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Scarsdale Forum Hosts Community Conversation on Scarsdale Schools

forumaudience(This article was submitted by Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, Co-Chair of the Scarsdale Forum's Education Committee.)
On September 7, 2017, the Scarsdale Forum's Education Committee hosted a community discussion, Scarsdale Schools: 2017 and Beyond, in Rutherford Hall at Scarsdale Village Hall. 135 people participated throughout the evening, and we were very pleased with the diversity of attendees who engaged actively in this important dialogue about the state of our schools now and where they'll be in the future. Attendees included professionals from the Scarsdale school administration, teachers, members of the Board of Education, Scarsdale Village officials, empty nesters, students, parents of current students and a few alumni." The event was broadcast live and was recorded, and is available for viewing by clicking here.

ForumParticipants

The objective of the evening was to bring different segments of the Scarsdale community together to have a conversation about our schools. Education Committee Co-Chair Carlos Ramírez explained that "It is important to bring all community stakeholders together, whether in one room or via technology, to discuss our schools and their future. We need to know what the different members of the community are thinking."

The event agenda included a number of different elements: a live online social media component managed by Ramírez; an interactive live poll developed and administered by committee member Brice Kirkendall-Rodríguez; and, a question and answer session moderated by committee members Maggie Favretti, who is also a teacher at Scarsdale High School, and Liz Guggenheimer, a former Scarsdale Board of Education President.

Poll questions were derived from responses to the Scarsdale Forum's "School Topics Survey," distributed in May and June of this year. The poll questions touched upon a variety of topics, including the goals of long-term school financial plan, quality of teachers and school facilities, as well as parental involvement and preferences about curriculum, facilities and related topics.

Responses were recorded both from participants attending the event and those viewing it remotely. Highlights include the following:

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When asked the main reason for the school district to have a financial plan, respondents listed "providing the school district with sufficient funds to prepare kids with skills to live in the next decade," and "insuring fiscal responsibility and sustainability" as their number one and two priorities, respectively.

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When asked for what projects respondents would be willing to have their property taxes increased, they listed, in order of preference, add air conditioning in schools, expand STEM labs, increase room size, build new elementary schools, and build dining commons in elementary schools. Respondents were not willing to have their taxes rise to enlarge sports fields.

Respondents stated that the top two strengths of Scarsdale schools are English and college preparedness.
When asked if there should be parity in facilities planned for all five elementary schools, 62% responded yes, 22% said no, and 16% needed more information in order to respond.

Respondents stated they spend significant amounts annually on after school instruction in music, foreign languages, sports, test prep, and other subjects for their children during the academic year: 78% spend between $1,000 and $20,000, and 13% spend over $20,000 each year.

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When asked what changes they'd like to see in curriculum, facilities and other areas, if possible, 37% respondents listed adding additional STEAM classes to elementary and middle schools as their top priority; and, 27% want financial literary courses added to the district curriculum.

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With regard to facilities, 46% indicated that adding air conditioning would be their top priority. When asked about what else would make them happier with Scarsdale schools, 24% listed lower taxes as their top priority, while 17% listed increased transparency in decision making by the school administration as their top choice.

All live poll slides can be found by clicking here.

Education Committee members Maggie Favretti and Liz Guggenheimer also asked audience members a series of open-ended questions about education: what is the ideal environment for your child, what a world class education might look like, and whether any attendees who had studied at a private school or abroad share would share lessons with Scarsdale residents. Over a dozen participants discussed their perspectives, the consensus of which supported school efforts to teach complex problem-solving, innovation, and important skills such as reiteration, computer science, and thinking through practice and authentic assessment of issues. Engaging students of all levels directly in subject-matter experiences, encouraging them to challenge the status quo, instead of seeking the right answer, supporting them through the college process, and the high school tutorial model were singled out for specific praise.

One participant stated that the term "world class education" did not mean much unless the school district could provide metrics to measure outcomes. That same individual praised what is available at Scarsdale schools in terms of helping students when they apply to college. A female resident, who is a professional in technology, emphasized the need for Scarsdale schools to encourage and teach technology to children, especially to girls.

At the conclusion of the evening, Scarsdale Forum President ML Perlman reminded the audience that, "The Scarsdale Forum is open to all Scarsdale and Mamaroneck strip residents regardless of citizenship, and our committees remain open at all times for additional members to join on a rolling basis. So, please join the Forum and jump right in to the discussions happening right now."

The Forum's Education Committee would like to thank Scarsdale Schools Superintendent Thomas Hagerman, Mayor Dan Hochvert, members of the Scarsdale Boards of Education and Trustees, teachers, students and all Scarsdale residents for participating in Scarsdale Schools: 2017 and Beyond. The committee also extends its gratitude to Assistant Village Manager Robert Cole and Videographer Kelvin Guevara, who were instrumental in coordinating event logistics, and to Scarsdale Forum leadership and numerous Forum members who assisted with developing and marketing this special event.
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The Scarsdale Forum
The Scarsdale Forum is a 501(c)(3) civic organization dedicated to discussion and analysis of all issues relevant to Scarsdale residents. Since 1904, the Forum has contributed meaningfully to Village affairs through its written reports, public speaker events, and committee discussions. Membership is available to all Scarsdale and Mamaroneck Strip residents regardless of citizenship status.

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