Proposed Scarsdale School Budget Preserves Educational Program for 2014-15
- Category: Schools
- Published on 11 March 2014
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
The proposed Scarsdale school budget for 2014-15 has been released–- squeaking in just under the tax cap with a tax levy increase of 4.084% only .012% under the adjusted allowable levy of 4.096%. The proposed $148,321,876 budget represents a 3.07% increase over the 2013-14 budget of $143,899,713. The budget will mean a 3.93% tax increase for Scarsdale residents and a bump of 1.59% for those in the Mamaroneck strip.
The new budget maintains small class sizes, adding 8 teachers to the district staff – five at the elementary school level and three at the high school. Though elementary school enrollment is only expected to rise by 31 students, there are currently five sections over the maximum class size and the modest increase in the student population necessitates additional staff. Three of the new sections will be added at the Fox Meadow School. The budget limits class size in grades K-2 to 22 students with maximum class size of 24 students in grades 4 and 5. At the high school, the three additional teachers will be in the social studies, science and math departments – where, without these new hires, 15.7% of classes in those subjects would be above the maximum class size of 25 students. Though the in the past the budget has provided for two unassigned teachers to be placed when enrollments finalize during the summer months, there are no unassigned positions in this budget.
Much of the budget growth stems from mandated costs that are beyond the district's control. Of the $4.42mm increase, $956,721 is for an increases in the contribution to the teacher and employee's retirement budget and another $882,906 is for the district's self-insured health plan. Since the state ruled that the district had to liquidate the health insurance reserve, consultants recommended that the district increase this budget by 6.0% as a cushion against unexpected claims.
Another large mandated increase is $401,871 in the special education budget for contractual school services for payments to neighboring districts, BOCES and private and residential facilities for students who can benefit from out-of-district placements.
Not all the increases are due to benefits and special education. Residents will see improvements in facilities from the $815,000 addition to the budget for facilities. Here are the projects that will be funded in 2014-15:
Fox Meadow: new playground fence and an upgrade to the fire alarm system
Greenacres: Relocation of the office to improve school security and replacement of the condensate system for the boiler.
Heathcote: new fence at Innes Road and at the playground, exterior painting of the school
Quaker Ridge: Replacement of concrete pad beneath the oil tank
Middle School: Replacement of exterior stairway from Cooper House for safety reasons
High School: Renovation of two new science labs for Chemistry and Physics classes to accommodate student enrollment. Carpet replacement in eight classrooms and asbestos removal.
An additional $325,000 has been budgeted for district-wide roof repairs.
In addition to these new projects, the district will upgrade their technology infrastructure. On the list are:
The installation of wireless access to all five elementary school
Expansion of Chrome Books to the fourth grade
Expansion of mobile technology to sixth grade
Upgrade to technology equipment in the digital art classrooms at SHS
Several items that were under consideration for elimination were maintained in the budget. Security personnel at the high school and middle school and at Greenacres field on evenings and weekends will continue to be funded. Though the Teen Center had asked for a larger allocation, the budget includes a $65,000 contribution from the School Board to the center. The Center for Innovation, whose funding had been reduced to $25,000 in 2013-14 will see an increase to $50,000 in 2014-15.
The Board is now considering major upgrades to district facilities that will be funded through bonds, if approved by the community. Rather than pay for large-scale renovations through the operating budget and increase the tax rate, the Board will continue to fund these projects by issuing debt which spreads the cost of these projects over many years.
Board President Suzanne Seiden said that this budget would be adjusted over the next few weeks as better estimates of actual costs and surpluses from the 2013-14 become available. In addition, the Board may decide to lease three school buses rather that purchase two news buses that are included in the budget at a cost of $104,913 which could yield additional savings.
The community will vote on the budget on Tuesday May 20 from 7 am to 9 pm at Scarsdale Middle School.
Car Flips in Hartsdale
- Category: Shout it Out
- Published on 09 March 2014
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
A black sedan flipped on Hartsdale Avenue in Hartsdale around 2:30 pm on Friday afternoon March 7. Witnesses were not sure why the car flipped onto its side – as the weather was clear and there was no ice on the road. A Scarsdale resident said she was exiting the nail salon when she saw an older woman being taken out of the car and placed on a stretcher. The driver waved to the crowd that had assembled around the scene as she was driven off in an ambulance. Several fire trucks came to Hartsdale where they loaded the car onto blocks before righting it onto all four wheels.
As we receive additional information about the incident, we will update you. If anyone has further information, please email it to email@example.com or enter it in the comments section below.
Explosion Rocks Manhattan and Shuts Down Metro North Service
- Category: The Goods
- Published on 12 March 2014
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
A huge explosion at 9:15 am today at 116th Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan has shut down all Metro North service from Westchester to New York City today. The explosion took down two buildings that collapsed next to the train tracks. Two people are reported dead and 18 injured following the explosion and fire. One of the buildings included a piano store and the other a church. Some reported the odor of gas before the boom and a gas leak has now been determined to be the cause of the explosion. The sound of the explosion was so loud it reverberated for at least a half a mile.
