For the second time in recent memory, Scarsdale’s School Board Nominating Committee (SBNC) has forgone tradition by not renominating a sitting school board member for a second term. Instead, the SBNC nominated Jessica Resnick-Ault and Jim Dugan, both dedicated volunteers and highly credentialed community members, with children in the district.
I enthusiastically support Jessica and Jim as a dynamic slate. Jessica, a journalist, and Jim, a litigator, each bring valuable professional abilities to the board. They can frame problems, seek and research input, navigate opposing views, develop thoughtful positions and persuasively communicate rationales. Their collective experience seems tailor-made for the moment.
In this year derailed by a global pandemic, some might wonder if the SBNC’s disregard for previous school board “experience” is an overreaction to a contentious year. The pandemic is certainly not the fault of our schools and Alison Singer, now challenging to get her seat back, is claiming her board experience is critical.
Having served on the SBNC in the past, I imagine the committee deliberated carefully about all of the candidates. The decision seems neither a careless mistake nor is it simply reactionary to the COVID-19 crisis. The SBNC should not rubber stamp any candidate — and they didn’t. Instead, after weighing values, records, character and skills, the SBNC offers two balanced and energetic nominees, Jim and Jessica.
Each SBNC member has a vote that they cast privately; only Jim and Jessica earned the confidence of the majority of the committee. We will not know what vetting revealed, but I will trust the outcome of the confidential nonpartisan system, designed to provide dignity to participants if not selected, something campaigns cannot promise.
Besides Alison, a newcomer, Irin Israel, is also mounting a last-minute campaign. Considering the SBNC nominated two qualified citizens, it is unfortunate to see such challenges. It is of course their right to run, but is a contested election really in the best interest of our community, a place in need of healing?
Jim and Jessica shine! With their commitment to Scarsdale’s educational excellence, we are not in danger of board failure when Jess and Jim each join on. On the other hand, a four-way contested election is confusing, consuming of resources and inherently divisive. We are seeing campaign-driven behaviors that seem to defy good practice and will make it harder for residents to trust our systems and district leadership. This does not feel like action for the greater good and frankly, an election distracts us from much needed attention on children’s learning and teaching.
In the future, the board could explore an internal policy solution for their leadership development, perhaps create one 5-year school board term (per Section 2503) to extend service without undermining time-honored processes. Meanwhile, the SBNC did their job fairly.
Ms. Singer deserves gratitude for her service and Mr. Israel can volunteer in other ways, but Jim Dugan and Jessica Resnick-Ault deserve your vote on Tuesday, May 18. Let’s give the excellent SBNC nominees a chance to serve our children and community on the Scarsdale Board of Education.