Monday, Jul 04th

AlisonSingerAlison Singer, the current Vice President of the Scarsdale Board of Education, is completing three years of service in June, 2020. She is running as an independent candidate for a second term. Below find responses to our questions about her experience, the Board's management of the COVID crisis and why she would like to serve another term.

Why are you running for the Board of Education? How do you complement the Board and its work?

The Board is deliberately composed of people with distinct knowledge and capabilities. My experience on the board has focused on enhancing student mental health, wellness and academic achievement, supporting our outstanding faculty, developing new policies (including those for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and student and faculty harassment and bullying prevention) and ensuring that our special education families have a strong voice. Over the past three years I have developed trusted relationships with our administration and faculty, have gained tremendous knowledge about school budgeting, teacher union negotiations and facilities planning, and have worked hard to ensure the physical and emotional safety of our students and faculty. These are essential skills for the Board and district as we continue to implement our new Strategic Plan, work on new DEI initiatives, and engage in long-term financial and capital improvement planning.

On a more personal note, the experiences my two daughters had in Scarsdale schools were hugely influential in my decision to run three years ago and are again now. My oldest daughter Jodie was diagnosed with autism when she was two and so we experienced just about all the special education programs in the district. My younger daughter Lauren graduated in 2017 and benefited from all the district has to offer, from AT classes to debate team to the High School's incredible Science Research program, and, thanks to her outstanding high school preparation, in May she will graduate from Yale. Every student’s and every family’s experience is unique, but I believe that having experienced Scarsdale from these two very different vantage points gives me a particularly valuable view of our school programs. To me, Scarsdale is about personalized learning; it’s about creating programs that serve all our students from those who experience academic difficulties and have special needs to those who are high achievers. I want to continue to serve on the Board to ensure that all students in Scarsdale have access to a superior education that will enable them to thrive and become engaged and active citizens, as I believe both my children have.

In addition, I believe the combination of the skills and experience I have gained as School Board Vice President, in my professional work, as a member of several boards, and as a community volunteer make me particularly well-suited to serving for a second term on the Board of Education. There is a steep and long learning curve to board work, and my experience has enabled me to mentor new board members. This system of mentorship is critical to the success and long-term strength of the governing team. Veterans are needed to provide institutional memory, answer questions, and provide guidance. Professionally, I am the founder and president of the Autism Science Foundation, a global nonprofit that provides support for autism research and for families raising children with special needs. In addition to my service on the Board of Education, I also serve and have served on many policymaking boards, including the federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, to which I was appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, as well as on local disabilities boards, including the Westchester Autism Advisory Council and the New York State Immunization Advisory Council. My past jobs have included serving as the first CEO of Autism Speaks, and as Vice President at NBC Cable and Business Development. I have had a lot of experience creating budgets for large and small companies, for nonprofits and for-profits, in good times and in lean years. As a news producer at NBC, I learned about the importance of communication and of keeping people informed about what is going on in their community. At NBC I was also involved in collective bargaining sessions with multiple unions. I have an undergraduate degree in economics from Yale and an MBA from Harvard Business School and am very comfortable with financial statements, budgets, performance review paradigms, and working with consultants, auditors, and attorneys. Last May, I received an honorary doctorate degree from Emory University for my work in children’s mental health.

What did you enjoy about the last three years and what do you hope to accomplish in the next three years?

I’m not sure anyone actually “enjoyed” the last year. We all lost control over our own lives and our children’s lives because of Covid-19. As the mother of a special needs child, I understand first-hand how scary it can be to feel like some committee or some administrator could make a decision that you think will negatively affect your child. I try to always remind myself that this fear, which often ends up being expressed as anger, is really coming from a place of love--love for our children, and fear that someone or some group is empowered to make decisions that could hurt them. I live with this every day, and I understand the community’s frustration with all the events of the past year.

