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Scarsdale Ed Foundation Proposal Picks Up Steam

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – The idea of an education foundation to lend support to Scarsdale's school system picked up momentum Monday night at the Scarsdale Board of Education meeting held at Quaker Ridge Elementary School.

Steering Committee Chairperson Ellen Miller-Wachtel offered a detailed presentation on her group's work to date that had board members lauding the committee's efforts. Miller-Wachtel took the board and a few dozen members of the community on a journey from a recommended name – Scarsdale Schools Education Foundation – to a potential start-up time. In between were details on the proposed foundation's makeup, mission and potential.

"Scarsdale has come late to the party," Miller-Wachtel said. "Many other communities started their foundations in the 1990s during that budget crisis." She rattled off several Westchester County communities with successful foundations, including Bronxville, Chappaqua and Edgemont, and said the steering committee had researched many more in its effort to come up with the best plan.

“It is important that the board of education work with the foundation to establish priorities," she said. "The foundation is to augment the board's programs. In no way is the foundation to set priorities on how the money is spent."

She said it is easier to raise money if it is being raised with specific goals in mind. To that end, the committee created three "buckets": research, development and innovation, technology, and physical infrastructure.

District Superintendent Michael McGill offered some examples of spending by saying the system's move toward the use of smart boards has stalled because of the budget, and new technology is off the table for the same reason. He mentioned a plan for a fitness center at the high school that he said had been on the back burner for a few years, and would likely stay there "for the foreseeable future." And he talked about the potential for a small "black box" theater space for the high school drama department.

Community acceptance and participation is key, Miller-Wachtel said. "We need buy-in from the community. One of the things we looked at is, 'Will this cannibalize other efforts to raise funds?' And the answer is no. The foundation is for the system overall. It's different from the PTA" and the "friends" organizations, she said.

She said the start-up costs, mostly for legal filings, are between $1,000 and $1,500, and committee members themselves have agreed to front the cost. "If the support is there, we're ready to roll," Miller-Wachtel said, adding that, if the community is onboard, September would be a reasonable startup time.

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