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Your Letters: From Lee Fischman and Wendy Gendel

votebymailThis letter was sent to Scarsdale10583 by Scarsdale resident Lee Fischman:

If you don’t normally vote for School Board candidates, I hope to convince you to do so this time, so that the School Board Nominating Committee’s (SBNC) choice of Bob Klein and Amber Yusuf prevails. Why would anyone run independently? I can think of a few reasons, although none seem satisfactory. Keep in mind, these are general arguments, not aimed at any specific person. They apply for the current School Board election, and for past and future ones.

Perhaps the challenger was not selected by the SBNC but wants to serve anyhow. Because the nominating process is confidential, we do not know who was evaluated by them. What if the challenger was evaluated but not chosen? Think about that: SBNC members are elected by residents balanced from all five Scarsdale neighborhoods, they’ve spent months exhaustively vetting all the candidates, interviewed their associates of many years, and ultimately chose candidates judged best suited for the position. Could the SBNC know something about a challenger that we don’t?

Did the challenger not put their name forward for consideration by the SBNC, feeling they would not be treated fairly? This would be amazingly distrustful – an undesirable quality in anyone - given the diverse makeup and frequent turnover of the SBNC. Of course, a challenger with a disqualifying history also would not want to go through the scrutiny of the SBNC.

It’s possible the challenger believes that the SBNC suffers from “group think.” However, its diverse and continually revolving membership is elected by the community and for some, this is their first volunteer position in the Village, making “group think” unlikely. From my experience on the Citizens Nominating Committee, which is organized similarly to the SBNC, I'd say that the groups' composition and processes work to squelch a collective mindset from setting in.

Maybe a challenger doesn’t like the idea of a closed system and prefers a more conventional form of open politicking. Many of us would agree that brazen politics are a problematic affair everywhere else right now and are neither welcome nor necessary here in Scarsdale. Residents here benefit from informed choices based on deep background work done by a committee of volunteers, who choose candidates based on continually demonstrated character, experience and skills. That's the sort of endorsement that cannot be provided by a resume or advertisements, nor by letters from friends and supporters. In our genteel little ‘burb, those who support someone speak out, while those who do not support someone usually stay quiet, and so supporters' endorsements do not tell the whole story about a candidate.

An independent candidate may promote an agenda. All the same, SBNC candidates are members of the community too and so share many of the same concerns, and they also are selected in part based on their demonstrated ability to listen. The SBNC candidates are chosen because they’re most qualified, not because they’ve said the right things. Nonetheless, since School Board elections are decided by just a few votes, a minority of residents with preferences aligned to a narrow agenda may easily prevail.

Of course, someone might choose to run against "the System" because they think they are better than what it has produced. Certainly, one should feel free to have the most excellent opinion of him or herself, though that begs the question: if they felt so confident, why didn’t they go through the SBNC?

I hope you will agree that none of these reasons lend support to electing an independent candidate for the School Board this year. However, because this vote usually has low turnout, a random person can win, despite the hard work of the thirty volunteers of the SBNC. Please take a moment to mail in your vote affirming the SBNC’s choice of Amber Yusuf and Robert Klein, particularly if you weren’t planning to vote.

Lee Fischman
40 Wildwood

This letter is from Wendy Gendel, who served on the SBNC and as the Committee Chair:

To the Editor: Each January, members of our community have the opportunity to elect representatives to the School Board Nominating Committee, Scarsdale’s non-partisan body that recommends candidates to serve as members of the Board of Education. I have seen firsthand during my tenure on the SBNC committee as well as Admin Chair and Joint Chair over seven years, how thoughtful consideration and full vetting of Board of Education candidates has yielded exceptional members of our community to serve as stewards of Scarsdale’s education system.

This component of Scarsdale’s non-partisan system has served our residents well for decades. Scarsdale continues to be recognized as one of the country’s premier public school systems, in part due to the process we have endorsed for our BOE elections. The partisan rancor and political divisions present in other communities is usually not seen here. And the SBNC is a vital component of maintaining thoughtful debate, deliberation, and community decorum. The 30 members of the SBNC, representing equally all of the elementary school districts, and volunteering their time for review of potential candidates, are entrusted with selecting the highest quality candidates for our community’s review and election to the BOE. This year is no exception.

The two candidates submitted by our elected representatives to the SBNC, Amber Yusuf and Robert Klein, have shown their full capabilities and dedication to serve our students and community with enthusiasm, passion, and without favor to specific causes. Amber and Robert have the full support of our elected SBNC members. Both eminently qualified to serve, they have the well-being of our students as their first priority and concurrently, an eye to fiscal responsibility that many of us feel is vital during the current environment.

In addition, I encourage all Scarsdale residents to consider involvement in our School Board Nominating Committee. You’ll play a direct part in shaping the future of Scarsdale Schools, reviewing future BOE candidates, and ensuring our district remains one of our nation’s finest.

For the June 9th election, all eligible voters will receive an absentee ballot in the mail as there will not be in-person voting. Please be sure to submit your vote by returning your ballot in the postage-paid return envelope as soon as possible. All absentee ballots must be received by June 9th, 2020 - not postmarked by that date.

Please join me in support of the Scarsdale Non-Partisan system and the SBNC’s candidates, Amber Yusuf and Robert Klein.

Wendy K. Gendel
Brookby Road

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