The Board's and administration’s challenge this year was to try to take the strong emotions off the table and focus on the facts and on what was best for the FULL community, including all the very diverse and divergent parent perspectives, while also incorporating teacher viewpoints, student voices, baffling New York State Dept of Education regulations, and Westchester County and New York State Health department regulations. Our goal was to have as much in person school as could be done so safely. The availability of vaccines was a game changer and as a Board, together with other NY school boards, we successfully lobbied for teachers to be included in vaccination phase 1b in New York and at this point most of our teachers have had at least one and in many cases both vaccine doses. This enabled us to add more in person learning in March and April. The Board also lobbied for needed changes in density guidance to match the science which now has been handed down by the CDC and New York State.

As we carefully emerge from the Covid pandemic, our students will need help reacclimating to school and re-engaging with the world. Students are struggling with the emotional and physical toll of the pandemic. It is critical that we have enough resources in place to serve any students struggling with mental health issues. We must also be ready to support the innovation that emerged during the pandemic including, for example, the growing awareness of the value of small group learning. We must work with our faculty to develop and enhance these advances.

Restart work may have dominated our meetings and the social media headlines, but the Board also has other responsibilities. Scarsdale is not a typical school district. The relationships and partnerships we have built with teachers and with the community were forged over decades by people who hold education as a core value and the Board’s work of upholding the tenets of a Scarsdale education must and will continue. Strategic planning, academic improvements, K-12 consistency in programs and services, high school innovation/entrepreneurship, technology, STEM, multiculturalism, student voice; these are just some of the many important threads that create the amazing Scarsdale school tapestry.

Finally, I’m very proud of the work we’ve done this year to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in our schools. Our new DEI policy (#0105) reflects the Board’s commitment to maintaining a positive and inclusive learning environment for all students, especially those currently and historically marginalized. As a Board, we are committed to ensuring that all students feel safe, included, welcomed and accepted, and experience a sense of belonging and academic success.

The district now includes 1,000 students who are identified as having disabilities. As an advocate for students with special needs, please comment on the growth in the special education budget over the last ten years. Do you think this growth is sustainable?

As a national advocate for children with special needs, I travel all over the country (well, before Covid I did) visiting school districts, learning about and evaluating their special needs programs. There is no district in this country that cares more about its students with special learning needs than Scarsdale. Of course our system isn’t perfect, but our faculty and administrators are implementing the latest evidence-based teaching techniques in our special education classrooms and are differentiating instruction for both classified and non-classified students.

One practice I have strongly supported in Scarsdale is the decision to bring our students who were in out-of-district placements back into Scarsdale. I began advocating for this change when I was chair of Scarsdale CHILD and continued to do so as a member of the Board of Education. It has been accomplished by creating and then expanding our 8-1-2 and integrated co-teaching classes, and by adding sections as these students age up. This strategy is favored by parents and also saves the district money by eliminating expensive tuitions for out-of- district placements. All our Scarsdale children deserve to be educated here in Scarsdale, and all of our students benefit from this experience.

The increase in the number of Scarsdale students classified as having special needs puts us more in line with national averages than in past years. Also, the special education and counseling departments provide academic and other support services to non-classified students as well. As we emerge from the Covid pandemic, we will need to keep a close eye out for students who may now need additional academic and emotional support. It is more important than ever to have enough resources in place to serve these students and their families.

Given the district’s experience with the pandemic this year, do you think that the community’s expectations for the role of the Board of Education has changed?

One of the strengths of our community is the commitment to volunteerism and engagement among our residents. Throughout the past year, the Board has heard many diverse points of view. At one extreme, people thought Covid was overblown and didn’t affect children, and they wanted schools open immediately. At the other end of the spectrum, we heard from residents who felt our decisions to return to in-person learning were too hasty, even reckless, because so little was known about the virus and its many variants. Even today, we are being told by some that there are only two months left and we should wait until students are able to be vaccinated. While those were polar opposite positions, the vast majority of our feedback was somewhere in between. If people say the Board failed in its responsibility to represent community views, then I would say that there was not a clear or consistent community view but rather an incredibly broad and diverse range of views. And equally important, the Board, by necessity, made its decisions based on state requirements, data, and science, while still taking our community’s input into consideration.

