Another school year comes to an end, as does the tenure of three members of the Scarsdale Board of Education. Bill Natbony, Lee Maude and Nina Cannon, who attended their final board of education business meeting June 10, shared their reflections with the Inquirer.
Natbony served two three-year terms, including one year as president of the school board.
“Six years ago, the SBNC and the community allowed me the opportunity to serve as a member of the board of education,” he said. “I’m thankful to have had this chance to serve.”
Natbony said the board stands as an example of the importance and vitality of volunteerism in the village, and he urged anyone who hasn’t yet had the opportunity to volunteer to do so.
“When I first joined the board, I did so with two fervent hopes and desires — first, to assist the board and administration in preserving our school system, a source of immense pride to both past and present residents, and an attraction for future residents,” he said. “Second, the hope was to enhance our system through creativity and necessity.”
During his time on the board, Natbony said he believes there’s been a great deal of positive change, especially in the curriculum, communication with residents, the focus on student wellness and the school budgeting processes.
“As a Scarsdale resident looking at public meetings, news reporting, communications and community buzz, one often still sees the board and administration through the lens of a single issue that might be of interest to you,” he said. “It is difficult to see and understand the vast number of issues and events, actions, policies and decisions that are considered and implemented. This is hard but gratifying work and the main recipients of all this work are our children.”
Cannon, who chose to leave the board after one three-term, said, “I have learned and benefited from listening to your views and have tremendous respect for every one of you … I’m grateful for having meaningful engagement with teachers, principals, assistant principals and staff in our schools and with members of this community who volunteer their time to organizations that positively impact our schools.”
She told The Inquirer that serving on the board of education was a great learning and growing experience.
“Working with such bright and accomplished fellow board members, superintendent and members of the administration was also very meaningful in moving forward policies and changes in our district that will benefit our students today and for many years to come,” she said.
Cannon joined the board of education when the school district was grappling with whether Greenacres Elementary School would be rebuilt, or have a massive renovation. Cannon also served on the board when it was dealing with other issues, such as bonds, resurfacing of Butler Field and the annual budget cycle.
“Generally speaking, my time on the board allowed me to meaningfully engage with so many groups and make stronger connections with faculty and staff and students,” she said. “That was something that will be a lasting reward for me as I leave the board.”
Looking back, Cannon said she was proud of being a part of the budget process. There were new challenges each year, such as balancing the need for providing services and programming and faculty with being mindful of the tax burden on Scarsdale residents.
“There was always a challenge and concern that needed deliberation and discussion,” Cannon said. “It was a lot of work, especially with expansion of our services in special education, providing for needs of students with disabilities and making sure they had proper intervention, so all students felt like they were being supported and guided.”
Now that her time on the board has come to an end, Cannon said she believes she achieved the goals she set when she first came on. She didn’t come with an agenda, but with the intention of listening, discussing and serving the students of the school district.
Maude, a two-term school board member, served as board president two years from July 2015 through June 2017.
She became president in her third year on the board, with Natbony acting has her vice president.
“The following year, all other board members except for me and Bill were in their first term and Bill did not want to be president,” she said. “Therefore I was president two years in a row.”
Maude was involved in the hiring process of Superintendent Thomas Hagerman in 2014, a rigorous process that paid off, she said.
“Watching him come in and assess and strategize and plan and execute what he called his transition plan was fascinating,” she said. “He understood the community and what it needed.”
Maude sat on the board through a number of contentious and controversial issues, such as the Greenacres Elementary school discussion, budget talks and revising the board policy on donor recognition.
She said although there had been some trial and error over the years with policies and changes, in her view the board always made sure to move forward, which made the school system and its curriculum that much richer.
“One of the things we tried was to create transparency,” she said. “It meant we asked board members to discuss board business at the board table, rather than with another board member on the side.”
Referring to the topic of school security as a recent example, Maude reflected on the importance of listening to the community’s concerns and comments.
“You have to listen and, in order to listen, you have to stop talking,” she said. “That sounds simple, but for some people that’s hard. You have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.”