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boardzoom2(Top) Leah Dembitzer, Bob Klein, Sheila Miller Bernson, (Bottom) Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, Amber YusufOn Sunday night May 31 the three candidates for Scarsdale School Board met for Scarsdale’s first candidates’ forum held on Zoom, as Scarsdale’s first school board and budget vote by mail was in process in Scarsdale. The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale who reported that 150 viewers logged on to watch the live event. The event was recorded and can be viewed here.

The three candidates, Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, Bob Klein and Amber Yusuf are vying for two seats on the school board. Klein and Yusuf were nominated by the School Board Nominating Committee, a non-partisan group of 30 elected nominators who seek out, evaluate and vet candidates. Kirkendall-Rodriguez is running as an independent candidate. The two candidates with the most votes will win the seats of current Board of Education members Chris Morin and Scott Silberfein who will complete six years of service on the Board in June.

After an introduction from League President Leah Dembitzer, the candidates presented their qualifications and answered nine questions posed but the League and audience. In a very congenial event, the candidates appeared to agree on far more than they disagreed. They all support the proposed 2020-21 school budget that is also on the ballot, and all agreed that the current school board did a good job pivoting this spring, when the economic challenges posed by the COVID crisis caused them to revise and reduce the proposed 2020-21 budget.

In opening statements the three showcased their qualifications for the job. Kirkendall-Rodriguez stressed her financial acumen and academic resume, Yusuf highlighted her leadership qualifications and experience as a volunteer in the schools and Klein, a semi-retired architect discussed his ability to analyze and weigh information, and act in a fiscally prudent manner.

Each candidate was given the opportunity to respond to nine questions posed by the League and the public in rotating order. All three candidates demonstrated awareness of the current issues before the Board of Education.

The candidates were asked how they would approach a situation that may soon be faced by the actual board of education. The moderator posed the following scenario, “A sharply divided board and community is considering a bond to build cafeterias at Fox Meadow and Edgewood, to install air conditioning at the schools, and to complete the renovation work on the auditorium,” and asked, “How should the board move forward?”

Calling on his professional experience, Klein said “as an architect that question is clearly within my comfort zone. He said that the board, “needs good consultants to get accurate numbers.” He said he would, “Define the problem, gather data and make a decision… and have a transparent process and gain consensus.” Once they had the relevant facts, he said the board should “weigh priorities and make a decision.”

Kirkendall-Rodriguez related this question to the decision to the one about renovating or building a school at Greenacres and said, “Let’s set up the metrics. Let’s hold a meeting at Village Hall to get all the people in the room…. I don’t think we should be afraid of disagreement…. diversity makes us stronger.” She cautioned, “I would be very careful with consultants. There has to be a framework for vetting consultants to make sure they deliver in a timely and cost-efficient manner.”

Yusuf took another approach. She said, “Why is the board divided? Are they divided on the prioritization of the projects? … Where do the differences lie?” “I would like to get feedback from the stakeholders in the community … We need to have inclusive discussions… and hopefully come to an agreement on what should be the priorities for a bond.”

To a question about improving collaboration between the school and the village boards Yusuf cited recent collaboration between the two boards on the installation of lights at Butler Field. She said, “The High School parking lot often floods and that is owned by the Village. They are sharing the tennis courts at the middle school and the Greenacres playground. Regular communications would be helpful.”

Klein said, “The key here is trust and communication. Attending Village meetings to show an interest is important. Payment of school taxes (in two installments) is an example of a successful collaboration.”

Krikendall-Rodriguez emphasized her involvement. She said, “For six years I have regularly attended Board of Education and Board of Trustee meetings. One suggestion is for both boards to meet more frequently in Village Hall or at the high school so that everyone can attend. I would suggest more shared services…. Freightway is an example where the two board need to work together.… installment billing of taxes will be great for our residents. Traffic is another area for collaboration.”

Responding to a question on building consensus regarding fiscal matters and budgeting Kirkendall-Rodriguez said, “We need to go out to reach the community in different ways… to
get everyone from newcomers to empty nesters. I would go to the train station from 5:30am- 10 am and also sit in front of DeCiccos. We need to get all these views and hear all of these voices. It is easier to build consensus. We need to go to where the people are – we can’t wait for them to come to us.”

