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Lest we believe that our village is a bubble, we have unfortunately been reminded that the scourge of guns and potential violence reaches across states and communities. Recently a 23 year-old man was turned in by his mother for possession of automatic rifles, possession of which is a felony. Would these weapons have been used in an act of mass violence? We will fortunately never know due to the bravery of this young man’s mother who prioritized the welfare of our community, and is a hero. Our gratitude should know no bounds for the difficult decision that she ultimately made.

School security is unfortunately again top of mind given recent atrocities in other parts of the country. Mental health resources have an essential role in preventing school violence, but are not enough. Given his age, school-based mental health programs would not have even reached the man who was arrested locally. Our broader school security solution must be multi-pronged, complementing mental health support with both traditional and cutting edge security tools, measures, and practices.

The community, school district, and school board have no doubt had a challenging run over the last few years, As the leadership of the district turns over, and we head into what hopefully is a more normalized educational environment for the first time in 3 years, it would seem to be an opportune time to reinvigorate focus, efforts, and practices around school security. It’s not worth detailing the broader mass violence climate. You all see what we see, the backdrop certainly isn’t improving.

It has been a while, but we reiterate our call for the District and Board of Education to re-focus efforts on school security. Given how vested we all are in the outcome, we continue to recommend the establishment of an advisory subcommittee to the Board of Education that focuses solely on school security. This group can be comprised of community experts in areas such as broader school security, emergency response and mental health. We live in a village replete with highly intelligent professionals, with expertise across a seemingly infinite number of fields. The District and Board should welcome expertise, and find ways to leverage our community’s resources to learn about a topic as complicated and critical as school security. Past administrations have not been welcoming to volunteerism, community cooperation and advice. We hope this view has evolved over time.

Several years ago, this coalition called for measures including lock down systems, upgraded cell phone reception and WiFi signals, and numerous building specific upgrades. Several of these were implemented, but many are only now being investigated. Let’s take advantage of Scarsdale resources that are here and present to help brainstorm, evaluate, and prioritize the many things our schools and personnel need to better protect our children.

The threats we face are real, and despite how uncomfortable it is to consider and discuss, they need to be confronted and addressed. We respectfully request/suggest that the broader Scarsdale educational community prioritize school security, to help mitigate the risks that pervade each and every community, including ours.

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The election is over and the voters have spoken. There are a few conclusions you can draw. First, to the current Board, the results are meaningful. Voters had a choice between endorsing the approach of the past year, under current leadership, or voicing their preference for a change. Their voice should be heard loud and clear. The approach of the past year was not supported by a majority of the voters. That is a fact, not subject to interpretation as the current Vice-President did not garner enough support to remain on the Board. Regardless of the specific topic or approach, maintenance of the status quo was rejected. Please respect the voters, who chose not to re-elect current leadership, and make no significant decisions before the current term ends. To do so would be to replace your judgment for that of the electorate, the Oxford definition of authoritarianism - “lack of concern for the wishes or opinions of others.” The majority of “others” have now spoken. You were not elected to cram major decisions into the last few months of the current term. You were elected to represent us, not replace your judgment for ours.


The Board President is tasked with selecting items for the consent agenda. Her term is soon over. She will leave the Board in a month. Despite this Ms. Fuehrer is seeking to extend the superintendent’s contract one additional year. This is a violation of the public trust. We have elected two new Board members and rejected the leadership of Ms. Singer. Again, that is factual. By electing Jessica and Jim, we have expressed our desire to have them included in major decisions regarding our schools. By extending Thomas’s contract by one year, the Board will remove them from impactful discussion of his performance as they will have no say in his employment. This is precisely the type of decision they were elected for. We hope that you will recall the action of two years ago when the current Board extended Thomas’s contract for a total of 5 years. The recently elected Board members felt that was wholly inappropriate and the decision should have been held until they were sworn in. I hope your memories are not that short.


The more pressing questions is why? There are three years left on the superintendent’s contract. What is the urgency to extend his contract now? We will not opine on Thomas’s performance as that is not the concern here. The timing is suspect. Board members have just been elected, and are about to take office, but their voice may be muted before they even arrive.