Marjorie Anders of Metro North has forwarded us the following alternate travels plan and says it will remain in effect until further notice.
MTA Metro-North Railroad customers traveling to New York City today will be taken to stations in the Bronx where they can transfer to the subway for travel to Manhattan. The subway will cross honor Metro-North tickets. Customers wishing to travel north today out of Grand Central Terminal should take the New York City Subway to points in the Bronx as detailed below.
Harlem Line and New Haven Line
Southbound customers from the New Haven Line and Harlem Line will get off at the Harlem Line stations or Wakefield or Woodlawn for a short walk to the No. 2 for service to Manhattan. Customers can transfer to the No. 5 at E. 180th Street for East Side destinations.
Northbound customers for all Harlem and New Haven Line stations should take the No. 5 subway to East 180th Street and transfer to the No. 2 subway north to the 233rd Street Station, where they can walk a short distance to the Metro-North's Woodlawn Station.
There are no stranded trains. Power has been cut to the third rail to all 4 tracks in the neighborhood of the explosion. Metro-North urges customers to consider limiting travel today if they can.
Girl Power: Skate to the States
- Category: Parenting
- Published on 12 March 2014
- Written by Carly Glickenhaus
Every athlete knows how tough it can be to make a Varsity team. A few off-days and the wrong first impression can dictate your entire high school athletic career. Come tryouts, the pressure is on. Tryouts are long and grueling, and they bring out the most vicious, competitive sides of athletes. The process is both mentally and physically demanding and is especially nerve-racking if you happen to be a female trying out for the Menʼs Hockey team. Two underclassmen girls were strong enough and brave enough to take on the challenge.
If youʼve ever seen the movie Gracie, you might imagine Eliza Brosgol and Erin Nicholasʼ tryouts looking something like Gracieʼs. They were shown no special treatment; They were evaluated on the same criteria as the boys were. The nature of the female body forced the girls to work hard to put on the same amount of muscle, but on the ice, the only thing that distinguishes one from the guys is a long ponytail trailing behind the maroon and white helmet.
Brosgol, a sophomore, and Nicholas, a freshman, were introduced to competitive hockey at young ages. In fact, the sport runs in Nicholas family blood. Erinʼs older brothers, James ʼ15 and Stephen ʼ16, are now her teammates.
Both girls participated in the Modified Program at Scarsdale Middle School. Of the SMS boys hockey team, Brosgol says, "It was a really good experience. The game moves much faster with the boys. In that sense, it prepared me for the high school team." Nicholas agrees that past experiences helped prepare her to play with the High School boys. "My travel coach is my dad so having different coaches gave me a small preview of what varsity would be like. The high school team is different because the kids are much bigger, faster and older than I am." She plays on a boys club team, and had become familiar with the rougher manner in which boys play the game.
Brosgol plays for a girls club team, which keeps her quite busy. "Not that many girls in the area play hockey. For our team to find good competition, we have to travel much further. Weekends are hard. Sometimes Iʼll have a game 2 hours north and the next day, another 2 hours south." When asked if she thinks SHS will ever have a Girls team, Brosgol says, "Only if girls start playing hockey! It would need to involve girls from other towns since there arenʼt that many who play." The boys team practices tend to be held in more convenient locations as larger numbers of them live in a common area. Battling obstacles like tight schedules and knee injuries, the girls persevered and begun the season with the Raiders in November. "The try outs were definitely a challenge, but I have no regrets about trying out because the team has been so much fun and has been doing so well", says Nicholas. Brosgol was also nervous, but remembers, "When I got there and started playing, it went away." The girls were very proud and excited to have made the team. At the Winter Sports Awards March 4, Coach Jim Mancuso informed parents and other athletes that having girls on the team kept the boys on their best behavior.
Each girl feels lucky to have someone else in the same position. Nicholas remarked, "Having Eliza on the team made the experience a lot less awkward and a lot more fun. I played field hockey with her and I played hockey with her when we were younger so it was a lot of fun getting closer to her on this team."
Their team has been playing together for nearly four months, beginning pre- season in November and continuing the post-season until just recently. A sixteen-week losing season would be an eternal misery for coaches and players alike, but fortunately, "ʻDers Puck" had no such season.
Mancuso expressed his doubts in the Raiders performance against Suffern; It was extremely difficult to beat them once, and beating them twice would be nearly impossible. With great focus and teamwork, the team proved their coach wrong, beating Suffern 4-3 to win the Section I title for the first time in SHS history. Another win against Shenendahowa put this underdog in the running for the State Championship. They lost 6-4 in the semi-finals against Ithaca in Utica on Saturday, March 8. (You can watch the game on the Scarsdale cable channel this week.) It is always unfortunate to bring a great season to a close with a loss, but simply having the opportunity to compete in the State competition is both impressive and unprecedented for this Scarsdale team.
These girls have undoubtedly inspired athletes of all sports to develop their skills and confidently showcase their talents even if it means going against the norms. When it comes to the Brosgol and Nicholas, "hitting like a girl" is a good thing.
