Scarsdale resident, volunteer and attorney Jim Dugan has been selected by the Scarsdale School Board Nominating Committee as a candidate for the Scarsdale School Board. He will be on the ballot along with SBNC nominated candidate Jessica Resnick-Ault and independent candidate Alison Singer for the election on May 18, 2021. We asked Dugan to share some information and views and here is what we learned:
Tell us about yourself and your family. What drew you to Scarsdale, when did you move here and what do you enjoy about living here.
My wife, Shirley Salmeron-Dugan, and I are the parents of three girls, Sophia, age 14, Serena, age 12, and Stella, age 10. The two older girls attend Scarsdale Middle School, and the youngest attends Fox Meadow Elementary School. We are an active family; all three children enjoy acting and musical performance; and the two older girls are competitive swimmers. Shirley and I have been married for 18 years; she is from Arizona, and I was born and raised in New York City, in Queens. Shirley and I moved to Scarsdale 15 years ago for the great public schools and the proximity to Manhattan, where we both worked at the time, and also because it is a lovely town. We have since made many friends in the community. We both love the beauty of the village and the many interesting and accomplished people we have met since moving here. Scarsdale is a great place to live because it has everything: great schools, great people, and a great sense of civic responsibility.
You’ve been involved in many volunteer committees in town. Tell us about your volunteer resume.
Since moving here, I have been active in community organizations as well as local religious organizations. I was elected to the Citizens Nominating Committee, and thereafter served on the Procedure Committee, and got a firsthand view of our non-partisan volunteer system in action. I also served on the Board of the Overhill Association as well as President of that Association, and was a member of SNAP – the Scarsdale Neighborhood Association Presidents. I co-founded, along with Arthur Rublin and others, the Coalition for Scarsdale Schools nine years ago to advocate against increased class sizes in the elementary schools. Shirley and I belong to the St. James the Less Episcopal Church, where I have served in the Parish Choir, as a member of the Vestry, and as a Warden.
How does your professional background complement your ability to serve on the Board of Education?
I have been a litigator and counselor for over 26 years, and I have spent much of my career advising corporate boards of directors, especially in times of crisis. Through this experience, I have learned how boards operate and have developed the skills necessary to participate meaningfully in the decision-making process. I also believe that this experience will serve me well in working with other Board members to assess and respond to matters that come before the Board. As a litigator, I have honed public speaking, advocacy, listening and consensus building skills, and I have learned to quickly assess and understand problems, think critically about solutions, and work to achieve best outcomes. If I am elected, I will bring all of these skills to bear.
Why did you decide to run for the School Board this year?
This has been a challenging year for everyone; I really wanted to contribute my time and energy to help the community as it recovers from and adjusts to the pandemic experience. I have long believed that one of Scarsdale’s greatest assets as a community is its public schools, and I especially wanted to devote my volunteer efforts to help support the excellence of our schools at this time.
With three children in the Scarsdale Schools, how was your life changed by the pandemic and the closing of schools this year?
The pandemic and the closing of the schools has been difficult for everybody, and my family is no different. We have had to adjust to a radically different school experience, and all three of my children have reacted differently. My wife and I have had to be more active in our children’s education experience in order to keep them focused in a setting where many distractions loom. It has been challenging but in many ways it has brought us closer together as a family.
What are your views on the way decisions were made regarding remote schooling and the timing of the re-opening of schools? As a resident, did you feel the process was open and transparent?
As a resident, there were times when I would have appreciated a better line-of-sight into the process and timing of re-opening our schools. In addition, many in the community feel that the process should have been more open and transparent and I think their concerns are valid.
Past Board protocol calls for the Board of Education to “speak as one,” sometimes preventing those with differing viewpoints to speak out. Do you agree with this policy? How can Board members exercise oversight if they are not permitted to offer their opinions?
I do not wish to take issue with specific Board policies in connection with the election; however, if elected I will come to the position with an open mind and without any preconceived notion in favor of any particular policy, especially if there are compelling reasons to go in a different direction.
What are your personal goals for service on the Board of Education and how do you feel you can add to the mix?
My personal goals for service on the Board, if elected, are to hit the ground running and make an immediate contribution to the Board’s deliberative process. I am a strong believer in the power of education to mold lives and build minds. I am also a believer in public education as a key to building strong and successful communities. I am running on the SBNC slate because I believe strongly in maintaining the excellence of the Scarsdale Public Schools, and I bring to that position decades of experience in advocacy and community volunteer leadership. I and my fellow SBNC slate candidate, Jessica Resnick-Ault, will bring a fresh perspective to the Board, one that is firmly rooted in the voice of our community.
Anything else you want to add is welcome.
Thank you for this opportunity to address our community.