Nominee Karen Ceske is looking to bring her career and volunteer expertise to the Scarsdale Board of Education for a three-year term starting July 1.
“I’ve been committed to volunteering for more than 10 years,” said Ceske, 49. “My last child is graduating, and I thought this was a natural extension of my interests, both in education as a former educator, and also in support of the schools.”
Ceske worked as a high school English teacher in the Bronx before moving on to raise her two children, Marie and John with her huband Rob. Though she left the profession, Ceske stayed in education by tutoring children of all abilities, which she said was “eye opening as an educator.”
Ceske spent a semester at the U.S. Department of Education doing a policy analysis on America 2000: A National Education Strategy. She continued her education at Columbia University’s Teachers College where she received her degree in teaching English.
Because the schools in Scarsdale gave her two children an excellent education, she wants to give back.
Her volunteer involvement began on the preschool board at the Hitchcock Church Weekday School. From there, the Greenacres resident moved on to working with the Greenacres PTA, eventually serving as its president, and then she branched out to village volunteer opportunities.
“I joined the Friends of the Library, but I kept my PTA involvement at the same time,” Ceske said. “I’ve served on the middle school [PTA] as secretary, served on the high school [PTA] as president and served as the chair of the [SHS PTA] Scholarship Fund.”
The list continues.
Ceske served as the president of the Scarsdale PT Council while supporting other community organizations, like the Scarsdale Adult School as a board member; she served on the board of the Scarsdale Student Transfer Education Plan (STEP) and the Scarsdale Bowl Committee.
When her children were young, Ceske also donated her time as a troop leader for the Scarsdale Edgemont Girl Scouts.
“It was wonderful working with the children in that capacity and supporting that aspect of our community as well,” Ceske said.
Her involvement with the village and school district over the years allowed Ceske to see the growth and changes that came with time.
“I think the district embracing innovation has been a wonderful change,” she said, citing facility improvements and a new approach to teaching that focuses on molding skills for innovation, all of which were facilitated by the newly built learning and teaching environments in the district’s schools.
In addition to those advances, Ceske said she’s witnessed a change in school leadership, coupled with a continued effort to work together to move the school district forward.
“While things have changed in accordance with best practices and 21st century learning, the commitment to excellence, in my mind, has remained,” Ceske said.
Ceske’s years of experience volunteering in the community and the school district have provided her with many lessons and learning opportunities.
“I think I’ve learned as a leader, how important it is to be an active learner, a careful listener and an open-minded listener, to engage in conversation and discourse [and] to be out in the community meeting people,” Ceske said. “I think it’s really important to be collaborative and working shoulder to shoulder with my co-volunteers.”
She said she noticed there are vocal residents who bring all perspectives and opinions to the table, which is valuable to board members. The community is active and engaged, and when people voice their questions, comments and concerns, it helps board members be responsive, Ceske said.
“It’s good to know what people are thinking,” she said.
If elected, Ceske will join the school board as it faces a number of ongoing discussions and issues. She said she’s looking forward to supporting the district’s strategic plan as it relates to teaching, learning, sustainability and wellness. She’s also looking forward to continuing the conversations about safety and security and watching the facilities improvements take shape, especially the renovations at Greenacres Elementary School.
As the district continues to focus on student wellness, Ceske said it’s important to encourage positive psychology and to think about inclusiveness.
“[When] we’re talking about inclusiveness … that’s more than just including people,’ she said, “It’s making them feel like they belong.”
She cited the CORE program at the middle school as an example of the strides the school district has already made in wellness and inclusivity.
The school district and village have had discussions about creating a stronger partnership with one another, and Ceske said it’s essential the two parties collaborate where they can.
In terms of advocacy, Ceske said it’s important the two collaborate when it comes to tobacco and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) products.
“I have worked in many instances where I’ve collaborated with multiple groups at the same time to bring a program to educate people or to spark discourse about a topic, and I think we have reached the need to come together,” Ceske said. “As we always look to move forward, we really need to come together and hear a lot of voices.”
School board elections will be held Tuesday, May 21,7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the gym at Scarsdale Middle School.