Proposed School Bond Referendum Reviewed at LWVS Forum
- Category: Schools
- Published on 30 September 2014
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
The big decision on the Scarsdale Schools Bond Referendum will be made by the Scarsdale Board of Education on October 6th. In order to examine the issues, the Scarsdale League of Women Voters held an informative meeting on Monday September 29. Superintendent Thomas Hagerman, Board of Education Vice President Leila Shames Maude, Board Member Bill Natbony and Assistant Superintendent Linda Purvis were invited to answer questions and provided information on the following and more:
- Why did the board agree to reduce the amount of the bond offering from the $18 million that was agreed upon last spring to $16.7 million?
- What is the role of the Scarsdale Schools Foundation in deciding which capital projects will be on the list?
- If the board opts for the $18 million bond, what additional projects will be added?
- How much will the new debt raise local taxes?
Superintendent Hagerman provided some background, reviewing the goals of the bond offering and how the list of capital projects was selected. Hagerman divided the project list into three categories:
-The first is to deal with health and safety issues such as the roof replacement at Quaker Ridge
-The second is to provide facilities for program enhancements and optimize learning spaces including a new music room at the Middle School.
-The third is to outfit the district for 21st century learning by implementing a district-wide replacement of technology infrastructure and building a new learning commons and design lab at the high school.
Though the building-level committees and administration identified and considered over $35mm in facilities needs the Board opted for the $16.7mm plan. What was the thinking behind this decision?
Hagerman and Purvis explained that all of the district's buildings are over 50 years old, with the high school more than 100 years old. In addition, the Greenacres School will need either extensive renovations or to be totally replaced. Therefore, the administration is considering this bond referendum to be the first step in a 15 to 20 year plan to fund plant improvements. In order to keep tax increases to a minimum, Purvis anticipated that the district would raise more funds when the debt on a $17.8 million bond offering from 1998 and a $15.8 million bond from 2000 retire in 2018 and 2019.
Maude went on to explain why the board voted unanimously to adopt Dr. Hagermans's recommendation to cut $1.3 million from the initial $18 million bond referendum at their September 8th meeting.
She repeated her comments from September 22 when she told the community that in early July Dr. Hagerman and several board members and toured the facilities. At the Scarsdale Middle School they looked at the existing space and learned that a computer room, the shop-tech room and a nurses suite would be available in the future for repurposing. Therefore there was no need for additional classroom space. This information changed their view about building a room in the existing courtyard. Instead they opted to propose building one orchestra practice room and renovate existing space for instructional music.
Then they toured the high school with the principal and facilities manager and examined the space that would become a corridor from the library to the new learning commons. They determined that a second security checkpoint would be needed at the entrance to the library. After some discussion they decided that this corridor could be submitted to builders as an alternative --and if it could be worked into the budget it would be built.
They also discussed food delivery and receiving and determined that a covered area that was in the architect's plans for this purpose was not essential.
The savings from these two changes amounted to $1.3 million and at the September 8th Board of Education meeting the superintendent recommended the board adopt the plan with these revisions.
In making this decision the Board considered communications they received from the community during the summer months. Maude said we received "a tremendous amount of positive feedback," but it was not all positive. Some said "that the new learning commons was too expensive and looked like it belonged at a college." In addition, commenters were concerned that the new learning commons would require two additional custodians. Others were concerned that the district had paid off $12 mm in debt and was replacing that with an $18 mm bond.
About the recommendation Hagerman commented, "I consulted with the board and the principals. I did not want one small project to jeopardize the entire plan. We had to move forwarding a positive way. So we scaled back on a few things to make this happen." Maude commented about the role of the Board of Education and administration saying, "In the end, the administration makes the final recommendations to the board and it is the board who votes."
The conversation turned to the role of the Scarsdale Schools Education Foundation in selecting which projects to fund and in planning and designing facilities. Bill Natbony assured the group that the projects on the current list were chosen by the Board of Education, not by the foundation. He said, "Given cost constraints it became clear that we could not fund everything on the list. We asked the SSEF to wait until we decided what we could fund and then asked the foundation to help us to complete the projects. They wanted to provide funds to move the fitness center and fund the Design Lab as a discrete project to facilitate 21st century learning. These two projects lend themselves to fundraising – fitness and learning." He continued, "Without foundation funding, the overall list would need to be scaled back or eliminated completely."