Yusuf said, “Building consensus means listening to other viewpoints, being respectful and collaborating. When I was the PT Council President, safety was an issue. I listened to everyone’s viewpoints and respected their views. We need to speak to everyone so that we can come up with the best plan.”

Klein said “One of the core attributes we are looking for in a board member is the ability to build consensus and be part of a team. You do this by being thorough in your listening skills, not having an agenda and being open minded. The key here is for the board to demonstrate sincere interest and a process for data gathering. We want people to understand that we’re being thorough.”

One of the lighter moments in the forum were the answers to the question, “What are 3 adjectives your children would use to describe you and are they right?”

Klein quoted a letter of recommendation his son had written for him that called him “patient and curious,” and said he could “be a lot of fun.” He said, “These are all good attributes and I am open minded as well.”

Kirkendall-Rodriguez said her kids would call her a “great cook” and said she has been very inventive during the crisis. They would also call her “a jaguar mom” as she is “emphatic about how they do their homework.” In addition, she is “linguistic and talkative,” as she speaks to the children in Spanish and has also has them enrolled in Chinese classes. Fourth, she said they would describe her as “loving.”

Yusuf said her kids would call her “organized” as she likes to get things done and does not like procrastinating. She is also “chatty” and engages with people who she meets around town. She is “loving” and said she likes “to help people and to give advice” She added, “It gives me great joy.”

A question was posed about the candidates’ recommendations for developing a long-range facilities plan:

Klein said, “There is already a long-range plan underway. You need to hire the right consultants.
The first step is to know what you’ve got. He quoted Teddy Roosevelt who said, “The first thing is to know how many trees I have …. (he continued) The better your information, the more nimble you are…. as someone who did this for a living, you need a professional to create that timeline and provide information.”

Kirkendall recommended getting more community involvement. She would “talk to the stakeholders who are in the schools.” She recommended setting us a committee, including “empty nesters who can see why the money is being spent.” She said, “Do an inventory of the facilities and the building conditions and marry the facilities plan with a long-term financial plan.” She said, “We need master facilities plan along with financial plan and model.”

Yusuf said, “The District does a building conditions survey every couple of years. I was on the building level committee for Heathcote for the last plan. There was a district level committee that rolled up this information. Get out to the community and explain the projects… and then work on the budget.”

In closing statements the candidates said the following:

Bob Klein
“Here are four facts to know about Bob Klein….

-I offer a new perspective. The board needs to be diverse both professionally, culturally, intellectually… The more views you get the better the outcome is.

-I am an empty nester on a fixed income.

-I am an active volunteer and helped found “Neighbors for Refugees” to help refugees get re-settled in Westchester.

-I am semi-retired and have the time to do this. It is almost a part time job. “

Amber Yusuf
“I hope you can see now why I am so enthusiastic about having the opportunity to serve as trustee on the Board of Education. For the last 10 years my volunteer experience has been around education in the Scarsdale Schools. Most recently as PTC President I had the opportunity to work directly with the district cabinet, the board and Dr. Hagerman. After I finished my years as PTC President, I took a year off to evaluate what I should do next. I discovered that education was my passion and where I wanted to spend my time. I made a thoughtful and deliberate decision to apply to the SBNC to be a candidate for the Board of Education and I am honored to be nominated by the SBNC.”

Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez
My whole life I have been a member of a team. I am one of 15 children…. having to work things out is in my genes. I have worked in over 30 countries in six different languages. I worked and participated in conflict resolution courses at Hebrew University because I am a Raoul Wallenberg Scholar. As an MBA from Wharton, it’s all about working on teams. I worked with lots or different people in Scarsdale whether it’s cleaning up for the cub scouts or generating newsletters at the Old Scarsdale Neighborhood Association. Right now, our children’s challenges know no borders. We are going to have to reimagine what a global education should be in Scarsdale. Our students can be leaders can be leaders in global economic and health initiatives. I believe in teaching our children gratitude because there are millions around the world who couldn’t even imagine, much less have, such a great school system.”

If you missed it, you can watch the recorded candidate forum on the League website (www.lwvs.org) or at this link -

Your ballot must be received by mail by the district office by June 9th.

PublicForumThe annual School Budget Vote and School Board Election is scheduled for June 9th. In the School Board Election, voters will have a choice of candidates. There are three candidates running for two available seats on the School Board. The two highest vote recipients will win seats on the Scarsdale School Board.

