Scarsdale Schools Registrar Enforces Strict New Residency Requirements
- Category: Schools
- Published on 24 April 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
At the end of the 2016 school year the Board of Education adopted new rules concerning registration of students in the district. Policy 5152, title "Admission of Non-Resident Students," was debated at length by the Board of Education and the Superintendent because it stipulated the conditions under which residents, who were moving into and out of the district or renovating their homes, would be required to pay tuition to have their children remain in school.
This enforcement of this new set of rules came as a surprise to new and existing residents as well as some realtors who found that if their clients were not in their homes by the start of the school year, they would be required to pay a full year of tuition.
At the same time, parents who were separated or divorced received inquiries from the District Registrar about their domestic and custodial arrangements.
Why this change? In the March 16th issue of the 'Dale Dispatch' Scarsdale Schools Superintendent Thomas Hagerman provided the following explanation for the new policy. He said, "Another aspect of this centralization of registration that has gotten some attention from the community is the verification of residency that is required when families move, have outdated leases or other paperwork, or have disruptions in family life such as divorce or separation. Although many people believe that owning or renting a property in Scarsdale is sufficient for school attendance, New York law dictates that physical residency is actually the standard, so this does need to be confirmed, sometimes along with custodial arrangements. While we understand this can seem intrusive, particularly to families in transition, we do have an obligation both legally and to our taxpayers, to ensure that students in our schools live in Scarsdale .... Unfortunately, there are more nonconforming residency situations than most people realize, representing thousands of dollars of cost to the families and taxpayers of Scarsdale."
Separated and Divorced Parents
Helen Morey, a Heathcote resident and mother of two school-age boys, grew alarmed, when shorty before the Christmas holiday in December, she received a letter from the district demanding verification of her custody arrangements within four days. In her own words, here are her thoughts on the actions of the district.
"After receiving a demand letter from the Scarsdale Superintendent to provide my entire divorce decree within the 5 business days before Christmas, 2016, else be subject to 'a full investigation', I contacted the office. After much argument back and forth, Dr. Hagerman finally and formally accepted a signed affidavit of custody sufficient to preserve my children's Scarsdale residency and attendance in the Scarsdale School District.
Subsequently, I contacted several individuals across the NY State Board of Education and related Albany offices and found that Scarsdale schools are not following several legal protocols designed to protect students and families, including:
1. Posting the complete list of documents and criteria publicly (on the web site, etc.) to prove residency in the case of new residents, relocating within the village residents, or divorcing residents.
2. School districts are explicitly NOT permitted to require submission of a judicial custody order or order of guardianship - the exact document that Dr. Hagerman's office initially demands and prefers. Only an affidavit is legally allowed.
3. While school districts have the individual right to charge tuition and a requirement to make a determination within 4 business days, school districts do NOT have the right to demand the tuition be paid in full within those same 4 days else threaten to remove a child from school such as happens here in Scarsdale. In fact, the findings have a 4 day window and following that school districts must publish and adhere to the state laws regarding a contested finding, only at the conclusion of which could tuition be demanded should the district succeed in it's decision and motion.
Lastly, it seems odd that the role of a district superintendent should be so consumed with the pursuit of residency proof, including the hiring and management of a private detective force. I would like to understand from the Scarsdale Board of Education what the specific remit is for the office that would make such work the focus at the expense of further improving and streamlining our school system."
Newcomers to Scarsdale
While it used to be enough to have a contract of sale to enroll children in school in the summer, for those moving in after the first day of school, the district is now requiring proof of the house closing and of residency.
Here is the new rule:
A child whose parents have contracted to buy or leased an apartment, house or condominium in the District, but have not moved into the District, may attend the school of the District for up to three months, upon the payment of tuition.
A mother of three children who moved here from California in the late summer had a contract of sale but was not able to actually move in to her house until September 30th. In order to enroll, the district required the family to pay an entire year of tuition for each of the children up front, with the promise of a pro-rata refund upon closing. This was a considerable hardship for the family who had just used up their resources to purchase a house. But that was not all. Even when they had closed the district sought to verify that they were in the house. The woman was outraged when a representative from the district appeared at her door to inspect the house to confirm that they had actually moved in. When there did not appear to be sufficient furniture on the first floor, she demanded that she be allowed upstairs to check the beds. The resident found this level of intrusion objectionable and refused the request.