Asked if the foundation will play a role in plan, design and development, Natbony said, "The answer is no. These are not the foundation's projects. These will be designed and run by the board with input from the architects and the community. The scope of the projects will be the sole province of the district and the administration."
What projects might be funded if the board decided to bring the bond referendum back up to $18 million? Linda Purvis responded, "The first place I will go is to the list of projects that we will propose next spring for funding in the 2015-216 school budget. Some of these projects are an upgrade to the fire alarms, new seats and runway lighting in the high school auditorium and courtyard drainage issues at the high school.
In the question and answer period, Dan Hochvert asked about the impact of the new bond offering on taxpayers. Purvis was not able to give an answer at the meeting but later supplied Scarsdale10583 with the following estimate: Here is what she shared:
"Budget appropriations for debt service are scheduled to go down by $1,700,000 in the 2015-16 budget. The debt service associated with the bond issuance of $17,000,000 is estimated at about $1.425,000 annually if the Board borrows the money for 15 years at 3%. If they decide to borrow that amount over 18 years, the rate is estimated at 3.25% and payments are about $'1,260,000 annually. Obviously these are all estimates, based on the assumptions we have in place now. If interest rates bump up a bit or if the board decides to go back to the $18,000,000 total, then obviously the payments will be adjusted upward a little bit. But unless something changes drastically, the new debt service should still be a little less than what is coming out of the budget."
The Board will continue to discuss the project list with the Building Steering Committee at a meeting on Wednesday night October 1 at 6:30 pm. At the October 6th meeting the Board of Education is expected to make a decision on the amount of the bond and whether or not to move ahead with a vote.
All You Need to Know About Disney But Didn't Know Who To Ask
- Category: Parenting
- Published on 30 September 2014
- Written by Stacie M. Waldman
Thinking of planning to trip to Disney World? Whether it's a once-in-a-lifetime trip or a thrice-a-year adventure, it takes a lot of planning to ensure a fun time will be had by all. There are many decisions to make and twenty people who have been to Disney World twenty times will each tell you twenty different ways to do Disney. Here are some questions that came up when I planned a trip and I am letting you know what I learned to save you some time:
When is the best time of year to go to Disney World? Keep in mind that there is no perfect time to go to Disney. Looking at it another way, every time is perfect to go to Disney! The kids won't miss school if you go during winter break in February, but the parks are the most crowded this time of year (and other times when kids are out of school) and dining as well as lodging are much more expensive. Lodging in a studio at Disney's Lake Tower, for example, is $438/night (+tax) during "value season" and $655/night (+tax) during peak periods. You can find information on predicted park crowds at every Disney theme park for each day of the year at Undercovertourist.com https://www.undercovertourist.com/orlando/crowd-calendar/#calendar. Weather in Orlando can be lovely or stiflingly hot and rainy, so you may want to factor weather patterns in when planning.
How far in advance of going to I need to plan the trip? Planning your vacation far in advance will give you more choices as dining reservations can be made 180 days from the day you arrive. If Disney dining is important to you, you'll want to book your hotel and flights a few months in advance so that you can book your dining experiences.
How much does it cost to go to Disney World for a week? You can go on a Disney World vacation week for a family of four for $4,000 to$15,000, if not more. There is a huge range of hotels, food options, and entertainment options. Disney World is not known for being a budget savvy traveler's dream destination, but it is known for being the "happiest place on earth" and people are willing to pay a lot for this.