The candidates are Robert Klein, Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez and Amber Yusuf. Since this is a contested School Board election, the Scarsdale League of Women Voters is hosting a virtual candidate forum taking place this Sunday May 31st at 8:00 PM on Zoom. Please register here to view the candidate forum live. The candidate forum will then be available to view on the League’s website at LWVS.org .

The forum will consist of questions prepared by League Board members and questions submitted by members of the community. We encourage community members to submit any questions here

All questions must be received by 12:00 PM on Saturday, May 30th for review by a panel of League Board members. A representative set of questions will be presented to the candidates at the forum.

The upcoming School Budget and School Board Vote will be administered by mail with NO IN-PERSON VOTING due to the pandemic. All qualified voters are entitled to receive an Absentee Ballot . Absentee Ballots will be mailed on May 28th and should arrive within a few days of the mailing date. If your absentee ballot is not received by June 1st, please contact Scarsdale District Clerk, Honore Adams at hadams@scarsdaleschools.org. Since the post office needs ample time to deliver ballots, voters should complete and return their ballots immediately in the enclosed postage paid envelope.

All ballots must be received BY MAIL to Scarsdale Schools’ Office of the District Clerk by 5:00 PM on June 9th. Due to the pandemic and need for social distancing, there will be no in-person drop off of the ballots; they all must be submitted by mail and RECEIVED by June 9th, regardless of the postmark.

If you are not currently a registered voter, you may register to vote in the School Budget and School Board election through the Scarsdale Schools’ Office of the District Clerk by June 2nd. Voter registration and absentee ballot information, can be found here

In addition, if you have any questions regarding voting, please contact the League of Women Voters, voter service at: LWVSVoterService@gmail.com

Stay safe and remember to vote!

Alissa Baum
Ronny Hersch
Beatrice Sevcik
Voter Service Co-Chairs
League of Women Voters of Scarsdale

StephanieNewmanEdgemont’s Stephanie Newman is a woman of many talents: By day she’s an active clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst with over 15 years’ experience providing insight-oriented talk therapy for those with anxiety, depression, relationship and health difficulties.

Also a mother of two children, she somehow finds time to be a prolific writer. She is a co-editor of Money Talks and a regular contributor to the online edition of Psychology Today. We reviewed her first book, Mad Men on the Couch, which was named to Publisher's Weekly's Top Ten books in Performing Arts.

Now she has written her first novel on a topic that hits close to home; parenting. Her new novel is titled Barbarians at the PTA and takes place in an idyllic Westchester, NY, suburb known for its manicured lawns and excellent schools. The book is described as “Desperate Housewives meets Mean Girls in a heartfelt and hilarious novel about a mother-daughter duo facing cliques, cyberbullying, and snobs.”

We wanted to learn more about Newman, her practice, her writing and her new book, and here is what she shared:

How do you deal with friends or family members who are concerned that you may reveal their stories in your writing?

Barbarians at the PTA follows a Westchester mother daughter duo who navigate cliques, cyber bullies, and social media pressures while facing off against a group of over- involved moms. Think beach read about parenting as a contact sport.

In my “day job” I am a clinical psychologist, and very interested in maternal identity and how it evolves over the life of the mother and child. If the book offers one main take-away, it’s this: allowing kids to be independent is tough for all of us, but particularly difficult for moms whose primary source of identity is derived through mothering. And the situation becomes harder and increasingly fraught as their kids grow up and need less.

I have empathy for moms who wind up losing aspects of themselves as they struggle to parent. I encourage people to develop something of their own, a passion, whether it’s a job outside the home, a volunteer position that feels meaningful, or a creative outlet that sustains them. I adore my family but have been privileged to have a practice I enjoy, while being able to write.

How do you balance your career as a psychologist with your writing?Barbarians

Having a practice makes it possible for me to find time to write. My days are structured because I have standing therapy appointments—people see me at the same times each week—and schedule myself around patient hours. When I am not in session I have blocks of time for writing and editing.

From your bio, it is evident that you have many talents. Explain what you do for Money Talks.