Carly Glickenhaus is a sophomore at SHS. She is a goalkeeper on the Raiders Varsity Soccer team, and also enjoys writing and photography.
Berg Objects to Superintendent Search Process at BOE Meeting
- Category: People
- Published on 11 March 2014
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Robert Berg, the incoming President of the Scarsdale Forum and a watchdog on school budgets, aired his concerns about the Superintendent search process at the Board of Education meeting on March 10. Specifically, his comment concerned the selection of community members for a committee to review candidates for the district's top job. He criticized the Board for delegating the selection of five members of the community to PT Council President Pam Rubin, rather than choosing the members themselves.
He turned heads at the Board meeting when he said that Rubin's selection of representatives would have been more appropriate for a search for a "district rabbi" than a superintendent, arguing that the candidates lacked a diversity of views, concerns or backgrounds. He said the group was all "cut from the same cloth" and that none represented "the views of many residents who seek greater fiscal rigor in the operation of the school district."
Here are excerpts from his comments at the meeting and the text from an email Board President Suzanne Seiden previously sent to Berg on the subject:
Discussing the search process at the meeting, Berg said, ".... We were supposed to have an announcement (from the Board) in February for the formation of a committee to review the superintendent candidates and meet the finalists before the decision was made since community buy-in is so critical. I would have expected some announcement in February that a committee was being formed and some solicitation of community members. I would have expected that the Board would have selected a committee that reflected the diverse make up of our community with residents from more than 50 nations, from many religions and ethnicities with disparate beliefs on what the role of public education should be and how it should be funded."
He continued, "Instead there was radio silence... I sent an email to Suzanne Seiden and when I did not receive a response I started digging around. I learned that a month ago you appointed Pam Rubin (PT Council President) to pick whomever she wanted for five slots on the committee; so no surprise she picked the usual suspects – herself, and her friends, Pam Fuehrer, Irene Sternberg, David Brodsky and Suzanne Glazer."
"Not to denigrate any of these long standing volunteers, but in light of the first school budget defeat in 43 years and the community's sensitivities and interest in the extraordinary opportunity to hire a superintendent, how could you have possibly abdicated your and the boards' responsibilities for selecting community member participants to Pam Rubin? What were you thinking? We are conducting a superintendent search – Pam's selection would have been more appropriate if we were searching for a district rabbi. Pam's selections, while all valued community members, are all cut from the same cloth. They have all been vocal supporters of past budgets and the administration's education philosophy and priorities. While 53% voted against the budget last year, I can assure you that Pam's selection were not among them. None of the committee members has been the parent of a special education child, none of the committee members represent the views of many residents who seek greater fiscal rigor in the operation of the school district, none of the members represents our large international community. The lack of the diversity of backgrounds and views is striking, yet you allowed it. It appears too late in the process to correct this, but it is very unfortunate that this very avoidable scenario now taints the community's limited input into the selection of the next superintendent. Nevertheless I trust and hope that the Board's selection will be an extraordinary superintendent and I look forward to the announcement of who that will be."
Berg's comments were met by a moment of complete silence at the meeting. Addressing Berg, Seiden said, "I really tried this year to ask for the community to have a respectful tone, but I think you crossed this line. Happy to hear your views, but when you personalize things about other people, that is not appropriate.
Here is the text of an email Seiden previously sent to Berg regarding the Superintendent search process:
Dear Mr. Berg,
Thank you for your email of March 5, 2014 and for your offer of help. You are correct in noting that we planned to interview candidates in the latter part of February with a goal of choosing our next superintendent in March. It is also true that we expressed anintent to involve community members in this process.
We have completed that portion of the process. Our search consultant strongly advised that we conduct the entire search in confidence in order to attract the largest and highest quality pool of applicants. The Board nonetheless insisted on at least limited community involvement. We agreed to have a small advisory group sign confidentiality agreements, meet the finalists and share feedback. This group of 13 people included teachers, principals, parents, other community members, and a high school student. Several district office administrators also had separate meetings.
Within the legal boundaries of confidentiality, the Board has conducted a very transparent superintendent search process and sought the community's input in the fall through focus groups and surveys. Our job specifications were developed directly from the responses to the focus groups and survey, and these specifications have framed the search. The advisory group's mandate was to offer the Board its collective perceptions of candidates' strengths and areas for growth relative to those specifications. We specifically did not want, nor did we receive, a recommendation or vote on what action we should take with regard to an appointment.
As you know, the Board is responsible for selecting the superintendent of schools. In fact, along with developing an annual budget to place before the public, this is one of our most significant responsibilities, and one we should not and cannot delegate. However, given our district's traditions and history, we wanted to obtain perspectives from the broader educational community before we made our decision.
Please know that we appreciate that you have shared your views with us. We have weighed them carefully in the context of the range of views we have heard throughout the search process.
Before the school year is over, there will be a number of opportunities for community members to meet our next superintendent. We hope you can attend one or more of these events and look forward to your engagement with our new superintendent. Please feel free to let me know if I can be of further help in this or any other regard.
Scarsdale Board of Education