Should you stay at a Disney resort or off-site? Staying on Disney property offers advantages such as free transportation to and from the airport and transport around the parks including extra hours at the parks (a.k.a magic hours), the ease of charging expenses to your room and one-stop dining reservations. Disney resort guests are entitled to magic (wrist)bands that allow you to book FastPass+, Disney's new FastPass system, 60 (versus 30) days in advance. However, Disney properties are pricier than non-Disney properties for significantly smaller accommodations. Having a car and staying off site may be advantageous if you're looking to save money or to diversify your Orlando experience with visits to non-Disney parks like Universal or Sea World. People who stay on Disney property tend to feel like it's worth the expense and those who stay off-site often swear by it for the flexibility and the savings (which can be in the thousands for a one week stay.) Lynn Marvin goes to Disney World two to three times a year with her husband, three kids, and her mom. "We've stayed both on and off site at Disney and we think we get more value out of Disney properties," she said. Deluxe Disney resorts sleep six and it's less expensive for them to stay there than to get two rooms or a suite off-site. Disney's Fort Wilderness is considered a moderate-level resort and can sleep up to six adults in a well-appointed cabin. "Disney transportation runs regularly, and sometimes the off-site shuttles run on the hour which isn't convenient with kids," she added. They try to go during value versus peak season when rooms are 40% less. Lindsay Gravin stays off-site with her family of six that includes her in-laws. Her in-laws live in Florida and have a car which helps make staying off-site feasible. "I like the flexibility that a non-Disney property gives us," she said. "We have about three times as much space in the townhouse we rent than at a Disney villa or suite at a third of the price. I like having choices of things to do or buy that aren't all Disney all the time." The townhouse has a private pool for each unit as well as larger pools for the complex, playgrounds, a full kitchen, and laundry in the unit. "The best part for us is that we don't have to sleep with the kids. Also, the condos all have strollers so you don't have to spend money to rent a stroller every day at the theme parks or lug them with you from New York!" she exclaimed.
Should you buy a food plan? Like everything at Disney, the food plan is loved by some and unloved by others. "We never do a meal plan because it never seems like it's worth it," said Lynn Marvin. Meal plans limit where you can eat and what food you can order. Although it may seem like it would help you budget since you pre-pay for it, many items are excluded, (tax and gratuity are also extra,) and some people think it's too rigid. My own family of four stayed at Disney's Fort Wilderness Cabins and found that packing a suitcase full of food and buying things like milk at the Disney store (even at $5 a half gallon) saved us hundreds of dollars as well of hours of time sitting in restaurants when our kids just wanted to be on rides and see shows. We packed sandwiches and snacks for lunch and most night made reservations for dinner at Disney restaurants. One mom I spoke with said, "What I regretted most about our Disney trip last year was making so many dining reservations because we spent more hours in restaurants than enjoying the park activities. My kids' small appetites and lack of attention span made our frequent sit-down meals stressful!"
Which Character Dining experiences are best? Character dining abounds at Disney World. Your family pays a premium to eat a meal while characters come to your table rather than you waiting in line at the parks to meet them. Lynn Marvin favors the restaurant Akershus in Epcot for "princess" character dining. Their reviews on Trip Advisor are just as favorable for Cinderella's Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom. Both of these restaurants book quickly, so again, planning is key. My own family loved 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian for dinner. The theme was Happily Ever After and Cinderella and her stepsisters as well as her stepmother and the prince were fabulous entertainment during a terrific meal. They were very entertaining for kids and adults alike. Whereas "human" characters speak and interact, "nonhuman" characters like Winnie the Pooh and Goofy do not, so keep that in mind. "Our favorite all around dining is Disney Junior at Hollywood Studios," said Lynn. "There's Jake the Pirate, Doc McStuffins, Handy Manny, and Sofia the First- great for little kids! This is our favorite and we have done almost all of the character dining." There are also dinner shows available such as Hoop Dee Doo Review and Mickey's Backyard BBQ.
What are the best parks for different age groups? Again, different people have different experiences at the parks; some people love Epcot with younger kids and some people feel like little kids are boxed out of most of the experiences there. After doing an extensive review of online resources and talking to several Disney "fanatics," here's what seemed to top the lists by age group (including non-Disney parks in Orlando):
- Babies (0-2 years): Magic Kingdom (and Sea World if you're exploring other parks in Orlando)
- Toddlers (3-5 years): Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Sea World
- Elementary age (6-9 years): Most of them. Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Typhoon Lagoon, as well as Universal and Legoland (non-Disney)
- Tweens (10-12 years): Magic Kingdom, Islands of Adventure, Hollywood Studios, both Disney water parks, and Universal Studios and Sea World (non-Disney)
- Teens (13-17 years): Magic Kingdom, Islands of Adventure, Epcot, and the water parks
What are the best resources for planning a Disney vacation? The Disney website is well organized and chock full of information. Mousesavers is a good site to go to for Disney tips and message boards as well as to keep abreast of available discounts. Undercover Tourist has savings and information as well. Touring Plans is a customizable step-by-step plan for visiting the parks that allows you to input exactly what you want to do and receive the best plan for your day in terms of lines and time. If you want to skip or add something you can "optimize" your plan at any time and the app is downloadable to your smartphone.
