Parents showed out in force to the Scarsdale School Board meeting on Monday night February 13th to voice their support for the proposed 2012-13 school budget. Though the proposed budget does not include cuts to programs or staff, residents were encouraged to attend the meeting in emails from the PTA’s and the Coalition for the Scarsdale Schools.
Before residents took the mike to state their views, Superintendent Michael McGill announced that the state is now making clarifications to the tax cap formula for school districts. McGill suggested that the new calculation may favor Scarsdale in that it would allow for additional exemptions from the cap. Preliminary calculations showed that this change could mean that the $1.2 million gap between the proposed budget and the capped amount would decrease to just $900,000.
In addition, Joan Weber provided an update on the progress of the search for a new high school principal to replace John Klemme who retired last year. Weber announced that the district ran extensive advertising for the position and now has a broad pool of applicants including principals, assistant principals, department chairs, headmasters and even a candidate from West Point. An advisory committee has been assembled to review the candidates and the first round of interviews will be done via SKYPE, as this will allow the group to meet candidates without flying them to New York. Though the advisory committee will make a recommendation, the decision ultimately falls to the Superintendent who will make the final recommendation to the School Board.
Here is a recap of some of the comments about the budget made at the Board meeting by community members:
Suzanne Glaser, speaking for the PT Council Executive Committee urged the Board to “allow for enough flexibility for unforeseen circumstances, not only this year but in the years to follow,” and asked them to “establish a budget that is fiscally responsible; not one that meets an arbitrary cap.”
Mike Blumstein, an SHS grad and a father of three warned that “If the system loses its reputation for excellence it will be hard to hire good teachers and we will spiral down to mediocrity.” He commended the Board, saying, “You are approaching this the right way."
Scarsdale High School PTA President Vivienne Braun said that high school parents are concerned with staffing at the high school where seven full time teachers have been lost since 2008. She cited overcrowding in math sections and said that 16.9% of math classes have more than 25 students. With more demanding teaching schedules, teachers no longer have time to meet with students on an individual basis and students wait in long line for individual help. Though she “applauds fiscal restraint,” she said, “maintaining the current staff level at high school is not the place to hold the line.”
She also spoke in favor of maintaining three assistant principals at the high school and credited them with ensuring the smooth running of the school. They handle scheduling, meet with students with academic problems, and serve as a resource for students in need or in crisis. Acccording to Braun, the assistant principals have run programs that seek to reduce stress, provided an orientation program for freshman and have created numerous travel opportunities. Though “many have said that four top administrators is one too many,” she favored retaining the four positions.
Penny Bauersfeld Vice President of the Board of Scarsdale Family Counseling spoke in support of funding for SFCS saying that “SFCS serves as a safety net for developmental issues,” Bauerfeld said that many kids seek out the outreach workers, parents participate in the parenting groups and “the outreach workers are here for us and for our kids.” She called the youth outreach program “an excellent value for the community.”
Anne Moretti, also on the Board of SFCS spoke in support of the group and provided quotes from five students who benefit from their programs. Tracy Jaffe, said that she “is grateful for the funding for SFCS in the budget.”
Art Rublin of the Coalition for Scarsdale Schools commended Dr. McGill and the Board, saying, “the proposed budget is good for Scarsdale, as it sustains our district and maintains the program.”
Josh Weisbrot told the group that he moved here seven months ago because of the schools. As a healthcare consultant for Bain, he found the district’s 2% growth in healthcare costs remarkable and warned that one bad outcome could easily eat up the $900,000 healthcare reserve.
Mary Beth Evans said that the “proposed budget is a realistic plan to ensure that students are well prepared for tomorrow’s challenges” and said that it “responds to current economic reality without sacrificing educational quality.” She added, “Since the 1920’s the community has demanded private school results from our public schools and it does so at less than half the cost of a private school education.”
Robert Berg was the sole speaker to advocate for a budget that complied with the 2% NYS tax cap. He said he found the $300,000 to convert the SHS auto shop to a lounge “offensive as a taxpayer,” and that “excising that from the budget would go a long way toward bringing the budget in line with the tax cap.
The Board also approved a $1,000 gift for prom buses from Scarsdale Task Force on Drugs and Alcohol and a $5,802 gift from the Greenacres PTA to purchase iPads for the school.
The Scarsdale School Board will hold their next budget study session at 6:30 pm on Wednesday February 15 in rooms 170-172 of Scarsdale High School.
School Board Nominating Committee Seeks Candidates
The School Board Nominating Committee is seeking candidates for nomination to the Scarsdale Board of Education. In 2012, the SBNC will nominate two candidates to the board to fill the seats of Mary Beth Gose and Lewis Leone, Jr., both of whom will be completing their first terms and are eligible for re-nomination.
The SBNC invites all residents to propose candidates for the school board. A candidate must be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen, a Scarsdale resident and a qualified voter in the Scarsdale school district for at least one year prior to May 15, 2012, the date of the school board elections.
For more information on the SBNC, including the governing Resolution, the non-partisan system, and current members, please visit the SBNC website.