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CheerTeamScarsdale Varsity after placing first at the Mt. Vernon competitionThe Scarsdale High School cheerleading squad finally has something to cheer about. Amended guidelines announced by the Scarsdale School District on Tuesday January 18, 2022 clear the way for school trips. This was just in time for the Scarsdale Cheerleaders to plan their trip to attend and compete in the UCA National Competition in Orlando from February 11 -13, 2022.

The team had a heartbreaking 2020-21 school year as they were barred from competing, due to guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) who advised that masks could be a hazard during competitions. The warning said, “Face masks should not be worn for competitive cheerleading...because of the theoretical risk that the mask may get caught on objects and become a choking hazard or accidently impair vision.”

However, though Scarsdale rules barred the girls from competing, 30 neighboring districts and teams from around the country did compete with the approval of their districts. At the same time, many other varsity teams were out on the field, the court and the gym.

So it’s especially sweet news for the team that they will travel to Florida from February 10 -14, each team member to be accompanied by one parent or chaperone.

Assistant Coach Brianna Crispo explained, “The UCA National competition is the most prestigious championship in the U.S. Over 20,000 athletes attend this competition from all over the country. We have made it to the semi-final round for the past four years, becoming closer and closer each year to qualifying for the final round. We have high hopes for them this year and believe that they can make it if they hit a clean routine.”

According to team co-captain Sabrina Finegold, “The competition begins on Friday 11, where varsity (and if JV attends, JV) will compete in prelims. When we arrive at ESPN Wide World Of Sports, we go straight to the warmup mat, where we warm up tumbling and stunts, and if we have time do a full mark through (walk through our whole routine without stunts or tumbling). We then go to the backstage area where there is usually one or two more teams waiting to go. We compete our routine and then wait to hear if we made it through the next round. There is little to no contact with other teams, making it very COVID friendly. If varsity or JV makes it through, we compete at semifinals on Saturday and then hopefully Finals on Sunday.”cheer1Captains holding our first place plaque at the Mt. Vernon Competition (from left to right: Blake Goodman, Sabrina Finegold, Lily Kiaei)

We asked if the team had raised money to fund the trip and Finegold said, “On a normal year we hold various events like our Scarsdale Competition and bake sales for football games, which we use the year after for our nationals trip. Although we were not able to do that last year, we still have some funds left over from the 2019-20 season.”

Commenting on the season so far she said, “This year has been going extremely well. This team is the best Scarsdale has ever been. What makes this team so special, is the series of obstacles that have been placed in our way over the past two years— being denied the opportunity to practice and then compete last year, and then this year with the ever changing protocols regarding our competitions (for example we were approved to go to nationals, then unapproved and the re-approved).”

“Despite this instability, this team comes to practice every day, ready to put in the work no matter what is thrown our way. To prepare for nationals, we have been trying to complete as many full run throughs at practice as possible, as well as attend as many local competitions as we can. This team has the skill to get to finals, it’s the nerves that get in our way. We believe that the more times we complete a routine, the more it will become muscle memory.”

Assistant Varsity Coach Brianna Crispo added, “This group of cheerleaders is all heart. After enduring so much adversity the past year, we wanted nothing more than to see them compete on the mat at nationals. They worked so hard to earn a spot, practicing 5 days a week and competing locally on the weekends. I am so proud of them for fighting for what they love. We are thrilled to once again be able to watch these young ladies shine and compete for a national title.”

Team Roster

Ella Hahn
Isabella Godshall
Sabrina Finegold (Captain)
Flora Zik
Lily Kiaei (Captain)
Blake Goodman (Captain)
Sydney Block
Olivia Reich
Noa Shiloach
Halle Jakubowicz
Mia Vatanapradit (Manager)
Audrey O’Hare
Ellie Mantzouris
Michelle Sosner
Sophie Brenner

Iri IsraelCurrently, Scarsdale is the only local school district that I am aware of that is not allowing any spectators at sports games – from high school all the way down to younger kids’ rec. Our school administration and board should address this immediately rather than in a few weeks.

At this week’s Board of Education meeting, a number of athletes and parents spoke out about this issue. Scarsdale High School seniors were upset about not having their parents at their final season and about playing to an empty building with no energy or spirit. Parents were concerned about their kids missing these formative memories, the ones we all speak about for decades, and how this is affecting the children and their mental health.

Looking at my son’s Scarsdale Youth Basketball schedule, I’m thrilled that my son’s team has “away” games for the next 2-1/2 weeks so that I can watch him play. And that’s sad.

While the omicron variant of COVID is absolutely a concern, and we want to ensure that its spread does not lead to quarantines and school closings, it is always important to add risk and tradeoffs into the equation. As one parent at the Board meeting eloquently stated, by keeping our masked, distanced, vaccinated children’s parents out of the gyms during games, we are merely keeping away the only people that they are exposed to unmasked all day at home. Additionally, admitting around 30 parents to ventilated gyms with maximum capacities of hundreds does not move the risk needle.

