School Board Issues Request for Proposal for Firm to Conduct Search for New Superintendent
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
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Superintendent Thomas Hagerman announed his resignation in January, the School Board named Andrew Patrick as Interim Superintendent and now the search for the next superintendent of the Scarsdale School’s is officially on. Last week, the Scarsdale Board of Education posted a request for proposals (RFP) for a firm to conduct the search, with the goal of hiring a new superintendent effective July 2023. The district has created a new link for the Superintendent Search on the Board of Education website where you can find the RFP.
Under the terms of the contract, the firm will conduct the search but will also:
-Act as advisors to the Board to “Develop a search plan and timeline in consultation with the Board; support the Board throughout the interview and selection process, including the structure and role of potential advisory committees; ensure compliance with applicable legal requirements; and develop and implement a plan for a national search.”
-Conduct community engagement: “Work collaboratively with the Board to create a plan for extensive engagement with Board members, faculty, staff, parents, students, other school community members and groups, as well as members and groups from the broader community as appropriate.”
-Define qualifications and criteria for applicants.
-Identity, screen and propose candidates and assist with scheduling interviews and evaluations.
-Assist the board with contract negotiations for the selected candidate.
Firms are asked to submit their proposals with fee estimates by May 20, 2022 and the board will make their selection by June 15, 2022.
The past few weeks have been very busy for Scarsdale School Board members. After the revelation about troubles with IRS and a tax lien on March 25, the board has been working on an investigation of what happened and considering an audit of accounting processes. At the same time, they were involved in succession planning for the top job in the administration and this is the first step in identifying the district's next permanent superintendent.
Board Considers Contract with Internal Auditors to Analyze Payroll Withholding Process
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 1268
In their effort to unpack the process that resulted in the Scarsdale School District’s trouble with the IRS, the Board of Education met with accountants Don Hoffmann and Richard Coffey from Cullen & Danowski, LLP to review their proposed agreement to conduct an audit of the district’s recording and payment of payroll withholdings.
The firm submitted a proposal to do the audit for the period January 1, 2020 to April 30, 2022, and the proposal can be viewed on the district website here:
The auditors will take a look at the district’s internal process and controls for payroll tax processing by interviewing district staff to determine how things are usually done and then test this process for all payrolls processed since January 2020. They will audit the aggregate amounts withheld and remitted to third parties by looking at the recorded amounts in the general ledger and the amounts paid per bank statements. Some of the third parties who receive the withheld funds are retirement funds, health insurers, social security as well as the state and federal revenue services. According to the accountants, the errors made in Scarsdale were identified in a bank reconciliation.
As part of the audit the firm will document the existing process and “identify opportunities for improvement,” and will “discuss findings with the District administration and develop recommendations to further improve the procedures related to the recording and payment of payroll withholdings.”
The proposed fee ranged from $7,000 to $12,000 and they would begin the work in May with the goal of completing it by June 30, 2022.
In a discussion with the board, the auditors explained that there are about a dozen internal areas to audit, and they usually pick one per year. The last time an audit of payroll processing was done was 2014.
Board member Jessica Resnick-Ault asked if the audit would include a review of remittances to the IRS and she was told this was not included. The board subsequently decided they would like to add a review of IRS remittances to the audit and also require the firm to provide check-ins during the two month process. Board member Ron Schulhof asked the firm to provide a copy of a similar report they have done for another district and they agreed to do so.
At the end of the discussion, the Board said they would discuss the agreement and decide no later than their next meeting on May 9 if they would move ahead. Board Vice President Amber Yusuf said this would allow time for the board to consider anything else they want to add to the agreement and to also receive comment from the community.
Discussing the matter during public comments, Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez said, “It’s been one month since the board said they found out about the payroll problem. Not one of my questions has been answered. It has taken three weeks to hire an investigator and also three weeks to hire your own internal auditors to review this. They are not independent because they have already worked with the administration.”
“What are the payables and receivables and where are the documents to support the hope that the money will come back? Where are the records from your auditors? How will the penalties affect how this district can educate our kids? You are asking us to accept this school budget on faith. Frankly there is less mystery in the holy trinity than there is in this district. It is very troubling that Brock’s contract (the investigator) is so redacted that we have to guess what it is about. I will continue to ask – who, what, why and where.”
Bob Berg attempted to speak remotely from an airport in Doha, Qatar. Before he was cut off he said, “I want to argue against hiring Cullen and Danowski to do the audit since they missed the boat during the relevant period. Why would you hire the firm to do an investigation since they were responsible for looking out……”
see it here. Board President Karen Ceske also announced that a new section titled “IRS Matter” has been added to the home page of the district website. You can
Posted in this new section is the agreement with attorney Anthony J. Brock to conduct an investigation of the IRS filings and tax lien and to determine “why the Board of Education was not informed of this information until March 2022.”
A second item on the contract for the investigation was redacted from the posted copy of the agreement.
All services will be billed at the hourly rate of $205 per hour.
A Passover Prayer Inspired by Ukrainian Refugees from Rabbi Jonathan Blake
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
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Each year, Rabbi Jonathan Blake fro Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, composes a special prayer that you are invited to share at your Passover Seder. Upon returning from Poland, Rabbi Blake composed this year’s reading with Ukrainian refugees in mind, as they will be in all our hearts at this Pesach season. We dedicate a symbolic seat at our Seder table to them.
