Just a few weeks since stepping down from the Scarsdale Board of Trustees, Butler Road resident Carl Finger, 51, is hoping to get back on a dais.
This time, he’s running for the Scarsdale Board of Education.
“I’ve experienced the range of the schools, from kindergarten to senior year, and it’s been an education for me,” said Finger, whose two daughters attend Scarsdale Schools.
In addition, his wife Eve is a high school guidance counselor for a charter school in Harlem, so Finger is no stranger to conversations about schools and the education system.
Finger said he’s been interested in serving on the board for some time now, but that aspiration took a back seat while he served two terms on the Village Board of Trustees.
Finger’s connections to public service run deep. His mother Dorothy served as a village trustee in the ’90s. In fifth grade at Edgewood Elementary School, Finger’s teacher, Ruth Friendly, was the mother of Jonathan Mark, who eventually became mayor in 2015.
As a trustee, Finger noted some things that could benefit from collaboration between the village and the school district, such as school security and a proposal to build a comfort station at the middle school.
“I thought it was interesting, being on a village board, the dynamic between the village and the school board,” Finger said. “I’ve had one eye on the school district, and being generally invested and interested and having experience from beginning to end, I have a good sense of the community.”
Because of Finger’s previous experience, he has a good sense of what’s needed for successful collaboration, though he said he’s aware of differences between the two boards.
“Some of the skills and experience that came from working as a board, working with committees, staff and creating and negotiating policies with the village board is often linked when it comes to legislation,” Finger said. “With the school board, it’s more about adopting policies. But the process of working with people to take an issue and cooperate on an issue to reach a resolution that’s really good for the community is the same. You have to work with people, you have to work with your constituents to be a good listener.”
Finger said it’s important for a board member to let people know they’re being heard and believes those skills were exemplified on the village board.
In particular, those skills were used when reviewing and collaborating on the village budgets and capital improvement projects.
“Hopefully that will help me hit the ground running on the school board,” he said.
With his experience as a village board member, Finger said he hopes he can bring some fresh perspective.
“I hope that when I [join] the board and I’ve experienced some of what they do, I can provide some input as to how I experienced things on the village board that might help improve whatever it is — communications, cooperation, working with staff — those types of things,” he said. “I think that’ll be positive for the board and the school staff and especially positive for me.”
There are some key differences in the way the village board and the school board operate but nothing major, according to Finger.
He said he’s observed there are more mechanical differences in how the school board organizes its meeting compared to the village. For example, the school board has a consent agenda.
Since Finger was nominated by the School Board Nominating Committee in March, security has been a recurring topic for the school board and the school budget is a constant discussion.
“It was interesting to me to see some of the similarities of the concerns of the board and the community, not just how much you’re allocating or how much the budget is increased, but how much is allocated toward capital projects versus other things,” Finger said.
Among Part of the school board’s responsibilities next year will be the teachers’ union contract negotiations. However, since Finger dealt with village budget discussions and is an attorney at Finger & Finger, the White Plains firm his father Kenneth founded and at which his mother and brother Daniel also practice, dealing with union negotiations is unfamiliar territory for Finger. His practice also includes real estate, cooperative/condominium, landlord tenant, commercial litigation, personal injury litigation, workers’ compensation and tax certiorari.
A graduate of Brandeis University with a juris doctor from Boston University and a master’s degree in environmental law from Pace University, Finger was a 15-year member of Scarsdale’s volunteer Conservation Advisory Council and was appointed to serve on the Scarsdale Board of Architectural Review in 2012.
He was elected to the board of trustees in 2015 and served two terms.
Finger said as a trustee he noticed there are clear differences among the residents’ interests, but serving on the school board may be more focused.
“In the village, it wasn’t so defined,” he said. “It’s delivering services but you’re doing all different things. You have a constituency of a community, each of which is using different services. Some really like the pool, some like the rec leagues, others don’t use any of it. But you have such a clear mission with the schools.”
Finger said he spoke to former and current board members, even before he submitted his name to be considered for a seat on the school board, and, he continues to get information and perspectives from people who served on the board, while going through minutes from old meetings and watching meetings from the past year.
“I think it’s important to build relationships,” he said. “Where there are opportunities to meet people, I will avail myself of those.
Finger said he attended an event hosted by the Westchester Putnam School Board Association and caught up on some reading materials to understand the board member position even better.
School board elections will be held May 21 at the Scarsdale Middle School between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.