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You are here: Home Section Table School News Who Will Lead the 2021-22 Board of Education? Plus Updates on Masks and DEI
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Who Will Lead the 2021-22 Board of Education? Plus Updates on Masks and DEI

PamandAlisonPam Fuehrer and Alison Singer will complete their terms on the BOE at the end of the school year.The Board of Education is preparing for the summer transition to next year’s board, where it will seat new members Jessica Resnick-Ault and Jim Dugan and say goodbye to President Pam Fuehrer and Vice President Alison Singer. While traditionally the Vice President assumes the role of President, this year is different as Singer was not re-elected for a second term. The new President and Vice President will be elected by the 2021-2022 Board at the July 7, 2021 Reorganization Meeting. Current members Karen Ceske and Ron Schulhof have expressed interest in the presidency, and Amber Yusuf has spoken about potentially seeking the vice presidency. Member Carl Finger indicated that he is interested in either position. During the reorganization meeting, members are openly nominated and voted on for these two positions.

During one of the last full meetings of the current Board on June 7, members and administration staff reviewed key village Covid-19 metrics, welcomed a new cohort of teachers, and spoke about the district-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policy.

COVID Report

On the Journey Forward Update, the administration reported that the district is trending in the right direction for active Covid-19 cases. Scarsdale is at Level 2, and to reach Level 1, the village must see a seven-day average of under 10 cases per 100,000 people. Currently, there are only three active cases in Scarsdale and 14.06 cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days. The daily rate has dropped to 1.8.

Currently, ceremonies of 500 or less are allowed without testing measures or proof of vaccination under New York State guidance. As a result, this year’s fifth grade Moving Up Ceremonies will be held outdoors and by individual classes. For the high school graduation, because the event will be attended by over 500 people, proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test will be required. Finally, Governor Cuomo announced that schools do not need students to wear masks outdoors. Because of this guidance, Scarsdale removed outdoor mask requirements for all students, however the indoor mask rules remain in place.

Personnel

For the Personnel Report, the administration announced that five new faculty and one returning staff member were hired in probationary positions. Many of the new staff attended the meeting and were there in-person when the measure was adopted. These new staff members include Lauren Armstrong (Speech teacher, Heathcote), Jennifer Cronk (Computer teacher, SMS), Trisha McNeil (Special Education teacher, SMS), Dana Kani (Special Education teacher in charge, Elementary), Alyssa Kuefner (Returning Speech teacher, SHS), and Hanna Walton (Strings, elementary).

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Next, the administration updated the Board on the work of the Compact Committee in implementing the new DEI policy. Over two meetings, the committee established the goals of DEI for the elementary, middle, and high school levels using the NY state education framework and rigorous standards. While the goals for each education level were developed by independent teams, there was considerable overlap in the choices.

The DEI elementary school goals:

• Assess the physical environment of the classroom and school to determine whether a variety of diverse cultures, languages, orientations, and identities are reflected, represented, and valued. Promote a variety of perspectives that represent the diversity of the state of New York beyond designated icons, historical figures, months, and holidays.
• Build rapport and develop positive relationships with students, and their families, by learning about their interests and inviting them to share their opinions and concerns. Find opportunities to address and incorporate their opinions and concerns.
• Create opportunities to allow different groups and ideas to become part of the fabric of the school community by organizing proactive community-building circles and activities that promote positive relationships among individuals from diverse backgrounds. Include students, teachers, school staff, leaders, families, and community members in these opportunities.

The DEI middle school goals:

• Build rapport and develop positive relationships with students, and their families, by learning about their interests and inviting them to share their opinions and concerns. Find opportunities to address and incorporate their opinions and concerns.
• Create opportunities to allow different groups and ideas to become part of the fabric of the school community by organizing proactive community-building circles and activities that promote positive relationships among individuals from diverse backgrounds. Include students, teachers, school staff, leaders, families, and community members in these opportunities.
• Feature and highlight resources written and developed by traditionally marginalized voices that offer diverse perspectives on race, culture, language, gender, sexual identity, ability, religion, nationality, migrant/refugee status, socioeconomic status, housing status, and other identities traditionally silenced or omitted from the curriculum.

The DEI high school goals:

• Review of district policies (codes of conduct, curriculum reviews, community engagement, etc.).
• Identify and address implicit bias in the school and community environments.
• Create opportunities to allow different groups and ideas to become part of the fabric of the school community by organizing proactive community-building circles and activities that promote positive relationships among individuals from diverse backgrounds. Include students, teachers, school staff, leaders, families, and community members in these opportunities.

Each of the three teams will meet with affected groups over the summer and reconvene in the fall to set metrics for success. Member Ron Schulhof inquired why each level did not have matching goals. Superintendent Hagerman answered that each school was independently able to choose the goals that work best for that education level, and that each group will meet with the 189 people across the district involved in DEI work before setting their success metrics. While Dr. Hagerman acknowledged the need to neaten the district's DEI materials and create a separate DEI tab on the website, he stated that "all of that is on the back of the brain while we focus on the content work right now."

Assistant Superintendent McIntosh announced that the district narrowed the search field for DEI consultants down to four experts. Each candidate will create proposals for the district and interview with the leadership team and Teacher's Association representatives. Depending on these interviews, the school may engage some or all of these consultants in ways that match their expertise.

During public comments many questions were asked about the DEI policy.

Jonathan Rothenberg asked, “What specific failures have been identified? What are the barriers to achieving DEI?... The goals seem generic, what are the tangible implications? What will actually be changing? How can community members get more insight into DEI work? Will the proceedings be open to the public? How can we participate in creating the metrics?”

Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez said, “Metrics are very important… you should encourage transparency in the Compact meetings. Are there minutes from these meetings? Can we receive an agenda from them? It is unclear how these objectives were chosen. I am grateful for the June 22nd meeting. A lot of parents were involved in DEI work for years so I am glad to be included. Given the number attending, will there be documents to read ahead of time? Teachers should post syllabi online.”

About the Board's successions plans she said, "Thank you to all four BOE members who are volunteering to lead the BOE. Three of the people who have expressed interest did not run in a BOE trustee election. You were selected in a closed-door nominating committee process. Hence voters did have the opportunity to vet you. Much remains to be done to re-integrate our students after the severity of this pandemic. We do not know what academic, emotional, or mental challenges will arise. It is unclear to me how assessments are being undertaken to determine gaps. We really need strong and inclusive leadership. I urge all of you in the new Board to really conduct your due diligence about the potential leaders. Who of these people has previous Board or leadership experience that would be relevant to the new Board now? What is their track record other than these last two years on the Board? During your time at the Board, you certainly have seen that many of us care about what goes on in our schools."

Rachana Singh said, “I am thankful for DEI work. I don't want internal HR work, I want it to be community based work. It's about the school's efforts but I want community-based work; climate surveys in each building would be very telling. Who will be responsible for creating metrics? How is the compact committee diverse? I would like to see more about neuro-diversity.”

The administration will hold a Collective DEI meeting on June 22nd to solicit input from the community on how to implement the policy moving forward. This meeting will serve as a springboard for continued work over the summer.

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