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schoolbusHow’s the reopening going at the Scarsdale Schools? According to some parents, it’s been a frustrating experience. After prolonged negotiations between the district, the teachers and parents this summer, it appeared that a balance had been struck between the parent’s wish for some in-person learning and teachers’ desire to limit exposure to students and the virus. In order to mitigate risk, it was agreed that high school students would attend school two mornings per week, middle school students two days per week and elementary school students for two hour sessions, either mornings or afternoons, four days a week with alternating Wednesdays. For high school and middle school students, Wednesdays were set aside for professional development, tutorials and special help.

Though the agreement seemed reasonable to many, once implemented, the plan’s shortcomings are irking many parents and students.

First we have heard from many that in-person teaching is limited. Even when the high school students are in school for their two mornings, their schedules are peppered with free periods and study halls. Parents are wondering why students can’t have a full morning of academics for the limited time they are in class. Who needs to go to school to have a free period?

Another bone of contention is the decision to have no synchronous learning on Wednesdays, which leave students unaccountable on Tuesday nights and Wednesdays. Though there should be asynchronous learning going on, some parents have suggested that their kids can complete their assignments too quickly. They have dubbed Wednesdays, “Netflix Wednesdays” and are asking if Wednesday is the new Sunday. Other parents are asking why teachers are working fewer hours than they would work if students were in school, either in school or virtually.

Compounding the problem is that students are reporting frequent “no-shows” from their high school teachers. Without any prior announcement the teacher failed to appear.

Both parents and students are concerned that at this pace they will not learn the entire curriculum and be ill prepared for regents, SAT’s, ACT’s and advanced placement tests. Some teachers have set the bar low, telling the students that they plan to cover only 54% of the usual material this year. As one mom said, “When I asked for time in school for my son rather than a full virtual program, I was not told that it would mean a tradeoff of 50% of the curriculum. Had I known, we may have opted for a fully virtual program.”

At a recent Board of Education meeting, multiple parents asked why the district could not livestream classes, so that students in one cohort could attend class virtually while the other cohort was in school. This would bar the need for teachers to repeat the same material twice and allow them to cover more ground. Dr. Hagerman responded to the request for livestreaming, saying that “conversations about live streaming are ongoing but that the district is mindful of the student’s amount of screen time.”

Parents of middle school students are finding it hard to have their children unsupervised three days a week. They say that’s a long time for an eleven year-old to engage in asynchronous work and activities. Some are turning to structured programs at the Y or other private schools to keep kids occupied and learning during these long weekdays.

Another mother wondered if the real reason the district wasn’t addressing these issues is that they expected a case or two of COVID to break out soon and force the entire district into a virtual program.

Meanwhile parents and students are betwixt and between, trying to find their stride in this new learning environment.

SamwickAfter Scarsdale Village was forced to comply with a FOIL request to release a list of 4,318 resident email addresses to a candidate running for office, Scarsdale Mayor Marc Samwick is appealing to state legislators to amend the FOIL law. Below find a letter dated September 14, 2020 that Samwick sent to Scarsdale's Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Scardale's State Senator, Andrea Stewart-Cousin that urges the legislators to introduce legislation to "exempt from release under FOIL any personally identifiable information, such as an email address, contained in a governmental listserve used to inform, educate, and engage the public in governmental actions and decision-making."

Dear Assemblywoman Paulin:

This letter is being written to request your support in advancing an amendment to the NYS Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) such that email addresses contained in official governmental subscription-based listserves are no longer required to be released upon public request.

Public education and engagement are keystones of democratic governance, helping to shape laws, inform public policy, and plan for the future. Within the structure of democracy, effective communications between governmental entities and those governed constitute the mortar, holding the building blocks of democracy in-place. Most importantly, public trust constitutes the foundation, without which the otherwise strong and resilient structure is subject to decline.

To facilitate public education and engagement in an increasingly digital world, governmental entities often develop subscription-based listserves to disseminate official news and information. Such communication tools serve a vital public purpose in educating, informing, and engaging the public, helping to cultivate public trust and maintain faith in government as a partner in supporting public safety, maintaining quality of life, and planning for our shared future.