Last, Cori Shifrin, a Disney travel agent who lives locally suggested using Disney gift cards purchased at Target for a 5% discount on everything Disney. If you use your Target Redcard (the Target-issued credit card) to purchase, for example, $3,000 worth of Disney gift cards with the Target Redcard you will receive 5% off your total gift card order. You can then use the gift cards to book or buy anything Disney-related thereby saving $150 for every $3,000 you spend. She also suggested that you make a budget, plan your vacation at least seven months in advance, spend as many days at Disney World as possible, and work with a Disney travel agent to plan the trip since they know Disney well (and there's no additional cost to you). Cori can be reached at Magical Vacations Travel: firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-414-3593.
BOT Reviews Cable Channel Proposal and Approves Land Sale at 2-4 Weaver Street
- Category: Village Voices
- Published on 26 September 2014
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Following a meeting between the Scarsdale Board of Trustees and the Cable Commission on Tuesday, September 23rd, plans to merge the operations of the Scarsdale Cable Channel with New Rochelle are now off the table. In addition, after more than five years of discussion, the BOT voted unanimously to sell two small parcels of village-owned land to Frederick S. Fish, allowing him to develop the Heathcote Tavern and parking lot into 14 condominiums.
A proposal by Village staff to consolidate the management of the Scarsdale Cable Channel with the city of New Rochelle brought a rush of objectors to the meeting. Cable Commission Chair Lorraine Fiorello thanked the Board of Trustees for considering their proposal and said she "looked forward to providing a robust tool" for community engagement. Lynne Clark said she cares deeply about "the past, present and future of this wonderful village" and said the consolidation proposal "is not in the best interests of Scarsdale." She continued, "We need to enhance our own cable TV coverage... and keep up with surrounding towns of similar size who are way ahead of us ... we need to keep ahead of the curve here just as we always have done!"
Michelle Lichtenberg and Terri Simon, both members of the Board of the Scarsdale Library, speaking as individuals and not on behalf of the Library Board also opposed the plan. Lichtenberg said, "The library is the hub of all activity in the Village of Scarsdale and is among the most vibrant libraries in the county. It hosts activities for kids and adults and we aim to grow." Simons said, "Scarsdale Public TV is potentially an important partner of this effort. The Cable Commission approached us with a variety of ideas, for example, installing equipment to permit taping, broadcasting and even live-streaming events and speakers in the Scott Room to share access with a broader swath of the community than might attend in person....these are early ideas." "It seems precipitous to rush into such a consolidation before the library and cable commission have an opportunity to explore what could be a fruitful collaboration."
Richard Gerwin of 1 Christie Place also opposed the consolidation adding, "Technology has evolved so that it is far less costly to have cable in Scarsdale." Bruce Wells said the channel has a lot of potential and it would be a "mistake to consolidate with New Rochelle."
At the conclusion of the comments about the cable channel, Mayor Steves said, "The Village Staff suggested that we share an employee with New Rochelle. We would not partner with New Rochelle and they would not dictate the scope of the work – the person would be an independent contractor. However for now, the proposal is tabled until we resolve issues and exchange ideas with the cable commission."
Ending a protracted negotiation, The Board of Trustees agreed to sell 14,634 square of Village-owned land at 2-4 Weaver Street to the Frederick S. Fish Investment Company to build an 11-unit, three-story building on the parking lot at the site and to convert the Heathcote Tavern to 3 additional units. One of the units will be a Fair and Affordable Housing unit (AFFH). The village-owned land was rezoned for business use and the site has passed a SEQRA review that found that the development would not have a significant adverse impact on the environment. The Land Use Committee approved the conversion of the tavern building to residential apartments and the developer received final site approval from the BAR on September 17th.
Development of the site was the subject of intense opposition from the Heathcote Five Corners Coalition who raised objections about potential congestion at the five corners, traffic delays, the loss of an historic building and overcrowding in schools among other concerns. They urged the Village to use the land sale to negotiate development terms that were favorable to the village.
