Tuesday, Aug 09th

Board Member Ron Schulhof Advocates for Oversight and Transparency in Second Term

RonSchulhofHere is an interview with Ron Schulhof, who has been nominated by the Scarsdale School Board Nominating Committee to serve a second three-year term on the Scarsdale Board of Education. Read about Ron here and remember to vote on the school budget and school board members on Tuesday, May 17 at Scarsdale Middle School from 7 am to 9 pm.

Tell us about yourself and some of your volunteer activities before you joined the BOE three years ago.

I’ve lived in Scarsdale for nine years with my wife Rachel and our two sons, who are both currently in Quaker Ridge Elementary School. Since moving here, I’ve volunteered in a variety of ways in the schools and community. Many people may be familiar with the sustainability initiatives that I’ve been involved in, such as the school and village food scrap recycling programs, the LED streetlights, expanding recycling programs, and other sustainability projects. In addition, I have also really enjoyed being involved with PTA and school committees, working on Scarsdale Forum committees, serving on the Citizen’s Nominating Committee, and coaching Little League.

It’s been terrific not only to serve in these capacities, but also to meet incredible volunteers throughout the schools and community. Working with them has really made me appreciate what a special place Scarsdale is and the amazing work that happens here because of community volunteers.

What were your original goals for joining the BOE and do you feel you have accomplished them?

As a Board of Education member, I believe my core goal is to ensure that Scarsdale Schools provide the highest level of education and educational experience for all of our students. So that’s the lens that I see all of my decisions through and what I think about when considering what specific goals to set forth each year. With this context in mind, when first joining the School Board, some of my goals included improving community engagement, developing a roadmap of important Board-level projects, and ensuring appropriate oversight of the District.

I feel that we’ve made some good headway in these areas. For example, we have created a Board Community Engagement Plan and have developed new ways for the community to engage with the School Board such as establishing the ability for people to comment remotely at Board meetings and holding informal Board Coffees. Of course, there is still much more we can do, but I believe we have taken positive concrete actions in these areas and are heading in a great direction. 

It’s important to me that the School Board is an open and accessible body, and that any member of the school community or broader community feels they can engage constructively with the Board, share their views, and hear the views of the Board. I also recognize that we have a school community that is full of caring, engaged and thoughtful people, who want to help and engage with their school system. I really appreciate hearing from school community members - students, parents, faculty, staff, administrators, former students, empty-nesters, and everyone else connected to our schools - and hope to continue to hear from everyone.

Regarding Board-level projects, as discussed or laid out in the Board annual goals, some aspects of this area have unfortunately been impacted by the pandemic and more recently the IRS matter, but I hope to continue to see the Board undertake impactful projects as the Board moves forward.

I also believe an extremely important aspect of Board work is ensuring that we provide oversight to the district. I feel strongly that we were elected by the community to fulfill this role, and I take it very seriously. The recent IRS matter has shone a light on this area. I believe the Board is currently taking the appropriate steps to provide more oversight to this specific matter as well as taking appropriate steps more generally with respect to oversight going forward.

What are some of your biggest takeaways from your first three years of service?

I feel that as a school community we are incredibly fortunate. We have amazing teachers and staff, incredible students, and engaged and caring families. As a School Board member, one of my biggest takeaways is the balance between seeing all the amazing aspects of Scarsdale schools and then considering what areas can be improved and how do we do that without impacting what is already working well. Despite all that we have, there is and will always be opportunities to expand and enhance our educational programming. For example, the issue of student wellness was an area of focus when I first joined the Board and is even more at the forefront now. How do we ensure our kids are having a balanced and positive experience during this formative time of their lives, how do we ensure that kids are not just “doing school” and “getting through it” but are learning on many levels and having a well-rounded, healthy and enjoyable educational experience?

I hope that with a great team of School Board members and administrators, with pandemic restrictions hopefully behind us, and with Dr. Drew Patrick at the helm as Interim Superintendent, we can focus on the students and make their experience as great as it can be.

Remind us of some of the matters/issues this Board handled during your term - so much has happened!

So much has happened during the past three years, some great and some challenging. Of course the biggest issue of my first term was the pandemic and restart planning for schools. More recently, we are dealing with the IRS matter and oversight of the district. Looking forward, we are embarking on an executive leadership search. Throughout all this, the School Board has also continued important work around community engagement; health and wellness; diversity, equity, and inclusion; sustainability; budgeting through times of financial uncertainty during the pandemic; updating District policies; and all of the day to day matters that come before the Board.

Given current events, do you think the role of the Board needs to evolve?

Yes, and I believe the School Board is currently taking steps in the right direction. The most recent events with respect to the IRS matter have been unfortunate, but I believe the Board is responding in the right way by being proactive and providing important transparency to the community. Board members are elected to represent the community and part of that responsibility is ensuring we provide facts and transparency, no matter how difficult the situation. I’m proud of our response as a Board. I believe we are showing the community how seriously we take our oversight role.

Have you felt frustrated by the need to keep information from the public? Or by claims that divulging information will jeopardize legal issues?

I have always believed that to every extent the Board should be transparent, share facts and express our thought processes to the community. There have been times over the past couple of years when I shared my frustrations about information I believe should have been shared with the community or shared earlier. However, I believe we are currently doing a good job of balancing transparency and certain legal obligations of privacy. My belief is that once the IRS matter is resolved, the community will recognize that the Board was transparent, proactive, and did its job.

What are your objectives for your next term?

Looking ahead to the next three years, we are entering an important period for our schools. We have an executive leadership transition and are emerging from school being under pandemic restrictions. Some of my goals will be continuing the work that I discussed earlier that predated the pandemic. I also believe it is important we review the past few years to figure out what lessons can make us stronger as a District going forward.

I see this time of transition as an incredible opportunity. Change can be hard, but if we put the work in to do it right, it can be great. I want to make this transition really count and have the district come out even stronger than before. That’s definitely my goal.

I am incredibly excited for the opportunity to continue on the Board of Education and will be humbled to have the community’s support to serve for another term. We have a great team of continuing Board members, two excellent new candidates, and a fantastic Interim Superintendent in Drew Patrick. I look forward to continuing to support the work of our faculty, staff, and administration and engaging in new opportunities to expand and enhance the education in our schools.

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