Friday, May 24th

Jim Dugan, Candidate for Board of Education Discusses Student Mental Health and the College Admissions Landscape

JamesDuganJames C. Dugan, who is just finishing up his first term as a member of Scarsdale’s Board of Education, announced in April that he will seek re-election to fulfill another term in the upcoming election on Tuesday May 21. During his first term as a BOE member, Dugan was part of a committed team that helped to navigate our District out of pandemic learning, he took part in a methodical superintendent search process that saw Dr. Drew Patrick named as our new Superintendent, and thoughtfully participated in many hard conversations about issues that face our schools and larger Scarsdale community. We reached out to Dugan to learn more about his desire to serve another four years.

Why did you volunteer to run for the Board of Education?

Dugan: Ever since moving to Scarsdale in 2006, I have been very supportive of our great public schools and, from time to time, have volunteered in connection with issues such as advocating for maintaining small elementary school class sizes. In 2021, I had the opportunity to run for the Board of Education and I’ve been fortunate to serve as a Trustee since then. My experience as a Trustee over the last three years has greatly deepened my appreciation for the dedication and the hard work that our educators, administrators, and volunteers demonstrate every day. More than ever, I believe that Scarsdale is a great place to live in large part because of our excellent schools and because our community strongly believes in and supports public education. I am honored to have the opportunity to continue to serve as a Trustee and to contribute my time and energy to the cause of continued excellence in our schools.

What do you see as some of the important issues facing the Scarsdale Public Schools today?

Dugan: We are at a uniquely challenging time in public education generally, and Scarsdale is no exception to this. In the wake of the pandemic, mental health remains top of mind for our community and our students at every level. Our kids seem to feel more and more the stresses and struggles taking place in the world around them. I think schools need to be prepared to address proactively the mental health needs of our students. Another significant issue for our community is the college admissions landscape, which has become more and more challenging as unprecedented numbers of candidates apply for limited spots. The schools should do what they can to help families navigate their way through this. Also, I believe it is important for the schools to continue to model good behavior in terms of accepting and nurturing students and families who are diverse in different ways. We are here to educate all Scarsdale children who come to us.

What do you see as the highlights of your first term on the Board?

Dugan: Without question, I believe that our superintendent search process and our decision to select Drew Patrick for the role were the highlight of my first term. The departure of our former superintendent was a bit of a surprise, and I am proud of the way the Board handled that curveball and carefully managed the process by which we were able to attract and vet some amazing candidates. I’m very happy with the results of our search - kudos to Karen, Amber, and Ron for serving in officer positions and dedicating so much time to organizing that process. I am also proud of the transparent way the Board has functioned over the last three years - with the lengthy and detailed public Board deliberations over the adoption of our budget for next year serving as a good example of our commitment to letting the community see and participate in our process.

Was there any Board action taken during your term that, in retrospect, you might have voted differently than you did?

Dugan: Only one issue comes to mind - my vote in favor of limiting our first public comment during Board meetings to four minutes. (The second public comment period is not limited). I believed at the time that this would help our meetings to run more smoothly and effectively. But in the three years that have passed since that vote, I have come to believe that the four minute cut off is not really necessary and that it unintentionally sends the wrong message to the community about the Board’s openness.

James C. Dugan (Term: 2021-2024): Mr. Dugan is an attorney and volunteer who has been active in Scarsdale since moving to the community with his family in 2006. Mr. Dugan has served as a member of the Citizens’ Nominating Committee and the Procedure Committee. He was a member of the Overhill Association Board as well as its President; and has been active in the Episcopal Church of St. James the Less. Mr. Dugan was a co-founder of the Coalition for Scarsdale Schools, a community organization of engaged parents of Scarsdale students. Mr. Dugan is a partner in the litigation department of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, where his practice focuses on high-stakes corporate litigation. He has a BA in English Literature from the Pennsylvania State University and a JD from Cornell Law School. Mr. Dugan and his wife Shirley have three daughters who attend Scarsdale Public Schools, one in Middle School and two in High School.

The Scarsdale Schools’ Budget Vote and Board Election will take place on Tuesday, May 21 at the Scarsdale Middle School Gym, 7am - 9pm.

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