Of course, there are many things we could have done better. Hopefully, we will never have to face a situation like this again, but if we do, there are things I would suggest we do differently, particularly in the area of communications. I believe that the Board needs to communicate more frequently with residents and have a greater social media presence, particularly. Crisis management means bending or breaking established rules and protocols, which the Board was reluctant to do. Also, the goal of including many voices in the decision-making meant we had many layers of subcommittees and in some ways that slowed us down, but we wanted to make sure those voices were heard and included, particularly our faculty and staff, who had to implement the educational program.

I think the community's expectation of the Board absolutely changed this year, particularly for people who haven't really followed Board work too much in the past. It was clear in the midst of this crisis that some people wanted the Board to step into a managerial role and make day-to-day decisions. It is important to remember, though, that school boards, like other public bodies, must comply with many laws and regulations, and school boards only have authority in oversight, policymaking, and governance.

This past year it appeared that the Restart Committee made key decisions about remote/in-person learning and school scheduling. Did the Board of Education have oversight of this committee and its decisions?

The Journey Forward process was an effort that tried to include as much community participation as possible while still enabling flexible and rapid decision making. Those interests are usually at odds. The administration established a system of ten subcommittees, based on building-level and cross-cutting themes, which were populated by faculty, administrators, parents, physicians and High School students where appropriate. These subcommittees reported to the Restart Steering Committee. At the beginning of the process in late May, two board members, Pam Fuehrer and Ron Schulhof, were added to the steering committee and participated fully in discussions and decision-making. In February, I joined them on this committee. All members of the Board of Education received summaries of each steering committee meeting. The administration managed the Journey Forward and, as always, Board Members asked probing questions and provided oversight, input, guidance, resources, and feedback.

Current Board protocol requires the Board to “speak as one.” When is there an opportunity for open discussion and debate?

This isn't actually a local protocol. Per New York education law, boards of education are corporate entities, and therefore must act as one body. That said, I think we have seen very robust debates at the board table in advance of decision-making--and that is the right process. At just our last meeting we had a very vigorous and healthy discussion about the goals and implementation strategy of our new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy. Once everyone has had an opportunity to express their ideas and concerns, we make appropriate, agreed-upon changes, then we adopt and support the work as a full Board. This is what it means to act as a corporate body.

While the Board is required to conduct its formal work at meetings in public, there is a lot of work that is done individually or in small teams by Board Members outside of our full board meetings. For example, all Board members can contribute agenda items for each meeting, and then the Board Officers and one additional board member meet with the superintendent before Board meetings to develop the meeting agenda. After the agenda is set, all Board Members send questions and concerns to members of the administration which are usually addressed prior to the meeting. Board Officers are in constant communication with the administration. In between meetings we work on policies, meet with community groups, solicit and respond to community feedback, and engage in advocacy and lobbying on behalf of the district.

What are your thoughts on the SBNC nominating process?

I’m a fan of the nonpartisan nominating process which is why I applied to the SNBC for renomination to the School Board. I served on the SBNC for three years and then became vice chair and then chair of the SBNC Administrative Committee and then chair of the SBNC Joint Committee. When the nonpartisan process works, it works very well. We have many years of experience in which highly qualified candidates were vetted through this process, then elected by the community. In the past, there was an absolute expectation for board members to serve two terms, and this was made clear to all candidates when they were initially selected. The purpose was to ensure that the Board was extremely knowledgeable about district work, which, in turn, allowed complex and long-term goals to be achieved over time. Understanding that this was an extremely important value for our district and community, until very recently, the SBNC always renominated sitting board members for a second term if they wished to continue. While I cannot speak directly to why the SBNC has moved away from this long-time, trusted practice, I do think it remains an important community value, and I believe that on May 18th the community will choose the most qualified and experienced candidates that will best serve our children, district, and community.

knowmynameThe Scarsdale Safe Coalition: Children, Families, Community and its partners invite you to participate in a community book read about the important, but difficult topic of sexual assault in our society. Know My Name, a memoir by Chanel Miller is an honest and eye-opening chronicle of Miller’s experience being sexually assaulted at a Stamford University fraternity party in 2015 as well as the aftermath and subsequent court case.

