases and sources. Common experiences across the elementary schools includes

-Digital citizenship at all ages
-Publishing projects
-Coding robotics
-Google apps in grades 3-5
-Fifth grade capstone project

Computer teachers engage in professional development to learn how to teach these skills.

At the middle schools, seventh grade students are using iPads, as well as old fashioned pen and paper. The middle school library offers more advanced databases and use of resources as well as Schoology, a learning management platform for school homework and assignments.

DesignLabThe Design Lab at Scarsdale High SchoolAt the high school Chromebook carts are available in English, social studies and world language classes. Desktop computers are available in the computer lab and the district’s most powerful computers are available in the digital media labs.

Students can bring their own devices and often mediate between the use of different kinds of technology, paper and books. The high school library includes sophisticated databases for use by the students.

Turning to the STEAM Program, Crisci said that it begins in sixth grade and extends through the tech classes in grades 6,7 and 8. The curriculum focuses on design, computational thinking, pre-engineering and problem solving.

SHS Teacher Lisa Okana reviewed the high school STEAM program, saying, “We want to create students that are curious, empathic and empowered. Our first level courses are an intro to engineering and design. The second level courses include robotics, electronics/physical computing, design for modern production, design build and app design. At the third level the program offers advanced topics entrepreneurship. This full year course focuses on designing for students with disabilities and is a college level class.”

She explained, that students are both experts and teachers, for example a student teaches other students in app development. Members of the community often serve as consultants. Students learn to collaborate, share ideas, co-work to solve challenges. The program encourages students to share their knowledge. In this course, students create prototypes and put them in the hands of users.

According to Yokana, “The assessment process includes a great deal of process notes, and reflection. They pitch their ideas and get feedback.” Yokana explained, that the design thinking process includes the following:

-Creating prototypes
-Testing assumptions
-Learning through experimentation
-Learning resilience
-Designing real things that can make a difference
-Becoming empowered as agents of change.

The program is successful and has become a model for many other schools that regularly visit Scarsdale. Recently one of the class design teams won a $5,000 grant from Wells Fargo Bank for creating functional clothing for children who cannot dress themselves.

The Center for Innovation (CFI)

The Scarsdale Center for Innovation is now eight years old. It originally started with speakers, site visits and project grants. The Center offered teachers CFI grants and has had seven years of impacts, resulting in the creation of maker spaces at all the elementary schools, a music maker program, Level Up Village at the middle school and an engineer in residence.

Other initiatives included the creation of The Nest, a space for innovation at the middle school, and the awarding of a grant for the creation of an applied math class at the high school.

District personnel have used CFI funds for site visits to NuVu in Cambridge, MA, to the MIT media lab and the Hynes Institute at Iona College.

In February 2019, the district launched a program called CFI Ambassadors, where 21 teachers were named to become influencers both inside and outside the district. Their mission is to:

-Change long term behaviors and mind sets
-Change many people and many interlocked behaviors
-Change minds, hearts and actions

Each ambassador has been asked to identify an opportunity for innovation and using skills to effect change.

Following the technology discussion, the Superintendent gave an update to the strategic plan.

Watch the entire meeting online here: https://vimeopro.com/scarsdaleschoolstv/boe-2019-2020

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