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My View: Vote for Dugan and Resnick-Ault on Tuesday

YESThis is the opinion of Scarsdale10583 site founder Joanne Wallenstein:

Like many of you, I have been carefully considering who to vote for in the election for Scarsdale School Board on Tuesday May 18. However, unlike most of you, as editor of Scarsdale10583, I watched all of this year’s lengthy Board of Education meetings in their entirety. I came away with some general impressions that are top of mind as I weigh my options.

First, I was struck by the high degree of community involvement and passion. With many children experiencing remote learning and our school buildings closed, it was indeed a crisis and our educated and informed parents had insights to share.

But rather than welcome community involvement, my general impression was that the comments and emails to the Board were viewed as an annoyance. The Board strove to limit speaking time, offered pat responses to emails and refused to invite residents with relevant professional experience to participate in the restart process. What a shame! By inviting community participation, the Board could have built consensus and won the confidence of distressed parents.

Second, I was appalled to watch members of the Board of Education silence one of their own who wanted to make a statement. He was accused of “playing to the crowd and grandstanding.” The Board President barred him from speaking based on a decision about board protocol made in a closed meeting. Take a look at what happened here, beginning at 12:49 minutes into the board meeting  October 5, 2020 meeting:

Sadly – in my experience – this was not the first time the Board of Education has reacted this way. A few years ago the administration and the board used similar tactics to squash input on the Greenacres Elementary School. When the building committee on which I served posed too many questions, the administration disbanded the committee. Unable to obtain historical records I filed a FOIL request to learn more about the state of the original building. I waited months for a response, and in the end, received reports that were so redacted that they were impossible to read. When I asked teachers questions about the mold that had plagued the building, I got a phone call from the head of the teachers union telling me not to speak to the faculty. It only served to raise my suspicions that something was being covered up.

Consequently, it was no surprise to me when high levels of lead and Legionella bacteria were detected in the district’s water supply this year, requiring the use of temporary lead filters on many district water sources. The district spent millions on repairs and built five cafeterias that the community had not requested. Yet funds were not available to replace lead pipes, address the dirt foundation underlying the Greenacres School or expand classrooms sized well below current standards.

Was I thanked by the community for attempting to get to the bottom of these environmental and structural issues? No, to the contrary, many in the community vilified me. I was attacked on social media and grew fearful of my neighbors. Since that time I have been reluctant to take a stand on community issues and elections.

However, this year we received many eloquent letters on the upcoming election that ultimately convinced me how to vote and have given me the courage to speak out. After considerable deliberation, I have decided to back the two candidates nominated by the School Board Nominating Committee. In the end, I think it’s important to remember that these candidates were selected by 30 community members who were democratically elected by you the voters. They are your representatives.

When considering the candidates, the committee put them through a process similar to a rigorous job search, speaking to their references, looking at their past experiences and interviewing the candidates themselves.

The SBNC represents the will of the community at large. In deliberating, they consider the current composition of the Board and what members with particular professional backgrounds and skills may be needed at this point in time. After lengthy discussions they selected Jim Dugan and Jessica Resnick Ault as the best people to serve the entire community.

Many of your letters to the site informed my thinking that a seasoned journalist and an experienced litigator would increase transparency and accountability.

Here are excerpts from just a few of the letters that we posted:

Jon LemleJLemle

I hope the community will join me in voting for Jessica Ault-Resnick and Jim Dugan for the Board of Education. Embedded in everything the board undertakes is the responsibility of governance/oversight/accountability. Jessica’s professional training as an investigative reporter and Jim’s as a litigator provide them the foundation to excel in this role. They are both committed to greater transparency and collaboration with the community. They both have children currently in the school system, including the elementary level, which has been underrepresented on the board.

Felicia Block

To those that have sat in the room before me, thank you. To those that sat in that room with me, I am forever grateful for the time we shared and am honored to know you. And to those that sat in a virtual room this year, you had a difficult task and I appreciate you.

Felicia BlockIf you have not yet served on the SBNC, you may be surprised to see the amount of time I am giving to lift up the members of the SBNC. The reason is simple. I support the candidates that they have brought forward this year, because I know the time and care that was taken to select Jessica Resnick-Ault and Jim Dugan for election to the Scarsdale Board of Education by the SBNC.

Michelle Sterling

In times of challenge, we see the mettle of our leaders – hardship shines a light on them. Our elected SBNC members have nominated Jessica and Jim, two outstanding candidates who will make their voices heard in support of the best education for our children, and who have a clear understanding that they are our elected representatives. I urge you to vote for Jim and Jessica on May 18 for our Board of Education.

Jeremy Gans

An effective Board does not silence its own members when those members attempt to discuss issues brought to them by the JeremyGanscommunity. The current Board did this on multiple occasions. An effective Board asks questions of its superintendent and the administration. And, most importantly, an effective Board finds ways to get to “yes.” An effective Board would have prioritized safety but also would have done what it needed to do to increase the amount of in-person school this year. Our peer districts found a way. We did not, due to a lack of leadership by Ms. Singer and others, at the Board level ….. Scarsdale parents, students and taxpayers deserve a School Board that listens to the community and serves all stakeholders to ensure our district is providing the best holistic educational experience possible. Jessica Resnick-Ault and Jim Dugan are the only two candidates in this race with the dedication, experience and skills to do so. Please vote for Jim and Jessica on Tuesday, May 18.

Diane Greenwald

Diane2In this year derailed by a global pandemic, some might wonder if the SBNC’s disregard for previous school board ‘experience’ is an overreaction to a contentious year. The pandemic is certainly not the fault of our schools and Alison Singer, now challenging to get her seat back, is claiming her board experience is critical.

Having served on the SBNC in the past, I imagine the committee deliberated carefully about all of the candidates. The decision seems neither a careless mistake nor is it simply reactionary to the Covid-crisis. SBNC should not ‘rubber stamp’ any candidate – and they didn’t. Instead, after weighing values, records, character, and skills, the SBNC offers two balanced and energetic nominees, Jim and Jessica.

The election will be held Tuesday May 18 from 7am to 9 pm at Scarsdale Congregational Church, 1 Heathcote Road, Scarsdale. Exercise your right to vote.

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