School Board Reviews Re-Opening Plans, the Budget, and Student Test Results at March 22 Meeting

tentsJoint Meeting with the Board of Trustees: 

On Monday, March 22nd, The Board of Education held their annual joint session with the Village Board of Trustees. Opening welcome remarks were made by both Board President Pam Fuehrer and Mayor Samwick. Mayor Samwick provided an update on the search for the new Village Manager and hopes the interview and selection process will be completed by the end of June or mid-July.

Village Manager Steve Pappalardo provided an update of the two-installment tax payment issue. As of March 5th, 96.27% of school taxes and 95.79% of village property taxes have been paid. This is slightly below average for this time of year. He reported that over 300 residents have not completed their payments, and the total outstanding amount is around $800,000. He highlighted that the majority of these issues stem from confusion over the two-installment system and the lack of timely reminders with school bills.

Pappalardo also updated the boards on the Middle School Comfort Station project. The construction documents were submitted at the end of the year and they anticipate having the permit by late May or early June of 2021. Should the project be approved, the Village is prepared to start construction this summer. Additionally, the village applied for $125,000 in New York State grant money. This must be passed through the state Ways and Means Committee, which is currently requesting additional information about the project in advance of a budget earmark. This grand funding may accelerate or delay the project depending on the speed of the state approval process. The Village will have more complete information to make construction decisions by the end of April.

After a short break, the Board of Education reconvened for their budget and business meeting which was held live and via Zoom.

Board of Education Meeting


To kick off the meeting, school administrators reviewed the 2021-2022 proposed budget. The total proposed budget is $166,862,755, which represents a budget-to-budget increase of 2.56% and a projected increase in the tax levy of 2.15%. This will lead to a projected tax rate increase of 1.93% for Scarsdale residents and 6.28% for those in the Mamaroneck strip.

This budget will accomplish:
• Learning consistent with the district’s strategic learning plan
• Implementing a COVID-19 budget strategy
• Advances in-district instructional opportunities for students with disabilities
• Continuation of a comprehensive approach to safety, security, engagement, and emergency management
• Enhancement of cleaning services
• Improvements and upgrades to facilities

The Board will adopt the budget during their meeting on April 12th and the community will vote on the budget on May 18th.

Public Comment

The Board heard from several constituents, many of whom had concerns about the mental health services the schools will be offering students once in-person learning resumes full time. A representative of the Scarsdale PTA emphasized that there will likely be an increase in the incidence of depression and PTSD as well as the emotional loss of milestone moments, loved ones, and in-person engagement. It is anticipated that more students will require support, and the PTA asks the Board to proactively address these concerns by providing additional funds and professional support.

Speaking as the VP of Programming and Volunteers for the Scarsdale High School PTA, Jennifer Rossano noted that it will be difficult for students to access education without wellbeing. She defined wellbeing as a combination of social and emotional learning, physical activity and nutrition, and mental health. Ms. Rossano pushed the Board to discuss how they plan to encourage resilience, as well as lifelong critical academic and personal success skills in the curriculum moving forward. Below is a short excerpt from her statement:

Our school district has an exceptionally talented team of mental health professionals who we thank for their dedication and ceaseless work identifying and supporting students who are coping with mental health issues. We ask the Board of Education and the District Administration to carefully anticipate the work that lies ahead and allocate adequate human and financial resources to both address the immediate needs of students struggling with mental health and enable the delivery of school-wide programs and services aimed at fostering growth and resilience in all of our students. It has been said that “out of adversity comes opportunity” (Ben Franklin). We urge the Board and District Administration to seize this opportunity by demonstrating their commitment to the complete health and well-being of our students and staff, one of the pillars of the District’s Strategic Plan, by providing adequate funds for this coming year.

To address some of these issues, Eric Rauschenbach, the Assistant Superintendent of Special Education and Student Services, said that the school is comfortable with the total number of full-time employees but can bring in consulting counselors if additional help is needed throughout the year. Additionally, the school can engage counselors in larger format ways to reach more students, such as group sessions. Additionally, the school set out surveys to students and is working with teachers and faculty to proactively find any students who may currently be struggling academically or socially as a result of the pandemic.

Suzie Hahn, representing the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale, spoke in support of the budget. She addressed matters such as the COVID-19 contingency plan, replenishing the fund balance, a summer enrichment program, the League’s concern about mental health issues and the student to dean/guidance counselor ratio. She also touched on the League’s support for school improvement and green-energy projects. Read the entire statement here:

Finally, Mayra Kirkendall-Rodríguez spoke in her role as the Fox Meadow Budget Liaison. After soliciting feedback from parents, staff, social media, the PTA, and the principal and vice-principal of Fox Meadow, Ms. Kirkendall-Rodríguez brought several issues to the attention of the Board. Parents are requesting a clear timeline on the renovation of Fox Meadow and necessary refurbishments. For example, some lockers, bathrooms, and classrooms need updates and improvements. Additionally, some hallways are very dark and in addition to the LED lighting project, constituents are requesting that the hallways be painted a lighter color. Parents were also requested more information about the plans to reinstall water fountains that were removed because of COVID-19 and requested numbers regarding the planned expenses for the proposed diversity and inclusion curriculum.

Business Meeting

Education Report and Covid Update

The School Administration was excited to present the Education Report as Scarsdale Schools slowly transitions back to full-time school for all students. It will be important to continue the risk mitigation efforts and the effects of pandemic fatigue as in-person instruction increases.

Instead of the typical 8:45 AM start time for high school students, school will begin at 9:10 AM. This time adjustment was made because of space constraints and the contractual obligation for teachers to receive a 30-minute preparation period every day. With the change, teachers will now take this prep period first thing in the morning. Additionally, Tuesday, March 22nd marked the first day of lunch with all K-5 students. The lunch period was largely successful, and while students will have the option to eat outdoors when the weather permits, each elementary school can accommodate all students eating indoors six feet apart if necessary.