A virtual community program to discuss the impacts of sexual violence and resources available to victims, featuring Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah, will be held on Wednesday April 21, 2021 from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.

To join the Zoom webinar please use this link

Sexual violence impacts every community and affects people of all genders, sexual orientations and ages. On average, there are more than 433,000 victims of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States, and individuals between the ages of 12 and 34 account for nearly 70% of victims. While men and boys can be victims of sexual assault, women, girls, and transgender teens are disproportionately affected. While the statistics on sexual violence are staggering, a sad reality is that an unknown number of assaults and rapes go unreported. It is not uncommon for victims to experience embarrassment or shame, blame themselves, or fear the humiliation of using the legal system to obtain justice.

Sexual violence has significant short and long term effects on an individual’s physical and mental health. While treatment and care for victims has improved, communities lack effective educational and prevention measures for young people, in particular for young men. The Safe Coalition however is working to change that. Scarsdale Safe Program Coordinator Lauren Pomerantz, LCSW will be providing suggestions for community members to embrace prevention efforts such as strategies to change social norms, create protective environments and support survivors. “Know my Name and the community program we are offering is being presented to empower victims of sexual violence and to give voice to all those victims we do not know and may never know” said Pomerantz.

DA Rocah has outlined a comprehensive and ambitious vision for the DA’s office based on her 16½ -year career as a federal prosecutor, where she prioritized victim-centered, trauma-informed policies. She will educate the community on the resources available through her office and how victims can come forward.

Miller’s own words from her victim impact statement may however best describe the efforts of Scarsdale’s Safe Coalition. “To girls everywhere, I am with you…I fought every day for you. So never stop fighting. I believe you.”

Know My Name is recommended for adults and teens ages 14 and older. It can be purchased online or at Bronx River Books. For more information, please contact Safe Coalition Coordinator, Lauren Pomerantz, LCSW at or 914-721-2468.

Any updated information will be shared here:

raizenThe New York State Department of Health has approved the Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps to provide community paramedicine service to area residents. With this approval, SVAC can expand its services beyond initial emergency medical care and transportation to the hospital. It is only one of two agencies in the county to receive such approval. Scarsdale Mayor Marc Samwick applauds the initiative displayed by SVAC in pursuing creative solutions to community health and well-being, having commented, “The Village of Scarsdale is blessed to be served by the dedicated volunteers comprising SVAC and is appreciative of State and County support for delivering much needed medical services to local at-risk populations through such innovative and cost-effective programs.”

The state has authorized SVAC to operate phase one of the program, which includes COVID-19 testing at the agency’s headquarters at 5 Weaver Street, as well as in schools. It also allows certified SVAC personnel to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to patients in their homes, pending County approval. Mayor Samwick commented, “I am hopeful that Westchester County will expedite approval of the final step: Providing vaccines to SVAC so it may begin its important work supporting the health needs of at-risk, homebound seniors and others.”

“In an emergency, we bring all of the initial medications and procedures you would receive in the ER directly to the patient,” said David Raizen, SVAC President. “Similarly, this allows us to bring non-emergent testing and inoculation directly to our patients, which is particularly important to those who have difficulty ambulating or prefer the convenience and safety of remaining home.”

SVAC has requested authorization to run a vaccine POD at their headquarters to supplement direct home care and maximize vacation administration efficiency. It has also filed for phase two approval to expand beyond the immediate pandemic needs to include other tests and follow-up care.

“Community paramedicine is the future of healthcare and has been rolled out successfully in many states throughout the country,” said Raizen. “The ultimate goals are to provide chronic disease and injury prevention, reduce 911 requests and transports for non-urgent patients, and provide follow-up care for high-risk patients without hospital readmission.”

With many patients introduced to telemedicine during the pandemic, Raizen sees an opportunity to collaborate with White Plains Hospital to address its limitations. “Telemedicine is a huge advancement,” says Raizen, “but you often need some test, procedure or blood work for the doctor to analyze that traditionally limits telemedicine and requires a visit. With community paramedicine, your White Plains Hospital doctor could request us to provide certain services within the safety of your home for your remote appointment.”