Moving Out While Renovating
Another new provision, specific to Scarsdale, that residents should keep in mind pertains to temporarily moving out of your home while it is under renovation.
Here is what the regulation says:
A students whose parents own a house in the District which is unoccupied, may be permitted to attend the schools of the District, without the payment of tuition, for up to one academic year from the date that the house became unoccupied, under the following conditions:
a. The house had been occupied, and resided in, but the student and parents for the three years directly prior to the house become unoccupied and the house is required to be unoccupied for a major home construction or remodeling, and
b. The student's parents continue to own the house throughout the period that the house is unoccupied and do not purchase another residential property.
Therefore, this means that if you decide to renovate a home, and have not already lived there for three years prior to the renovation, you will need to pay tuition while you are out of the house. Both residents and realtors find this new regulation puzzling, as the homeowners are presumably paying real estate taxes on the home that is under renovation, have a valid Scarsdale address and ought to be permitted to send their children to school.
Commenting on the new policies, Anne Moretti, Associate Real Estate Broker with Julia B. Fee Sotheby's said, "The District's new residency requirements need to be more clearly defined and enforcement more carefully handled. Incoming homebuyers with signed purchase contracts should also have some grace period within which they can move in without paying tuition. The District should answer the questions Joanne has outlined in this article, and the community should be better informed on our policies."
We sent Dr. Hagerman a series of questions about this new policy a few weeks ago but have not received a response.
Specifically, here is what we asked the Superintendent:
-In your note in the Dale Dispatch you said, "There are more nonconforming residency situations than most people realize, representing thousands of dollars of cost to the families and taxpayers of Scarsdale."
-Can you tell us how many non-conforming students you found in the schools last year before you instituted the new policy? At what cost to the district?
-The policy for current residents who move out of their home while it is being renovated says that in order not to pay tuition they had to own the home for three years directly prior to the house becoming unoccupied. Why the three year requirement?
-Some divorced parents with joint custody have said that the district requires their children to live at the Scarsdale address for a certain percentage of time in order to attend the schools. Can you elaborate? Is this district or state policy?
-Does the district require divorced parents to provide the district with their divorce agreements and custodial arrangements?
-A few parents have reported that the district has retained private investigators to verify residency in the district. Is that true? If so, what was the cost of that so far this school year?
-In reviewing residency requirements for districts in our area, is the new policy in Scarsdale similar to what you see? Does the district have some discretion on how the law is interpreted?
When we receive responses to the questions we will share them with you. In the interim, we thought it would be helpful to make you aware of these new regulations so that you will not be caught by surprise if your own situation changes.
What do you think of these new policies?
Please comment below and include your first and last names.
Village Trustees Consider Laws to Regulate Gun Dealerships and Gun Storage
- Category: On Our Minds
- Published on 27 April 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Could a gun dealer open a retail store in Scarsdale? Under our current Village code, nothing would bar a licensed gun seller from setting up shop in a commercial location in Scarsdale. And with so many of those vacant, it's not impossible that this could happen. The Town of Harrison recently found themselves with a gun shop in town and they are now considering passing town ordinances to regulate the presence of gun dealers in town.
With that in mind, Trustee Carl Finger, who now heads the Law Committee of the Scarsdale Village of Trustees invited Allison Anderman, Staff Attorney for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence to meet with the trustees to review potential measures that could be taken to control the sale of guns in Scarsdale.
Though there are currently no licensed gun dealers in Scarsdale and the Village's zoning code prevents the sale of guns in residential areas, Scarsdale does not currently have code to prevent the operation of a gun dealership. Anderman shared provisions that are under consideration in other municipalities to regulate gun dealers.
Specifically she suggested Scarsdale consider enacting the following:
Prevent gun dealerships in "sensitive" areas near schools, nursery schools and religious institutions.