Perhaps in response to these concerns, Trustee Lee explained that the Village would hire a construction monitor who will be charged with the responsibility of seeing that the construction documents are consistent with the plans that were approved by the Planning Board. Lee said, "No building permit will be issued until the monitor certifies the plans." A construction manager will be hired to make sure that the building is built to plan and will monitor any changes to ensure that the building will go up in a way that is consistent with the plans.
Despite these measures Martin Kaufman continued to object to the project. About the sale of Village land to Fish he said, "I urge the Board of Trustees not to enter into this contract in its present form. The contract does not protect the Village against deviations in the construction plans. The building department does not have the resources to enforce the plan. A design monitor is only a half step in the right direction. He would simply review the plans rather than monitor the construction
The project is at the gateway to the Village and provisions for enforcement need to be beefed up."
After Trustees voted to approve the sale, Mayor Steve reflected on the process. He said, "This ends a five-year discussion. I voted "no" five years ago. Over that time there has been substantial community involvement. I thank everyone for bringing these issues to our attention. The board has done what they need to do to bring this project to the next step."
Scarsdale's Ellen Kourakos Granted Prestigious Fellowship
- Category: Village Voices
- Published on 01 October 2014
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Ellen Kourakos, Scarsdale High School Class of 2008, is a recipient of the prestigious Health for America Fellowship. As part of a team of four Fellows, Ellen was chosen from a national pool of applicants that included alumni of Brown, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Cornell, MIT, Stanford, and dozens of other universities across the country.
The Health for America Fellowship is the first program of its kind, granting young leaders from diverse academic backgrounds the opportunity to delve deeply into real-world healthcare needs. In an innovative partnership with Discover Bank, Christiana Care Health System, Start It Up Delaware, and the Delaware Community Foundation, the 2014-15 HFA Fellows will work together over the course of one year to create and implement a health solution to advance patient care. Fellows will meet with physicians, thought leaders, and community members to identify areas that need the most improvement, specifically within the treatment of chronic heart failure.
Ellen was selected based on her background in Manufacturing and Design Engineering, her broad experience with human-centered design, and her passion for improving the lives of patients.
While an undergraduate student at Northwestern, Ellen participated in the Global Engagement Summit. She was honored with the EDC Design Award, studied abroad in Copenhagen, and interned with Product and Design Metalwork in Brooklyn following her sophomore year. As a research assistant at Northwestern in 2011, Ellen tested polymers to determine the effects of pulverization on oxygen permeability. She also interned at Heathrow Scientific, where she helped to conceive and then manufacture a safety component.
Since graduating two years ago, Ellen has worked for CareFusion in Vernon Hills, IL as a Research and Development Engineer and Project Leader. Her position enables her to develop and improve medical devices, specifically surgical tools for minimally invasive procedures. She has helped to expand the spine portfolio by four catalog codes, and her work focuses on the healing of vertebral compression fractures. Ellen is also a Board Member of the company's Women's Initiative Network, where she helps initiate and lead corporate events to empower women through mentorship, networking, and community service.
Through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chicago, Ellen has volunteered her time providing educational support to children. She is also the co-founder and facilitator of the Chicago chapter of OpenIDEO, in which she guides a community team through social impact challenges.
As a Health for America Fellow, Ellen will have the opportunity to conceptualize and actualize health technology solutions. The three Fellows who will be working as Ellen's teammates are millennials Nick Azpiroz, Sandra Hwang, and Megan Caldwell.
Health for America promotes innovation by granting fellowships to young leaders from diverse academic backgrounds. The 2014 Health for America Fellowship is carefully structured to use the principles of entrepreneurship and human-centered design to produce the greatest possible impact on the health of communities.
The four Fellows were selected for their leadership in design, technology, entrepreneurship, and community service, and will work together over the course of one year to create and implement a health solution.
"The Health for America Fellowship provides a platform to become submerged in all aspects of the healthcare industry," says Ellen. "I am hungry for an environment that promotes and fosters creative thinking through the design process, and I believe there is no industry more in need of such a radical change than healthcare."