Currently, Westchester has a COVID-19 positivity rate of about 5%, which is lower than in the past several months. 9% of the county has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Within Scarsdale schools, 73% of teachers and 40% of teacher aides have received one or two doses of the vaccine.

Addressing concerns about Spring Break, Assistant Superintendent Rauschenbach clarified that there remains a gap between the current guidance and what has been announced by the Governor. The latest guidance from the NY State Department of Health states that any individual who is fully vaccinated can skip the quarantine period if they travel domestically. Governor Cuomo announced that starting April 1st, there will be no quarantine for any residents that travel domestically, however, this has yet to be codified by Executive Order. This may happen after Scarsdale leaves on spring break. Once the regulation is put into place the school will follow it, but until then any student that travels domestically during spring break will be required to either quarantine or test out of the quarantine by following proper testing procedures. Additionally, anyone who has had a verified diagnosis of COVID-19 within the last 90 days does not need to quarantine. International travelers will need to quarantine for either 10 days or 7 days (if you receive a negative test on the 3rd, 4th, or 5th day of quarantine). This standard for international travel is required regardless of vaccination status or prior COVID-19 diagnosis.

Rauschenbach also announced that several Scarsdale physicians, Dr. Louis Corsaro, Dr. Holly Gilbert, Dr. Steven Shelov, and Dr. Nathan Litman, recorded a Q&A for school staff and faculty to address any questions or concerns about the vaccine. The administration encourages anyone with questions to refer to this video, which will soon be posted on the Scarsdale Schools Website Under Scarsdale Cable TV – BOE Education Presentations.

Public Comment

During Public Comment, Leanne Freda, the President of the SHS PTA Executive Committee, made a statement to address the recent anti-Asian hate crimes in Georgia which you can read here:

Irin Israel expressed his dismay regarding the administration’s handling of some aspects of the COVID-19 crisis. He stated that he filed a Freedom of Information Act Request, through which he received a 67-page architectural document that mapped out every Scarsdale classroom and space.

He claims this document was not available without filing this request, and that it was not shown to the Board or the Re-Start Committee. He claims that the document showed that all elementary school students would be able to fit inside the schools following the six-foot distancing requirements and that the Superintendent and administration denied this information in early November 2020 and publicly stated the opposite. Mr. Israel contends that because this document was not widely available, it is difficult to demine if elementary students could have returned to full-time instruction sooner. He stated that “Scarsdale missed the opportunity to go above and beyond for students” and that “this pattern of withheld information did not allow for all options to be fully assessed.”

Superintendent Hagerman addressed this comment by stating that the administration has addressed this matter before, that the Board was aware of the work in this document, and that the administration did report the information.

Education Report

Next, the administration presented the Education Report: Assessment, Support, and Looking Forward.

Using multiple measures, traditional exams, and anecdotal evidence, the administration can assess the successes and challenges facing students. Some challenges include concerns about cheating during online assessments, and communication and safety concerns during in-person instruction. To address some issues, educators implemented small groups when possible to allow for more in-the-moment formative assessments. Additionally, teachers used methods such as asking students about their process, and not just for the answer, to confirm that students actually understood the material. When possible, assessments were administered that required critical understanding, and where answers could not easily be Googled. Additionally, there was a more intense focus on reflection protocol, handwritten solutions, and on smaller, lower-stakes check-ins.

Internal assessments reveal that students are learning essential skills, concepts, and content. Feedback from teachers has also been positive, and teachers from the same courses meet every Wednesday to maintain uniform content and pacing.

Data from STAR Math and Reading exams show that student proficiency rates for grades 3, 4, and 5 are comparable or just below the levels attained during normal years.

Looking forward, we see that technology has the capacity to redefine what we do and how we teach. The administration has also affirmed that small group learning is very powerful, and that teacher collaborating increases our capacity. Below are some quotes shared by teachers:

“This experience has further enhanced our sharing and collaboration across subject groups for specific courses, and among the wider department regarding technology applications” – SHS Science teacher

“Never before has there been this level of District elementary collaboration and sharing. We are connected and benefit from one another’s ideas and breakthroughs” – Elementary Teacher

“Looking forward, we are confident that students have had robust lessons in reading, writing, and critical thinking during the pandemic. We hope to continue the work we have done this year in devoting more time to issues of social justice and prejudice. We have had several meaningful professional development sessions on this topic and spearheaded the session with Anthony Ray Hinton” – SHS English teacher

“(We use) differentiated writing assignments that students may choose based on feedback provided to them from a prior assessment. It helps students to have ownership of their learning as they work to achieve clearly defined personalized writing goals” – SMS English teacher

Tent Rentals

The Board approved the rental of four 20 x 30 foot tents from Atlas Party Rentals that will be used at the high school and middle school for outdoor lunch and other outdoor student activities from April until the end of the school year. The fee will be $18,400 for three months. They also approved a SEQRA determination to erect the tents.

Gender Neutral Bathrooms

They approved a resolution to designate all single occupancy bathrooms in all schools as gender neutral bathrooms.


The Board accepted a gift of two fitness stations installed by Simon Bandsma for his Eagle Scout Project. The fitness stations will be installed at the high school.

The Board approved a gift of $27,748.00 from the Scarsdale Schools Educational Foundation to fund the purchase of robotics equipment to help to support the elementary instructional technology program and enhance existing STEAM projects.

In addition they accepted four wooden benches for use on the Scarsdale High School campus. The benches will be donated and constructed by students in the Habitat for Humanity Club.