Require background checks for the employees of gun dealers.
Require dealers to meet security standards to prevent theft -- such as an alarm system and videotaping capability which could help to solve straw purchasing crimes. Anderman noted that Walmart voluntarily started videotaping gun transactions several years ago.
Restrict gun sales to facilities that are not visible to the public so that purchases cannot be witnessed through a store window.
Allow law enforcement to inspect gun dealerships during normal business hours. Anderman explained that routine inspections provide law enforcement to deter illegal activity and trafficking. She added that the data shows that states do not permit inspections are the source of 50% of illegal guns found in other states.
Require gun dealers to report their inventory to law enforcement officials on a regular basis.
Restricted admittance for minors to gun dealerships.
Prohibit those who can't own a gun from access to the gun dealership.
Require gun dealers to post notices and warnings of firearm laws and suicide prevention resources.
Require gun dealers to get a land use permit to ensure that their site conforms to local law and is a safe location.
Anderman also suggested that Scarsdale consider it's own safe gun storage laws requiring guns to be locked when stored.
The Village Attorney advised that Westchester County already passed a safe gun storage law. The county law requires that guns are stored securely and locked to prevent access to children and unauthorized users. The Village Attorney is going to investigate whether Scarsdale is already covered under the County law or stronger local measures are needed.
In addition, the Village will investigate if any county or state laws already regulate gun dealers and see what is needed to further safeguard the Village.
Diane Greenwald to Head Scarsdale Library Board
- Category: People
- Published on 24 April 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Diane Greenwald has been elected president of the Scarsdale Public Library Board. Other officers are John Harris, vice president; Elyse Klayman, secretary; and Steve Kessler, treasurer. Terry Singer will continue on as Chair of the Building Committee. In addition, Felicia Block and Margot Milberg have been appointed trustees replacing Terri Simon and Florie Wachtenheim whose terms ended.
"Terri Simon and Florie Wachtenheim are model community volunteers who have been committed to forwarding our library's mission on behalf of all Scarsdale residents and we are grateful for their service," said Greenwald. "In her role, Terri has been involved in all aspects of the library's plans for a major renovation, and leaves her stamp of excellence on the efforts." On the year to come, Greenwald adds, "I am confident that, having gained so much support from Scarsdale residents and the Village Board of Trustees, we can roll up our sleeves to continue our transformation with the same passion, transparency and care our community demands and deserves. There is something for everyone at the Scarsdale Public Library!"
Greenwald, who is active in many community organizations, has served in several positions on the Library Board and has been a key participant in the renovation campaign.
Bob and Kathy Steves Honored at the Scarsdale Bowl Dinner
- Category: The Goods
- Published on 27 April 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
It all started with a peanut hunt. Shortly after Bob and Kathy Steves moved to Greenacres with their young family they were asked to help organize the annual July fourth celebration. They began by scattering peanuts on the field and three decades later ended up running the town. Bob is one of a select group of recipients who served on both the school and village boards. In addition to serving as President of the Scarsdale School Board Steves remained on the board for a seventh year to fill a vacancy. Following that stint he was selected to serve as a Village Trustee for four years and then was Scarsdale's Mayor from 2013-15.
Kathy too has an impressive resume of volunteer activities – and perhaps is best known for spear heading the annual Friends of the Library Book Sale, an ambitious undertaking that involves the collection and sorting of thousands of books each year. This past year it brought in over $70,000 for the library. Kathy is also President of the Board of Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service. Though they both hold very full time jobs, the couple welcomed a STEP student to share their home from 1996 to 1998.
Kathy and Bob's volunteerism was honored at a joyous celebration at the Fountainhead in New Rochelle on Wednesday night April 26, 2017 when David Lee, Chair of the Scarsdale Bowl presented the couple with the coveted silver bowl.
In the audience were many notable Scarsdale volunteers, including fifteen past recipients of the Scarsdale Bowl, some who had flown in for the evening. Among these recipients were Robert and Eleanor November, the last couple to be awarded the Bowl in 2001 and Carol Stix, the 1981 recipient. Among the 273 attendees were five of Bob Steve's siblings.