Contact: David Raizen, SVAC President ,914-722-2288

ChrisRibackIt’s not easy to define what Scarsdale resident Chris Riback does for a living. He’s a journalist, author, newsletter publisher, podcast host and primarily a co-founder of Good Guys Media, where he says, “Not only do I run the company, I’m also a client.”

He came to my attention when he launched “Chris Riback’s Newsletter,” a daily synopsis of all the domestic, international, business and “feel good” news you need to know, and I got hooked!

We decided to see what we could find out about this Scarsdale dad and here is what he shared:

How did you get your start in journalism? How have you seen the news business change over the years, and if you had it all to do again, would you still choose this career path?

I started in journalism in high school (outside Chicago) — we had a radio station and I interviewed local celebrities, called some high school games and covered news and politics. I had the bug. I continued working through college, later spending two summers reporting from Romania, and then to ABC News, 60 Minutes, and writing a book on public policy. Yes, the business has changed… but which business hasn’t? Tech has disintermediated everything, and media is no exception. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad.

I did not stay, however, in media. By 2000, I saw that (because of the Internet and the ease of content production and global distribution) any brand (or person) could act like a media company. After all, anyone (or any company) can access the three pillars required for a media company: Content, distribution, and audience.

That led me to more than a decade in financial services and then to launch my own business built on helping brands act like media companies.

From our conversation it was evident that you are running many ventures at once. Tell our readers about all of your businesses.

I really have one business: Good Guys Media Ventures, where we help brands — companies, non-profits & individuals — act like media companies: We help them capture ideas and insights, turn them into content, and then distribute through digital channels to build and influence audiences that matter.

But to borrow from the old ad: Not only do I run the company, I’m also a client. I maintain my own branded digital media properties: Chris Riback’s Newsletter & Chris Riback’s Conversations.

For the newsletter, my thesis is straightforward: There is too much content. We all need a good editor. I can be one. My goal is to help subscribers save time and stay smarter.

To do this, 6 days a week I offer the ideas, trends and events you need to know. I read (mostly) everything so you don’t have to. I try to factor in: What you surely already know, what you might have missed, and what bears repeating — but with a boiled-down emphasis on what’s essential. I try to add engaging videos, tweets, graphs, and more.

I augment the product with podcasts, live events, book offers, and access to additional content. Luckily for me, newsletters have become an incredibly effective way to distribute content via subscriptions (I have a free product and paid subscriptions).

The podcasts are Chris Riback’s Conversations, which are wonderful conversations I get to have on public policy, business, tech, international affairs, science, education, and the arts. Guests include Nobel Prize winners, US National Medal of Science laureates, CEOs, scientists, technologists, Congress members, Presidential Cabinet members, economists, academics, educators, and more. I’ve been very fortunate to access some of the top thinkers of our day.

For example, I recently did one with Walter Isaacson on CRISPR and Nobel Prize laureate Jennifer Doudna. My last live event (a series I do in partnership with Cornell’s Institute of Politics & Global Affairs) was with Gen. H.R. McMaster; my next one is Apr. 12 with Sen. Tammy Duckworth.

You explained that Good Guys Media Ventures helps brands to act like media companies and to use content to influence their customers, prospects and policy makers. Describe one of the more successful or interesting branding campaigns you have done.

Well, as you would expect, I love all my children equally! I’m proud of the work we do — the range of industries, content formats, distribution channels, and audiences.

For example:
For one financial services company, we’ve developed a several digital properties — website, newsletter and podcast series — that explore ideas that drive global business.

We have an ongoing podcast series with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation — extraordinary conversations with the world’s leading scientists, researchers and physicians.

We have another podcast series with an education non-profit, Turnaround for Children, that addresses how to transform 21st century education using 21st century science. A recent guest was a former U.S. Secretary of Education.

Another client is a leader in global supply chain management — including vaccine distribution, cell & gene therapy, aviation, and more.

What are your thoughts on the blurring of lines between “news” and “sponsored content”?