Most importantly, when the Scarsdale school district is an outlier, especially a lone outlier, it is worth re-examining whether we are at the forefront or whether we are missing something. In this case, over 25 local school districts are allowing at least a limited number of parents to attend games – with Scarsdale being the only one that is not. We need to reassess what we are truly preventing versus what we are actually missing – both in the science and in our children’s lives.

Irin Israel
Stratton Road

SFCSPhotoAs we all know by now, the pandemic has not only raised concerns about our physical health. Mental health worries for children and families have compounded due to social isolation, disruption of routines and loss of community.

To address this need, Scarsdale Family Counseling Service has enriched their team of therapists who will bring skills and experience to expand SFCS's areas of expertise.

According to Executive Director James Genova, the new team will:

-Enhance their child-parent therapy services and social skills groups for children ages 5 to 11;

-Add culturally-sensitive counseling for Scarsdale’s growing Chinese and South Asian communities;

-Add expertise in working with LGBTQ+ youth;

-Expand their marriage and family therapy services;

-Enhance the parenting discussion groups and deepen their commitment to youth outreach workers in Scarsdale Middle School and Scarsdale High School.

SFCS welcomed these nine new therapists at a reception in the Scott Room at the Scarsdale Library on Thursday, December 16th. They also bid farewell to Emily Vallario, who worked for SFCS for 21 years, as SFCS Assistant Director and Director of Community Services and as one of our youth outreach workers at Scarsdale Middle School. We will honor Emily for her many years of service to the Scarsdale community and wish her well in her future endeavors.

Below are bios and photos of the nine new SFCS therapists who have joined SFCS in the last few months, expanding mental health and wellbeing services in our community; more info on each of them is available on the SFCS website.

swaroopa 2a442acb 1920wSwaroopa Dundon joined SFCS as a family therapist in October 2021. She has worked in several NYS Offices of Mental Health, day treatment programs serving clients with chronic mental health conditions. Swaroopa has experience treating clients with an array of diagnoses, including depression, anxiety, trauma, substance use and eating disorders. Swaroopa also brings a multicultural and multilingual perspective to SFCS. She has lived and worked in different parts of the world, including Hong Kong and India. She speaks several South Asian languages, including Hindi, Gujarati and Tamil, in addition to English.

sarah 1920wSarah Goldstein joined SFCS as a family therapist in November 2021. Sarah specializes in child-parent psychotherapy, a highly successful family intervention for young children who have experienced trauma and, as a result, are experiencing mental health, attachment, and/or behavioral problems. Through parent-child dyadic play therapy, Sarah supports families in restoring the child’s sense of safety and attachment while improving cognitive, behavioral, and social functioning. As a Scarsdale native and 2012 SHS graduate, she has an intimate understanding of our community and its families.



Jo.profile 1920wJosephine “Jo” Phillips joined the SFCS staff as a family therapist in December 2020. She has experience working with individuals, couples and families at all stages of the life cycle in community mental health settings. Jo specializes in treating challenging behaviors associated with adolescents, especially those impacted by moderate to severe anxiety, depression, trauma, substance abuse and co-occurring conditions. Jo speaks Italian, in addition to English




JW pic 8cdbf3c8 1920wJie Wu joined the SFCS staff as a therapist in March 2021. She has worked with children and families in NYS Office of Mental Health outpatient facilities and the New York City public schools. Jie is a bilingual and bicultural therapist with the ability to support families in both English and Mandarin. She is specially trained in cultural competency, as well as in treating trauma-related mental health conditions.




Ari 1920wAri Goldstein joins the SFCS staff as a Youth Outreach Worker at the Middle School in September 2021. In his prior work at a Rockland County community mental health clinic, he provided psychotherapy to children, adolescents and families. He also gained experience at the Child Mind Institute where he worked with children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and related learning, social and behavior problems. Ari also led and organized recreational activities and games, sports skills training, and social skills didactics.


Ashley 1920wAshley Sirna joined the SFCS staff as a Youth Outreach Worker at the Middle School in September 2021. Ashley has experience serving the mental health needs of adolescents, adults and the elderly. She has worked in two other school districts, among other settings. Ashley has experience treating substance abuse and other mental health issues and has been an active advocate for those in the LGBTQ+ community.




swanko2Samantha “Sam” Swanko joined the SFCS staff as a Youth Outreach Worker at the Middle School in September 2021. She also co-facilitates the Peer Leadership program for Scarsdale High School students. Sam has a unique interest and experience in treating chemical dependency and has worked with adolescents, adults and families struggling with addiction. In addition to treating mental health disorders, Sam has special training in alcohol and substance abuse counseling


Patti 1920wPatricia “Patti” Moore joined the SFCS staff as a Youth Outreach Worker at the High School in September 2021. She has experience working with adolescents, adults and the elderly on mental health and substance abuse issues. She worked previously in crisis intervention and investigations of abuse, neglect and maltreatment of vulnerable populations. In addition to treating mental health disorders, Patti has special training in alcohol and substance abuse counseling. She has run a variety of group and individual therapy sessions.