In subscribing to such official governmental electronic communication lists, community members have a reasonable expectation of privacy; unlike subscribers to commercial email lists, government listserve subscribers expect and trust that their contact information will only be used for the specific official purpose authorized. To make the personal contact information contained in a governmental subscription list available to third parties through FOIL violates public trust and significantly jeopardizes the ability of government to disseminate important information to the public, as potential subscribers may object to their personal contact information being shared with third parties and therefore choose not to subscribe, or to unsubscribe once it becomes known that their personally identifiable information is not appropriately held in confidence.

The decline in public trust arising from breach of one’s expectation of privacy in connection with granting public access to a subscriber’s private contact information through FOIL has very real implications for government; arguably, for democracy itself.

The NYS Committee on Open Government and associated case law, as guided by the existing FOIL regulatory framework, direct and require governmental entities to release subscriber email addresses contained on a subscription-based governmental listserve to a requestor, but for an exception where solicitation is the intended use of the list. The Village of Scarsdale asserts that this mandate cultivates an unintended outcome, one that effectively forces an egregious error in weighing the public interest in gaining access to private contact information against the governmental interests embedded in the ability to cultivate an engaged and informed populace.

To be clear, the Village of Scarsdale firmly supports open and transparent government. That is precisely why we chose to implement a subscription-based listserve – to provide the public with opportunity to learn about and understand governmental affairs, all the while enabling and encouraging public participation in both formal and informal decision-making. We agree with and fully support the legislative intent undergirding FOIL.

The FOIL legislative declaration is concise and on-point.

The declaration opens powerfully, “The legislature hereby finds that a free society is maintained when government is responsive and responsible to the public, and when the public is aware of governmental actions.” Yes, government is most accountable when the public is aware of governmental actions and, in our view, has the opportunity to learn about issues and influence decisions before they are made, as well as to examine all government records in accordance with the intent of FOIL.

When an interpretation of FOIL leads to the perverse outcome of chilling governmental efforts to inform, educate, and engage the public in decision-making, the underlying cause for the unintended outcome must be remedied.

Importantly, a simple list of subscriber email addresses, as such, has absolutely no influence on governmental actions or decisions of any kind. Furthermore, providing public access to the email addresses of governmental listserve subscribers has no discernible linkage to FOIL’s stated purpose. However, when combined with content, subscription-based listserves enable governments to inform, educate, and engage the public, i.e., to advance the critical legislative intent of FOIL. It should also be noted that all content thus distributed is publicly accessible, by design.

Any perceived governmental transparency and accountability benefit associated with mandatory public release of an email address subscription list, and it should be noted that we struggle to identify any such benefit, is clearly – and significantly – outweighed by the government’s need to use every tool available to inform, educate, and engage the public in governmental actions and decision-making.

By forcing disclosure of a subscription-based contact list, FOIL is undermining the fabric of free society. If community members refuse to subscribe, or withdraw their subscriptions to such lists out of concern for their privacy, cybersecurity exposure, unsolicited messaging, or any other personal data concern, the laudable public purposes fully embraced by the Village and mandated through FOIL are severely undermined.

Regulations such as the California Consumer Privacy Act and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which strictly prohibits the release of one’s email address, demonstrate that individuals, organizations, and governments are deeply concerned about protection of personally identifiable information, particularly electronic information. At this time, the State of New York lags behind other entities in forward-thinking personal data privacy protections. Mandating release of governmental subscription-based email address lists, which have no public transparency value in the context of FOIL, exhibits a sharp departure from best practices in the data privacy arena.

The State of New York is a global leader. Our data privacy protections should be at the forefront of information technology and security. Not only are we compromising public trust in government, the foundation of democracy, but we are also potentially placing residents and businesses at elevated risk of harm in connection with potential cybercrimes by disclosing their private email addresses and providing an otherwise trusted electronic relationship that may be exploited.

Please develop and introduce legislation to exempt from release under FOIL any personally identifiable information, such as an email address, contained in a governmental listserve used to inform, educate, and engage the public in governmental actions and decision-making. It may also be a worthwhile endeavor to examine New York’s overall approach to data privacy protections for purposes of their appropriate and necessary modernization.

With High Regard,

Mayor Marc Samwick

Mark MunguiaThe 2020 Scarsdale Foundation Bowl Dinner, already rescheduled from April 22 to September 24, is unfortunately now canceled because of health and safety concerns due to COVID-19. Instead, a small private ceremony will be held to honor Scarsdale Bowl recipients BK Munguia and Jonathan Mark. The outstanding couple will be honored again at next year’s Scarsdale Bowl Dinner on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Everyone who has already purchased tickets for the now-canceled 2020 dinner will be contacted with further details by email.