More about the Health for America Fellowship:
Health for America uses America's greatest strength – entrepreneurship — to address its greatest challenge – health. By granting fellowships to recent college graduates from diverse academic backgrounds, Health for America catalyzes the creation of innovative solutions to improve the health of communities while shaping the next generation of leaders. Learn more at www.healthforamerica.org.
This class of Fellows serve as the initial project for the Start It Up Delaware Social Impact Fund established by the Delaware Community Foundation to fund entrepreneurial activities of nonprofits that desire to engage in activities that create economic value to their organizations so that they may continue to meet the needs of the underserved Delaware community, as well as potentially create commercially viable products and solutions.
The Health for America Fellowship is the first program of its kind, granting young leaders from diverse academic backgrounds the opportunity to delve deeply into real-world healthcare needs.
Fellows will meet with physicians, thought leaders, and community members to identify areas that need the most improvement, specifically within the treatment of chronic heart failure. Broadly defined as the heart's inability to maintain sufficient blood flow, heart failure contributes to 1 in 9 deaths in the United States and accounts for over one million admissions to the hospital each year.
Instead of funding a predetermined health solution, HFA and its partners are flipping the typical model of investment: the fellowship funds individuals who have proven to be leaders in their communities and asks them to work full-time to develop a deep understanding of the problem. Fellows are then given the time and resources to develop a specific, high impact solution that will improve outcomes and lower costs.
"We are excited to work with Health for America, our community partners and an enthusiastic group of Fellows who will bring new and fresh ideas to health care," said Patrick Grusenmeyer, Sc.D., FACHE, president of Christiana Care Health Initiatives, which explores creative solutions to improve patient care. "We look forward to developing innovative technological solutions to add greater quality and value and advance the care of patients who suffer from heart failure."
In addition to working in Delaware, Fellows will also travel across the country to attend heart failure conferences, study design thinking, and meet with startup founders. They will work each day to build a solution that is effective, sustainable, and commercially viable, recording their experiences along the way. Fellows will share all of their findings with program partners in Delaware so that patients may benefit for years to come.
"Health for America is the perfect partner and initial recipient of the project funding for the Start It Up Delaware Social Impact Fund, which aims to meet the needs of the underserved members of the Delaware community," said Start It Up Delaware co-founder and chairman, Jon Brilliant.
Sukkot Reimagined at WRT
- Category: Spiritual Life
- Published on 29 September 2014
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
The community is invited to celebrate Sukkot at Westchester Reform Temple on Wednesday October 8 from 5 to 8 pm. The temple will be filled with an assortment of booths where there will be learning, music, fun and food all without an admission charge.
"At WRT, we strive to reimagine and reinvent our traditions and our celebrations to make our holidays more meaningful," says Senior Rabbi Jonathan Blake. "This year, we're using booths, or Sukkot, not only to recall the temporary dwellings our ancestors used during their wanderings, but also to engage Judaism and this festival observance in a new way that reflects the energy of WRT's community and education."
The evening will offer something for everyone:
-5:00 p.m. Young children and their families can enjoy a pizza dinner (nominal charge) before a short service in one of the congregation's sukkot.
-5:30 p.m. Sukkot Service for participants of all ages.
-6:00 p.m- to 8:00 pm: Attendees of all ages will enjoy The Koby Hayon Acoustic Trio, which will
perform Israeli and Jewish music
7:00 p.m. Adult study will include a Sukkot meditation program.
8:00 p.m. Rabbi Blake will host Spirits in the Sukkah, an adults-only gathering featuring both study and the tasting of locally-distilled whiskey and other spirits.
Smorgasburg food vendors Woezo, Chickpea and Olive and Amore Pizza will provide a mix of vegetarian, West African inspired food and pizza for purchase.
"The booth, or sukkah in Hebrew, is the location for celebration and the central image of Sukkot," says Sorel Goldberg Loeb, Director of Education at WRT. "We will move our afternoon classes out of their permanent rooms and away from their permanent routines to temporary shelters outside our building. There, our students will learn the traditions of Sukkot, taste new foods, and hear some wonderful Israeli music. Getting our students in a new setting will both stimulate their learning and reflect the holiday."
For more information, contact the congregation at 914-723-7727 or email@example.com or visit the website at wrtemple.org.