Content from brands isn’t news. It’s ideas and insights — using the knowledge they uniquely can access to stay relevant with and influence the audiences that matter to them.

Media is a straightforward business: A publisher uses content to build a desirable audience, and then seeks to monetize that audience. Traditional media properties (NYT, CNN, Scarsdale 10583, etc.) monetize their audiences through advertising, subscriptions, merchandise, live events, etc.

A brand that acts like a media company has a huge advantage — it already knows how to monetize an audience. For brands, these audiences include customers, clients, intermediaries, policymakers, influencers, community leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, employees, and more. By using meaningful, useful content that benefits their audiences — makes them smarter — the brand can deepen relationships, stay relevant, become the “first call,” and activate their already-proven ways to drive revenue.

Acting like a media company simply means using the thinking, strategy, tactics of a publisher (which isn’t what these brands normally do) to build and stay connected with those audiences

You recently launched an e-newsletter that aggregates news. How do you summarize so much news on a daily basis?

I read a lot! But I hope what makes the newsletter useful isn’t what I read, but rather how I edit. A great briefing does more than explain what you should know — it omits what you don’t need to know.

That approach is the exact opposite of most media properties, whose business model depends on endless content (more web pages = more ads to be sold against those pages).

I have to earn and keep trust with my subscribers: Here’s what matters; here’s how it connects; I won’t waste your time.

Do you write the newsletter or do you have help?

I write the newsletter.

Who are your readers? Have you been successful at selling subscriptions?

My readers are people who want to save time and stay smarter.

They surely have a couple of deep interest areas. But they also want to be aware of important ideas, news and events outside their specific interests areas — the ones they likely miss because there’s just too much content out there.

They want the context — the ability to understand quickly how things connect. For example, how do the various economic, social and military interactions with China connect with Hong Kong’s political changes? How does the freighter stuck in the Suez Canal connect with the exponential rise in maritime trade via globalization? How does an Amazon union vote in Alabama connect with Congressional hearings with tech leaders?

They also want to know: What am I missing? They want the wide range of sources that they surely don’t have time to read. After all, most publications’ newsletters do exactly what they should: Promote their own content. My relationship is directly with the readers. I earn their trust through good editing and strong connecting, not by promoting a particular news brand. So far, that approach has driven subscriptions.

But like any business, you have to be motivated by the service you provide to people.

For example, I recently received this note from a subscriber: "I have to tell you that [your newsletter] has “won the battle” of my morning emails. Yours is the only one I read now, and it is ALWAYS informative. Truly. I count on learning something new when I read it, and I look forward to its arrival.”

Another subscriber tweeted: "I’m honestly not sure who turned me on to the daily newsletter from @chrisriback but it has become my first read right after listening to @UpFirst."

Another subscriber wrote: "I want to tell you how much I enjoy your newsletter. It’s excellent and my first source of the day for news. I appreciate the way you’ve broken it into sections, your source links, and the 'good news' section.”

Needless to say, that feedback makes my day.

Please share excerpts of a couple of the stories that were most popular with readers.

Two areas that have been incredibly popular surprised me — for different reasons and in positive ways.

One is Smart Links. These are 6-10 headline links that I include every day, whether important items that don’t merit a full excerpt or are personal interest items. Examples include "Here are America’s highest-paid private-college presidents,” “Do you have e-charisma on Zoom? Here’s how to get it,” and "Japan’s Kyoto cherry blossoms peak on earliest date in 1,200 years.” For example, I liked the cherry blossom one because it wasn’t just about the blossoms… it connected to global warming. I mean, the earliest date in 1,200 years?! Other headlines covered vertical farming, touchless airport technology, and Apple’s AI acquisitions.

The other is a section I call Good News. It’s just what it says: two pieces of good news to make us feel better about the world in small and big ways. One piece was about a Baltimore restaurant owner who drove 6 hours to cook a favorite meal for a terminally ill customer. Another offered a video of a father who finally relents to his young daughter’s demands and jumps into the muddy puddle she’s playing in… and ultimately dances like a child himself. It carried a comment: “Some dads are better at dadding than others..."