Thank you for those kind words! Some mornings I don’t feel as though I’m very productive, especially now, navigating life during a pandemic. These days I count my blessings if I’ve managed to pull a brush through my hair! But to answer your question, Money Talks was a book I co-edited with Brenda Berger, a friend, colleague, and former psychotherapy supervisor of mine. We asked psychoanalysts to talk about the incursion of finances into the minds of therapists practicing in recessionary times. Before the book no one had talked about how psychotherapists experience money matters.

Do you have children of your own? How much of the book is autobiographical?

I am a parent of two beautiful kids (doesn’t that sound like something a game show guest would say?) and an Edgemont resident but Barbarians at the PTA is fiction.

Why were you inspired to write a novel?

I wrote the book to get a conversation going about relentless over-parenting. Whenever I talked to friends, regardless of where in the US they lived, to colleagues, or trainees in my field, I heard over and over the same themes, pains, and struggles. It got me thinking: wouldn’t it be fun to tell a story about how involved some people get, what impact it has on the kids. Maybe I could even help someone navigate the mommy minefields!

Did you pursue any formal training in fiction writing - or do you work with a group of writers?

I took classes at the Writers Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, where the instruction was excellent. I was also part of a writing group that met for a couple of years. During that time we shared excerpts and critiqued each other’s work. That experience was invaluable.

What messages are you hoping to convey to parents though your book?

Over the years I’ve had moments in practice and teaching or in daily life where I‘ve heard about or witnessed conflict around mothers and parenting and thought, “Wow, I can’t believe someone would behave that way towards another person’s child.”

But as I wrote and rewrote this novel, I realized the most engaging way to tell the story was to invent scenarios in which the characters were willing to go to the ridiculous extremes possible to advance the interests of their children. That’s what I did. It might sell a lot of books if I implied this was salacious gossip or an expose. But the characters and events in the novel are the product of my imagination. As it says inside the cover, “this book is a work of fiction. Names characters places and incidents are either the product of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales, or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidence!!”

Where will the book be available when it is published - how can our readers get a copy?

The book is out June 2. People can purchase it online now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Indiebound.

votebymailScarsdale voters will be forced to act quickly if they want their votes for the school budget and school board candidates to be counted. This year, by Governor’s orders, voting is by mail. All ballots must be received by the district by June 9 to be counted.

However, due to the condensed timeline, the ballot packages will not be mailed until May 28. If they take 2-5 days to arrive in residents’ mailboxes, voters should receive their absentee ballots no later than June 3 (not counting Sunday) and will then need to mail them back immediately to meet the June 9 cut off. This only allows 5 business days for the ballots to be received by the district to be counted in the election.

Given the COVID crisis, if mail delivery is not speedy, many will miss this deadline.

We asked Scarsdale School Superintendent Thomas Hagerman for the timeline and this is what he explained.

An introductory postcard about the budget process will be mailed on May 21.

The district’s newsletter, “Insight”, containing detailed budget information will be mailed on May 27.

The absentee ballot packages will be mailed on May 28.

And the “six day” Property Tax Report Card postcard with the budget numbers will be mailed on 6/1.

Dr. Hagerman explained, “It is important to note that these are the days they will leave the publication house to be dropped off at the White Plains Post Office for processing. From there, they will be sent to the Scarsdale Post Office for distribution. We estimate that it will take another day or two to arrive in Scarsdale residents' mailboxes.”

The ballots will automatically be sent to all registered voters. However, qualified voters who are not registered can download an application for an absentee ballot on the district’s website here: www.scarsdaleschools.org/voterinfo. A qualified voter is defined as follows: “Voters are qualified if they are: a citizen of the United States, at least 18 years old by June 9, 2020, a resident of the Scarsdale School District for at least thirty days prior to June 9th and, not otherwise ineligible to vote.”

Voters will be asked to approve a $162,696,316 school budget for the 2020-21 school year, which represents a 1.5% increase for Scarsdale residents and a 2.31% increase for those in the Mamaroneck strip.

Voters will also elect two members of the school board, to fill the vacancies of current board members Scott Silberfein and Chris Morin who will complete their service on the board in June. Two candidates were vetted and nominated by the School Board Nominating Committee, who selected Robert Klein and Amber Yusuf. Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez is running as an independent candidate. An online candidates’ forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale, will be held on Sunday May 31 at 8 pm. Learn more here

Traditionally, if the school budget does not pass in the first round of voting, the Board of Education can present a revised budget to the community and hold a second vote. However this year, due to the delay in voting, this will not be possible.

