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.