The popularity of Smart Links means a lot to me, because it confirmed an editorial hunch — I believe there’s a significant audience of people who want to stay smarter. I believed packaging content with that theory in mind would be popular — especially headlines and ideas that likely fall outside the regular content stream we all get. So far, so good.

The popularity of “Good News” means a lot to me, because it confirmed editorial research. Early in this effort, I saw data that showed people want and don’t get enough stories that make them feel good. More specifically, during the pandemic as well our divided political times, I felt we all would want stories that restore our faith in humankind (or make us laugh). My test for what qualifies: Does this piece give you a warm feeling?

On a personal note, how long have you lived in Scarsdale and what do you like about living here?

We have lived here nearly 20 years, and what I like (love) about living here is that it’s a community. We are very fortunate to raise our family in the company of wonderful friends and neighbors, sharing good times and supporting each other through the tough ones. We’ve become connected with so many people, and we’ve all become central to each other’s lives. Anyone reading Scarsdale 10583 already knows: This is a most special place!

Have you found yourself working from home this past year?

What have been the best and worst parts of this most unusual year for you?

The worst part is the obvious: A pandemic that has taken so much from us. Lives, time, opportunity. Everyone lost something; some, of course, lost everything.

The best part was that society slowed down. We all had the opportunity to reconsider what matters to each of us. I greatly, greatly appreciated the extra time with my family. I loved the walks, extra meals, and bonus memories. What an incredible opportunity to push “reset.” I didn’t take it for granted.

Subscribe to Chris Riback's newsletter here:

DaraGruenbergSenate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Senator Shelley Mayer will hold the 2021 Women’s History Month Celebration virtually on Tuesday to recognize exceptional women from their Senate districts.

“What better way to recognize the accomplishments and achievements of women than to look to our own community, and the women who selflessly stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “There are so many strong women to highlight, and this year’s three awardees truly demonstrated exceptional leadership and a commitment to serving their community.”

After reviewing numerous nominees from the community, which included outstanding community organizers, activists, educators, entrepreneurs, and healthcare professionals - the Majority Leader selected: Phyllis Shelton of New Rochelle, Shih-Ying Sun of Dobbs Ferry, and Dara Gruenberg of Scarsdale.

Phyllis Shelton serves as the Director of Community Relations at New Rochelle Municipal Housing Authority (NRMHA). Shelton has been on the frontlines of the pandemic in New Rochelle, once the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. During that time, she distributed food and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to those in need in public housing, and she performed significant outreach to ensure underserved individuals knew how to get tested for COVID-19 and how to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Shelton also helped organize a COVID-19 vaccine pop-up site in New Rochelle for seniors.

Shih-Ying Sun is the Co-Founder and a Board Member of the Westchester Association of Chinese Americans (WACA) and the Co-Founder and current President of the Greenburgh Evergreen Club (GEC) for Chinese American seniors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, under Sun’s leadership, WACA donated 7,000 face masks to nine local nonprofit organizations and nursing homes, organized a virtual Chinese New Year Celebration, and hosted GEC Zoom classes for Tai Chi, folk and ballroom dance and lectures to help seniors maintain their physical and mental health during lockdown. Sun also helped over 50 seniors schedule an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine in Greenburgh.

Dara Gruenberg, a Scarsdale resident helped secure PPE for the Village of Scarsdale’s government, spearheaded various COVID-19 fundraising initiatives including coordinating Eileen Fisher’s donation of reusable gowns to White Plains Hospital and organized the village-wide “Chalk the Dale” event to thank local healthcare workers and first responders.

These three inspiring women will be awarded NYS Senate proclamations by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and will be guest speakers at Tuesday’s celebration. In addition, Stewart-Cousins’ and Mayer’s 2020 nominees will be recognized with a special video tribute, since COVID-19 prevented a formal in-person event last year.

You can watch the Women’s History Month Celebration on Tuesday, March 23, from 7 to 8 p.m. livestreamed on Senator Stewart-Cousins’ Facebook page or on Zoom here.


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