Scarsdale Foundation President and the 2011 recipient of the Scarsdale Bowl Emily Sherwood gave some background on the workings of the organization, saying, "Despite our best efforts to publicize our work, we seem to remain shrouded in mystery. Let me take just a few minutes to tell you that we are also steeped in tradition, having been founded in 1923 with a mission of promoting civic welfare in the community and currently operating with an endowment of over $2 million." She explained that the Foundation will grant $118,000 in college scholarships this year, give funds for community service and donations to send children to the Scarsdale Rec Camp. An interesting fact noted in the evening's program is that the first Scarsdale Bowl awards were made in 1944. Women were not invited to serve on the Bowl committee until 1973 and not welcomed to attend the dinner until 1975.
Daughter Karen Steves shared some memories of what it was like to grow up in a home of uber volunteers. She noted her parents amazing work ethic and her mother's high standards and drive for perfection. She called Kathy an "optimistic tough cookie who sees problems and tries to fix them," and laughed about her Dad's ability to find common ground with anyone, anywhere. Together she said her parents have "championed countless endeavors," and showed their children what it meant to be part of a community. Though they have accomplished so much she said they are "humble" and "don't take themselves too seriously."
Neighbor and long time friend Deena Rosenthal remembered coming upon Kathy in the library. She said, "One August day I wandered into the Scott Room. From the far end, she greeted me enthusiastically. "What's going on, " I asked. "Oh," she said, "We are getting ready for the book sale. Doesn't it look great?" I was flummoxed, speechless; I didn't know what to say or how to say it if I had. I saw a room chock-a-block full of tables, milk crates, boards, boxes, books, and books in boxes. I thought the Scott Room looked like it had exploded. And she thought it looked great. I couldn't begin to imagine how his chaos could be translated into a functioning, organized, book sale, let alone one that would raise a meaningful sum."
She remember another day when she needed to figure out how to get a friend of a friend in a wheelchair up a step -- and without a word, Bob crafted her a wheelchair ramp out of wood in his basement and showed up unannounced to present it.
Friend, colleague and former Mayor Jon Mark had this to say about the Steves: "It is not an overstatement to say that their combined efforts as volunteers in the Village are unmatched in the community." He credited Bob with "laser focus on budget line items and valuable guidance to other Board members," and his "ability and willingness to listen." He remembered building a deck at the teen center by hand with Bob and current Scarsdale Mayor Dan Hochvert and said, "It was also a great lesson for me to see a community leader of Bob's stature work as a member of a team." He continued, "Bob's community service sets a high, virtually impossible bar to exceed. As has been noted, he is the only resident to have served as both Mayor and President of the School Board – though not at the same time.... He has done so with grace, fairness and always with a desire to do best for the Village."
Mark said, "St. Ignatius prayed: "Teach us to give and not to count the cost." Kathy and Bob, your volunteer work over the years surely reflects this prayer. You have given generously of your time and energy – and counting the personal cost of that effort has never been a factor for you."
David Lee shared a congratulatory note to the Steves from Malissa Mackay, the STEP student they hosted in 1996-98. She thanked them for:
- Schlepping me from drama club rehearsals, to cheerleading practices to orchestra recitals.
- For introducing me to perogies and kielbasa.
- For calling me out like my own parents would have if I decided homework just wasn't that important.
- For helping me recognize and cultivate a love affair with books.
- For standing next to me during Catholic mass, when this Southern Baptist girl didn't know what to do with her hands.
- For getting up waaay too early on Saturday mornings, taking me to my SAT prep course.
- For taking a side trip to West Point one day, and having the best conversation in the car, all the way there.
- For buying those little lemon italian ices that me and the boys used to eat after school in the downstairs den.
- For being as excited and proud as my bio-family was on the day of my graduation.