Natalie 1920wNatalie Ramos joined SFCS staff as a youth outreach works at the High School in September 2021. She specializes in working in various youth settings including LGBTQ+ programs, respite and school-based mentorship initiatives. In her previous work on Long Island, Natalie facilitated the Gay Youth Planning Committee, providing a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth and their allies. She has also worked with youth with serious emotional disturbances. Natalie also has experience working with youth in a school-based mentorship program, assisting them in creating academic goals, cultivating coping mechanism and developing social skills.

James Genova is the Executive Director of Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service.JamesGenova

opinionsWhat do high school students think about protocols, masks, the risks of contracting Covid and the prospect of reverting to remote learning? SHS Alternative School Intern Michael Mancusi made some inquiries among his classmates and here is what they shared:

Are you in favor of remote learning?

Definitely not. I did not learn in remote learning last year and do not want to repeat it this year. Additionally, I could not handle the social isolation that remote learning created and it was very bad for my mental health. As the death rate is very low, I do not think it is worth going virtual again. On the other hand, I know some students have reasons to want to be virtual, such as they or a family member are considered ‘high risk’. I do have an idea for a solution to help those people. I think that people, or people who live with people, with underlying conditions should be able to go virtual, provided they show the school that they have a legitimate reason. I think it should be very important that they do inform the school of their reason, in order to prevent people from going virtual for the wrong reasons (such as to cheat on tests).

I am in favor of remote learning for now because I think although Omicron and new variants are being shown that it is not as deadly as the older variant for people who are vaccinated (and maybe unvacced) there are still risks people have at home that can make the omicron deadly and send them to the hospital furthermore it spread much faster which means it can reach more people who have these risks and I think we should be aware of that and for their safety I am in favor for remote learning for at least a little bit. I understand the cons though and the difficulty there is with going full remote.
-Annie Caluzzi

Do you think the school is being too strict?

Yes, a little bit. I understand the reasoning behind the school’s protocols, however I do view it as a bit excessive. This is coming from someone who currently has Covid. I personally think the best option currently is for most people to get covid and develop herd immunity. I have been reading many articles about omicron, and scientists seem to think that it could end the pandemic. Due to its high transmission rate but low death/hospitalization rate, many people are being infected, however very few are dying from it. As a result, I believe the school should ease up on restrictions to allow people to acquire natural immunity. However, I acknowledge that there is much that I do not know about the virus , and therefore I do not have enough information to make an educated decision. I hope the school board takes my opinion into consideration, while also using their best judgement to decipher the best solution to this issue. -Anonymous

No. I think the current protocols are not too strict. They are fine, especially given the number of cases recently I think it is good they tighten up the protocols. I am honestly more sick of Covid being dragged on for so long now and it is partly due to people slacking off.
-David Wang

Do you feel safe?

To be honest, I don’t feel safe. There is nothing anyone can do to ensure 1,600 kids plus even more staff will follow all the rules. It hasn’t been happening, and I expect nothing to change. Some of my teachers and peers don’t wear masks properly or don’t follow social distancing, and it is impossible to keep a close eye on everyone at once. This is why I think a remote learning option would be beneficial.
-Maya Katcher

Yes I’m not worried about getting sick.
-Cole Sperling

LatimerWe noticed the Westchester County Executive George Latimer cancelled his weekly briefing for Monday December13 and now we know why. This in from his Communications Director Catherine Cioffi:

“Earlier today, Westchester County Executive George Latimer tested positive for COVID-19. The County Executive sought out a test after hearing that he was exposed at a community event. The County Executive is home in isolation, and is continuing to carry out the work of the Government from his residence. He is grateful his symptoms are mild thanks to his COVID-19 vaccinations.”

Also today, Westchester County imposed a mask mandate for all indoor venues. Here are the details from County Legislator Ben Boykin:

"On December 10, 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement.

In all public spaces that do not have vaccine requirements, any person, past their second birthday and medically able to tolerate a face covering, must wear an appropriate mask while in any indoor place, regardless of vaccination status.

This action is designed to address the winter surge comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise statewide and is in alignment with the CDC's recommendations for communities with substantial and high transmission.

The measure will remain in effect through January 15, 2022 at which time the State will evaluate next steps.

The requirement applies to all non-private residences, including office spaces. If the office does not require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, everyone must wear masks at all times regardless of vaccination status except when eating, drinking, or alone in an enclosed room.

Patrons of eating and drinking establishments can remove their masks only while they are actively eating or drinking, at which time appropriate social distancing measures, proper air ventilation, and filtration methods are highly recommended."

From what we've seen, transmission rates are on the rise, but we have not heard of any serious illnesses.

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