The League of Women Voters of Scarsdale alerted the community to this issue, saying, “The new timeline does not allow sufficient time to revise the Budget and hold a second Budget vote. In the event the Budget is rejected by voters, the Board most likely would be forced, under State law, to adopt a contingency budget which requires a reduction in the tax levy and a steep reduction in permitted expenditures. The Board estimates that a contingency budget would require an additional $2.5 million in cuts and significantly alter many aspects of the conduct of school, including the reduction in staffing and the reduction of athletic and extracurricular activities.”

So watch for your ballot in the mail. When you do receive it, complete it and mail it back ASAP to be counted in the 2020 School Budget and Board election.

FoodDonationNow more than ever is a good time to be a good neighbor. Lending a friend a cake pan or sending over a plate of cookies takes on new significance when we rely on the generosity and kindness of our communities to get through these isolating times. What’s more, these acts of caring need not be limited to Scarsdale. Especially considering that we live directly adjacent to a borough of the hardest hit city in the country, it is a good time to think of our neighbors.

Two groups are asking you to help others in need of food.

Project Bravo

One issue this community faces even without a global pandemic thrown into the mix is food insecurity. The Bronx is a food desert, which is to say that most people lack reliable access to an adequate supply of food and, in turn, are more likely to be food insecure. Last year, Hunger Free America, a New York-based non-profit, published a report that found that nearly one in four Bronx residents—that’s 350,000 people—lived in food insecure households, the highest rate of any borough. Considering this situation at baseline, it is unsurprising that the onset of COVID-19 has overwhelmed many food banks and pantries in the Bronx.

These circumstances present an opportunity for us in Scarsdale to address this issue by sharing what we have with our Bronx neighbors. Scarsdale resident and Director of Corporate and Community Engagement in the Office of Development of the Montefiore Health System and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Sheryl Spivack-Braun is an exemplary link between our two communities, specifically with respect to food insecurity. During the pandemic, she has pivoted to take charge of filing in-kind donations of food, PPE, and other goods and then directing them where the need is greatest.

Specifically, she has been working with Montefiore’s Project BRAVO food pantry to provide packaged meals for community families who are experiencing food insecurity, particularly those of frontline healthcare staff. Additionally, Project BRAVO is partnering with Montefiore’s Healthy Steps program to distribute baby supplies to young families in need. The food pantry now serves roughly 450 families.

At this point, you might be asking how you can help. Even if you have a couple extra boxes of pasta sitting in your pantry or a couple extra dollars to spare on cans of baby food the next time you place an Instacart order, actually delivering those goods to the Bronx poses its own set of challenges. That’s where Charlie Musoff comes in.

Working together with Sheryl, he is coordinating regular donations to Project BRAVO from the larger Scarsdale community. On his first trip, he delivered over 100 pounds of food from only a handful of donors, namely Westchester Reform Temple’s Early Childhood Center. ECC teacher Anne Chapro Daniel met him outside the temple with all the snacks the nursery school no longer needed, and the next day, he dropped them off at Project BRAVO, simple as that. For individual families, the Musoffs have been accepting donations at their home in Scarsdale.

You can contact Charlie at charles.musoff@yale.edu for more information about how to donate. Or, if you’d rather make a philanthropic donation, consider contributing to Montefiore's or Einstein's Critical Response Care Fund. Please work together to ensure that our neighbors in the Bronx can put food on the table.

Heart for Philanthropy

HaffnerCyrus Toosi, Rowan Haffner, and Luca Dowda

SHS Sophomores Rowan Haffner, Luca Dowdall, and Cyrus Toosi have launched Heart for Philanthropy to help others during this difficult time. The mission of Heart for Philanthropy is to identify local organizations in need and connect them with Scarsdale (and Westchester County) neighbors to who want to donate/give back. As so many in Scarsdale want to help, the teens decided to help them, help others. Friends since elementary school, the three boys have always shared a passion for volunteering.

Although this is a very difficult time for everyone, hungry and homeless neighbors in our community are the ones struggling most. To start, they are working with three organizations: Grace Church, Open Arms Men's Shelter, and George Washington Elementary School. They will accept donations at the location designated on our website: www.heartforphilanthrophy.com to make it easy for everyone. More information about Heart for Philanthropy and how to make donations can be found on their website.

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