After receiving the Bowl it was finally time for the honored couple to take the podium. Kathy thanked her children, saying, "There are three people that in many ways are our unsung champions of Scarsdale volunteerism. Bob and I choose to become active members of our community. Our children did not. Those of us who know us well ... know that that Karen. Matt (here with us tonight) and Mike who is working in China have often been drafted to help lift and care, pick up forgotten items or just take the brunt of my nervousness."
Bob called the evening "The best party in town," and thanked everyone for their efforts. Commenting on their recognition as a couple, he said, "I could not be more pleased than to have Kathy's name next to mine on the bowl. She is in every respect (and more so than I) the volunteer the Foundation envisioned when they created the bowl. I'm the noisy volunteer, for better or worse much of my service has been public. She has served quietly, without notoriety. Kathy not only does her thing extraordinarily well, but she has been so very supportive in what I have done."
Steves noted the "selfish side" to volunteering, calling it an "unequaled opportunity to grow as a person," and to meet and learn from wonderful people. He said, "Being a volunteer gives you a better understanding, more meaningful insight into those with whom you serve... an insight that allows for mutual growth."
He urged everyone in the room to reach out and invite others to help, saying "Don't be afraid to ask someone to help, they just might be waiting for a chance to serve."
The well-orchestrated evening was a credit to the Bowl Committee, notably Chair David Lee and Robert Jeremiah who served as both the organization's secretary and treasurer. Committee members include Norman Alterman, Diane Baylor, Beth Ehrich Berkeley, Jonathan Bradlow, Kate Conlan, Lee Fischman, FranGalloway, Gary Katz, Janet Korins, Mona Longman, Eli Mattioli, Jyoti Ruta, Suzanne Seiden, Margaret Smith and Evelyn Stock.
Lee also thanked many of the supporters in the audience who returned to Scarsdale to honor the Steves, including former Village Manager Al Gatta, former School Superintendent Mike McGill, David and Stacey Brodsky and former Police Chief John Brogan.
Lee said, "Kathy and Bob, you now occupy a coveted space on the continuum... of extraordinary Scarsdale volunteers, and we trust that each-year hence another outstanding individual will join you."
Reclaiming South Fox Meadow Brook
- Category: Good Work
- Published on 30 April 2017
- Written by Jon Mark
April 29, 2017 – Harwood Park wetland, Scarsdale – It's a project that brings out residents across generations. On a warm spring day Scarsdale families, Village officials and staff came to the Harwood Park wetland adjacent to Brewster Road near the High School to take part in the third annual community planting day. Over the course of the day, more than 100 volunteers planted over 300 young native trees and shrubs donated to the Village by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) as part of its "Trees for Tribs" program. The contributed inventory of native plants included White Oak, Beach Plum, Cranberry shrubs, Silver Maple and Sandbar Willow.
The "trib" that is the focal point of this planting effort is South Fox Meadow Brook which is a tributary of the Bronx River. The brook runs through the Harwood Park wetland. Prior to initiating the reclamation program three years ago, the Harwood wetlands area had been used as a site for piling snow cleared from Village roads during the winter and was otherwise generally notable for the benign neglect with which grass, shrubs and trees on the site grew, decayed and fell. Harwood Park is neglected no longer. Three years ago, using the South Fox Meadow Brook as a focal point, an initial effort was made to reclaim the banks of the brook and the surrounding wetland by planting hundreds of trees and shrubs by NYDEC.
The results of that first effort are clearly visible in the growth of the plantings from 2014. NYDEC has been enthusiastic about Scarsdale's planting effort and according to Madelaine Eppenstein of Friends of Scarsdale Parks, NYDEC contacted the FOSP this year to see if Scarsdale was interested in doing additional plantings. The answer was an equally enthusiastic "yes" and organizing today's event was undertaken by Brian Gray, Superintendent of the Scarsdale Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation.
Mayor Dan Hochvert, long a FOSP supporter, and Trustees Finger, Pekarek, Ross, Samwick and Veron participated in the planting at various times during the day joining the more than 100 resident volunteers and Village staff who toiled in the balmy April air for the benefit of the Village.
Article and photos by former Scarsdale Mayor Jon Mark