The money raised by the Scarsdale Foundation supports grants for deserving Scarsdale college students in need. The 2020 Scarsdale Foundation Bowl Dinner was planned as a fundraiser for the first time, and as it happens, financial need this year was higher than usual due to economic stresses caused by the pandemic. Funds are very much still needed to support these scholarships. Anyone wishing to give may do so by visiting www.ScarsdaleFoundation.org. The Scarsdale Bowl Committee is grateful for the community’s support of the Scarsdale Foundation.

SCNPSlate3trusteesRandy Whitestone, Lena Crandall and Justin Arest are running for Scarsdale Village Trustee.This letter was written by Justin Arest, Lena Crandall and Randy Whitestone, SCNP Candidates for Vilage Trustee

To the Editor: 
At the root of the word “trustee” is the word “trust.” Village trustees are entrusted with faithfully representing the people they serve, namely, village residents. The three of us were honored to be nominated by the Citizens Nominating Committee for the office of Village Trustee last January. We pledge to never take that trust for granted and to work hard to deserve it. We pledge to be faithful to our duty to fight for what we believe is best for Scarsdale, even if at times we disagree with one another. We pledge to debate each other respectfully in a fact-based manner with the goal of getting things done for you, our neighbors.

We’ve had a record length of time as nominees because the pandemic postponed the March election. However, during these eight months we have demonstrated our dedication to serving you – Lena and Justin, as trustees, patiently grappled with tough fiscal, service, small business, and public health issues, and Randy, as an attendee at every village board meeting and work session, spoke as an engaged and thoughtful observer. Each of us has volunteered our time on a variety of boards and committees over the years, and shown, as others have attested in numerous letters, that we can work well with others, build consensus, and achieve results.

The world has changed since March in an eventful, uncertain and tragic year the likes of which we hope never to see again. But we’re not through this crisis yet, and more hard work is needed in these uncharted waters. We seek your vote for village trustee because we love this community and we believe we offer the kinds of skills, experience, knowledge and temperament to merit your vote.

Each of us was subject to a careful vetting process by 30 elected neighbors from every neighborhood in Scarsdale. We chose to run because we believe strongly in the Scarsdale schools’ motto of non sibi, serving not for ourselves. For us, public service is not about drawing attention, it’s about the dedication of time and hard work necessary to achieve the best outcome.

We are a village filled with smart residents, who represent a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds and who value innovation in service to our beautiful, stable village. This cognitive diversity makes Scarsdale a wonderful place to live and build community. We pledge to listen to all voices and engage in caring, civil discourse and be open to new ideas on what kind of village we together want to be in the future. We will do everything we can to make it comfortable and easy for residents to voice their ideas to ensure a process-driven government of openness and transparency.

We respectfully ask for your vote September 15. But most importantly, we ask you to vote, period, and engage with us on the many important issues facing our village.

Sincerely,

Justin Arest
Lakin Road

Lena Crandall
Fox Meadow Road

Randy Whitestone
Sprague Road

engagementScarsdale High School sweethearts Caroline Simon and Bryan Gertzog, both age 28 and both 2010 graduates of SHS and 2014 graduates of Cornell University, have announced their engagement. They are the children of Linda Wolk Simon and Joe Simon and Lori and Gary Gertzog, who all live in Scarsdale.

The two started dating during senior year of high school when they both were admitted to Cornell and went to the prom together. Check out the 2010 photo of the two with Dean Michael Hiller. They met in Hiller’s Civ Ed section in ninth grade. The two remained a pair at Cornell. After graduation, Simon moved to Washington to work for Deloitte while Gertzog pursued a career in private equity and is now a Vice President at Stripes a growth equity firm based in New York. Simon is now in her second year of the MBA program at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Gertzog popped the question on Gibson Beach in Sagaponack on August 7. When Caroline said yes, the two families celebrated the long awaited engagement with dinner at Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton.

Caroline explained, “While COVID has certainly disrupted normal life in many ways—school, internship, and work all went virtual, and we moved in with our parents—we have gotten to live together for the past several months when we would have otherwise been apart (Caroline in Philly, Bryan in NYC). We’re moving to Philly together in September, which wouldn’t have been possible under normal circumstances.”

Share your news. Send your lifecycle announcements to: scarsdalecomments@gmail.com.

promCaroline and Bryan with Dean Hiller at their high school prom in 2010

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