A Prayer for Pesach 5782 / 2022
The Passover story begins like this:
“My parents were wandering Arameans.”
Countless times in our history we have been refugees:
Fleeing tyranny in terror and degradation,
Hoping against hope for something better somewhere else,
Taking only what we could carry on our backs,
With aging parents, frightened children,
And memories of what used to be our homes.
Refugees from Egypt, coalescing as a people at the shore of the raging sea;
Refugees from Canaan, by famine and siege and violent conquest,
Refugees from Jerusalem, ransacked by the Romans;
Refugees, time and again, at the decree of Popes and Kings.
Boarding rickety boats from Iberia to bypass the Inquisitor,
Seeking safe passage to some Sultanate or Caribbean isle,
Tempest-tossed to these American shores,
Or bound for the place we never stopped calling home, Eretz Yisrael,
Embers plucked from the flames of the Shoah,
Strangers in strange lands.
We know the heart of the stranger.
And when we see mothers and their children, red-eyed from lack of sleep, on a train that departed Ukraine just last night,
We recognize something of ourselves, our story, our spirit.
Our ancestors were forced to wander, and by some wondrous combination of courage and circumstance, of other people willing to help and their own faith, against all odds, in God’s Providence, they arrived in a place called home.
May God give us the strength and determination to do for others what was done for them, and for us.
SBNC Slate to Run Unopposed for Scarsdale School Board
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 2118
The wait is over. Monday April 18 was the deadline for candidates for Scarsdale School Board to file their petitions to run in the election on May 17, 2022. This year there are three available seats on the board – and the Scarsdale School Board Nominating Committee has nominated three candidates to fill those seats.
Since no additional candidates filed petitions by the deadline, these three will run unopposed.
The candidates are Ron Schulhof, who is running for a second three year term along with Colleen Brown and Suzie Hahn Pascutti, who are running for their first terms. All three live in Quaker Ridge. Find information about the candidates here:
The election will also give voters the opportunity to vote on the proposed 2022-23 school budget.
The election will take place on Tuesday May 17, 2022 at the Scarsdale Middle School from 7 am to 9 pm. Find voter information here:
Landscaper Asks Village to Reconsider Ban on Gas Leafblowers
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 1869
(This letter was submitted by Patsy and Mike Siconolfi of Siconolfi Landscaping)
Letter to the Editor:
My family has provided lawn care service in Scarsdale since the mid 1980’s. We have always maintained a good reputation of providing great service for a fair price. I am not only one of the owners of the lawn care company but am also a worker who works alongside his men getting the job done.
I am writing in regards to the recent ban on gas operated blowers, and in the hopes that there is a way we can somehow achieve this without causing financial hardship to the lawn care providers and our employees.
Our clients have an expectation that their yards will be pristine despite this ban. We have been researching replacement equipment, and what we have discovered is that the technology for electric lawn power equipment is not there yet. The electric/battery operated blowers have half the power of a gas operated blower so the amount of time it will take to clean the properties will take 2 to 4 times or even more depending on property size. More running time equals more noise and more costs than a gas powered blower, and we don’t have the ability to double or quintuple the rates that we charge without getting ourselves fired. Labor prices are at their highest right now and workers are scarce. These electric blowers are not viable for us.
In order for us to do our job properly, I will need 16 batteries a day to run one blower with half of the power of a gas blower and will need a gas powered generator to keep charging these batteries throughout the day and that’s only for one blower. Are you aware that the new gas powered blowers are more efficient than the old ones? In addition these electric/battery blowers aren’t available due to shortages. The dealers don’t have them and if we can get our hands on one they are incredibly expensive. Is Scarsdale going to help us out financially so we can afford to keep doing our jobs for your town? I am wondering if the good folks from town hall have thought to discuss this with those working in the industry because it feels to us like you have put “the cart before the horse”. We are not against going green, but we don’t want to do so at the cost of putting ourselves out of business.
For commercial applications, battery power has yet to compete when it comes to blowing power. When it comes to maintenance, there are no local dealers to repair the machines, or sell replacement parts. We are looking for a viable way to replace our gas blowers with a machine that provides equal power and at a cost that is affordable, and this simply does not exist.
Let’s make it right, look at the whole picture first, and find a solution that works for all of us. This will affect property owners in Scarsdale as well as all the people that work in Scarsdale to keep it clean and safe like Landscapers, Lawn Care Companies, Arborist, Masons, etc. Perhaps there is a way to limit the hours that we use these necessary tools from March thru May and again September thru Mid-December.
Additionally, we have heard that Landscaper/ Lawn Care companies can’t use gas powered blowers but Village employees, golf clubs, and village owned pools, etc are allowed to use them, which seems unfair. I am concerned that this ban will destroy your loyal hard working laborers, and we are very concerned for the future of our business and our employees.
Please make laws fair for everyone. We are all Americans trying to make an honest living. We need to work together to keep your community clean and the electric/battery operated equipment is not the answer at this time because the cost is too high and the technology is not quite there yet. Please help us all to find a realistic solution.
Patsy and Mike Siconolfi
PO Box 887
Harrison, NY 10528