If you agree that the new Board members you elected should be involved in these discussions, and that they should not be decided by Board leadership that is about to end their term, please email boardofed@scarsdaleschools.org. You need not write a novel, just a quick note to let them know how you feel.


The voters have spoken and it is time for our Board to listen.

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We had intended to provide this note earlier but have been waiting for a response to our Freedom of Information Request to the District, which they provided in a very timely manner. This note is longer than usual but we believe of utmost importance to the future of our schools. If you have not yet sent in your ballot, we implore you to read it in full and please take the time to mail your ballot to the District, in the postage-prepaid envelope, regardless of your vote.


We have recently received our ballots for the Scarsdale Union Free School District budget vote and election for the Board of Education. We felt it prudent to weigh in on these essential matters. The budget vote this year carries far more repercussions than is typical. In a normal year, if a budget vote fails, as happened several years ago, the District may go back to the drawing board and make changes before a revote. That is not the case this year. Should the budget vote fail, Scarsdale is likely to be forced to adopt a contingency budget which will result in cuts to many school programs, cuts to maintenance and improvements (including security), fewer teachers through attrition and, possibly, larger class sizes. I do not believe that this is the direction most of us envision or desire for our schools. We endorse the budget as proposed and advocate a yes vote on the budget to maintain the excellence and leadership of our schools.


This year also marks a change in the typical School Board election. In normal years, any resident wishing to run for a seat on the school board would be required to gather the required number of signatures in order to qualify for the ballot. This hurdle was suspended by Governor Cuomo this year due to the pandemic. It was thus easier for a declared candidate to be placed on the ballot.


We would typically welcome the opportunity for greater choice in our elections, however, this year we are presented with a stark choice for School Board. There is no question that Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez has spent significant time volunteering for causes in Scarsdale. We are concerned that her comments are often critical and acerbic. We are also troubled by her mailed flyer which refers to “endorsements in the Scarsdale Inquirer.” The Scarsdale Inquirer has chosen to endorse Ms. Yusuf and Mr. Klein, not Ms. Kirkendall-Rodriguez. We believe that Ms. Kirkendall-Rodriguez should have provided attribution to the quotes so that it was clear they were personal endorsements. This is the attention to detail that she espouses.


The following email exchange, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request most clearly demonstrates our concerns. You will remember, that on March 8, 2020, Dr. Hagerman sent an email to District families informing them of the closure of the District schools. The email was sent the same day that the District received information of a positive test result. The Westchester County Health Department suggested the closure of schools and the District appropriately followed their advice. Ms. Kirkendall-Rodriguez replied to the email as follows, “This is incredible. This is SO disruptive to people who are in the labor force. Where are the science and math to back this up?” Instead of supporting a decision suggested by medical professionals, Ms. Kirkendall-Rodriguez’s reaction was to accuse the District of failing to act properly. While we understand the disruption to families by the decision to close the schools, protecting the health and safety of our children simply must come before the convenience of working parents. We are surprised and concerned that an individual running for school board does not agree. When Dr. Hagerman responded that the District was simply following the advice of the Department of Health, Ms. Kirkendall-Rodriguez further responded, “Are schools going to shut down now every time that people die of flu, traffic accidents, or gun shootings…what happened to the math that Scarsdale schools allegedly espouse? And what about empathy…there is no empathy for people in the labor force…” Once again, we are extremely concerned that Ms. Kirkendall-Rodguez’s first thought is for the inconvenience suffered by working parents and not the health and safety of our children. This is the type of reactive rhetoric that has no place on our School Board. Her claim to take in all evidence and provide considered advice seems more aspirational, but when confronted with something that she does not support, Ms. Kirkendall-Rodriguez becomes reactive and accusatory. She does not gather evidence before responding but forms her opinion quickly. We believe that she does not have the appropriate disposition, perspective and thoughtfulness that she claims. Her own words make her a bad choice for school board.


In full disclosure, we are happy to provide the entire text of the emails to avoid any suggestion of selective editing. Feel free to send us an email and you will receive a prompt response.

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