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Board of Education Overreach?

Scarsdale School Board elections were held on May 21st of this year. Three of the seven seats were up for election, or nearly half of the Board. Two of the outgoing Board members had decided not to run for re-election, despite being eligible to do so. If they wanted to have a say in the future of our schools, there were free to run for a second term. They chose not to. On June 10, 2019, during the regularly scheduled Board Meeting, the contract of Superintendent Thomas Hagerman was extended for five years, beyond the term of the newly elected Board members. Not only was this significant action taken with no advance notice to the community, or opportunity for public comment, but it was taken by a Board comprised of 3 lame duck members. These outgoing Board members have effectively removed the newly elected members from the most important decision affecting our District. They will be required to run for a second term in order to have any say in the decision to employ our Superintendent.

This lame duck action was disingenuous and in direct conflict with the decision made during Board elections. Our community made the decision to have Karen Ceske, Carl Finger and Ron Schulfof represent us on the Board. They were chosen to exercise their best judgment. Unfortunately for them, and us as voters, much of their input has been usurped by people who have chosen not to serve any longer. This action was inappropriate and should be reserved for the incoming board. Dr. Hagerman’s contract was not set to expire until June 30, 2021, providing ample time for the new Board to provide considered input. According to documents produced by the District, there has not been a five-year Superintendent contract since 2001. With one exception, one of Dr. Hagerman’s agreements, all contracts and extensions have been for three years or less. We think it no small coincidence that three years is precisely the term of a Board member. We also find it interesting that the Board of Education does not keep a record of how each Board member voted on a particular subject. In other words, there is very little accountability. Most elected, representative bodies keep records for this very reason.

We fail to see any reason for such a rush, two full years before the expiration of the current contract or for any reason to extend the contract past the term of the incoming Board members. Did the outgoing Board have a lack of trust in the newly elected members? The Board of Education should govern their actions in light of the wants and desires of the community that elected them and to solicit input before simply enacting far-reaching decisions. This was not done and simply ignored the election results just shortly before. This is exactly the type of behavior that we have come to abhor in Washington, DC. We expected more from Scarsdale.

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